Thursday, 8 August 2013

Don't try to be smart.

Higher education is a path out of poverty for many.  For a government that says it is interested in improving the lives of the people who elected it, you would think that they at least would not penalize people for trying to become more attractive to the hiring market. It would at least make sense, right?

But making sense is not exactly forte of conservative politics. Here in New Zealand, you can get assistance if you are out of work. You can also get assistance if you go studying.  At one level these seem to be the compassionate things to do, but beyond that there are good economic reasons to do this.  With this assistance being as low as it is, those who receive it spend all of it, creating demand in the retail sector and encouraging demand in the manufacturing sector thus creating jobs in both sectors thus creating a mechanism by which people in poverty indirectly help some of their ranks get out of poverty.

Removing barriers to leaving poverty should be a role of government and many governments say that they are doing that. But conservative governments have actually been putting in more barriers.

Some time in the last 5 years The New Zealand government set up the following situation. A student in Wellington living on their own gets NZ$60 per week less than an unemployed person in the similar circumstances. How do I know this? I look forward to continuing my own education, and hopefully working to attain an NCEA Level 6 Advanced Diploma in Software Development, I applied for assistance from StudyLink. I called this morning, and the good news is it looks like it will be approved, The bad news is I will get NZ$60 less, than I get now as an unemployed person.

Actually, it gives me NZ$78/week above my rent. Subtract $40 week for food, leaves $152 per month for bills. My bills are around NZ$375/month. This month, however it is looking more like $425. More importantly one bill in particular is approximately NZ$150/month in debt payment and I can't reduce it, even if I could it still would leave me in a hole.

I have no car and no dependants, but it leaves me wondering how people pull off the magic trick of studying under this arrangement.  Many will offer the knee jerk response why not get a part-time job, I'd be happy to do that. but here is the wrinkle. This wouldn't be near so bad in a bouyant job market but 5000 more people lost jobs than got them in the last quarter, the unemployment rate is 6.4% nationally and Wellington is worse than average among regions, mainly due to the government gutting the public service.

The employment market is especially tough right now, and finding work is difficult for everyone. The average is time to find a job is 6 months. for me it has been 18. I'm over it, I'd much rather be working or studying, but this ain't working for me, and it ain't working for 175,000 other Kiwi's.

When I said to a friend it seemed like our government was more interested in punishing the poor than making it possible to escape poverty, his response could be well summed up by the words "well duh".

Of course it is better for people to be working. But employers want skills. And the 1% don't want people who have long experience with poverty to get smarter because they may use their skills or discretionary income to fight their agenda or become, as Boris Johnson put it, "lefty tossers". They are happy to educate the the young with little experience of poverty as an adult, because they are more likely to be swindled by the rightwing propaganda.

So Kiwi students get slammed even harder than those out of work, and American Students get lumbered with debts that cannot be discharged even by bankruptcy  and got screwed by Congress on interest rates. Meanwhile, our conservative government is successfully driving this country into ditch dug by the who used 1%, globalisation as wheel barrow and "free trade" as a spade.  Is it time to drop these jack-asses into their own ditch and fill it in?  I think so.

No comments:

Post a Comment