Wednesday, February 02, 2022

Labour throws the poor under the bus

The government has announced the details of its new unemployment insurance scheme: 80% income protection for six months for people who lose jobs through redundancy or illness, funded by kiwisaver-style contributions. It seems great for people with permanent, high-paying jobs, and its the sort of system used in Scandinavia - the place we should be using as a model. But the Scandinavians couple unemployment insurance with generous welfare schemes to protect everyone. Whereas what Labour is proposing is a two-tier system, generous for the rich and the middle classes, and outright brutal for the plebs in poorly-paying jobs or on short-term contracts, who will pay and pay and never see anything. The effect will be to insulate the middle classes from the horror of the existing welfare system, so that they never have to contemplate dealing with WINZ, undermining social solidarity and further marginalising those already at the bottom. Which is... not what I expect from a "centre-left" party supposedly driven by "kindness" and which relies on the votes of poor and precarious workers to gain power. Indeed, its exactly the sort of system you can imagine National proposing...

I'm sure its a very good system for what it does, and if it was a full Scandinavian model I'd feel differently about it. As it stands, it looks like Labour is misprioritising its policy resources and political capital towards the rich, rather than those in need. And its all the worse when you remember that they have recommendations from the welfare expert advisory group to make the system more generous which they have steadfastly refused to implement.

We're a wealthy country. We can afford to ensure that everyone is taken care of, that everyone has a roof over their head, enough food, and basic dignity. Once the Labour Party stood for that. Now they've thrown the poor under the bus in favour of middle-class homeowners. And their voters should show them the door for it at the next election.