Welfare Working Group Logic

The WWG report was released today and it was much as expected (full report here in PDF).

NZers will hear heaps about it in coming weeks, particularly the already-infamous “solo parents: when your baby is 14 weeks old you must start looking for work” recommendation. I want to look a bit closer at this, because I think it exposes the thinking behind this whole report quite clearly.

It’s section 3.7, starting on page 76. The last paragraph says this:
“The Working Group suggests that if the changes to the work test requirements do not address the incentives to have additional children while receiving welfare assistance, then the Government may need to consider financial disincentives, say by withholding part or all of the extra payments that come with having an additional child.”

The Executive Summary (PDF) describes this a bit more clearly:
“Government monitors the effect of this policy. If it is not effective, Government should consider whether further financial disincentives are necessary, including that parents not qualify for any additional financial assistance through the welfare system for any additional children born whilst in receipt of welfare, other than access to emergency assistance.”

Rephrased: if financial disincentives don’t change human reproductive behaviour, try harsher financial disincentives.

No consideration whatsoever for the view that having children has a range of causative factors, and despite popular mythology, continued access to welfare is not a strong one.

The ideology is taken as fundamental premise. There is no room for corrective measures. Failure is not a sign that the premise is wrong, rather that it hasn’t been applied fiercely enough.

The only comforting thing about this document is that it is mostly political theatre, and Key and company will distance themselves from extreme points like these. But remember who appointed this group, and know that this was always expected. John Key and company need to wear this report, for it is exactly what they asked for.