Monday, February 27, 2012

But where will the jobs come from?

National has revealed its latest welfare "reforms". The headline change? Cracking down on solo parents, forcing them to work part time when their youngest child is five, or one if it was born while they were receiving a benefit. The former is a return to the policy of the 90's, which was abandoned when the government realised that parenting is work, and that with all the other disadvantages heaped on them, robbing the children of solo parents of their parents' time didn't help. The latter is a new exercise in cruelty, which will see single parents forced to abandon their children at a crucial stage for minimum-wage jobs. Because the big question everyone is asking right now is "where will the jobs come from"? Treasury doesn't think there will be any - they're projecting that unemployment will not decrease below 5% until 2015. Meanwhile solo parents will be expected to find these non-existent jobs from July (a timeline which almost-certainly means Parliamentary urgency, BTW).

Trying to get people off welfare into work makes sense (for non solo-parents) in good times, when jobs are plentiful. In a recession, its just an exercise in pointless sadism. But National doesn't care if this policy works. They don't care if its effective in improving the lot of solo parents, or beneficiaries generally. They certainly don't care about the long-term social effects. Instead, its all about further stigmatising those on benefits, and getting headlines for kicking them. Plus, of course, increasing competition in the labour market, and lowering wages even further for the benefit of their rich mates. This isn't a welfare policy, its a spin exercise and labour-market policy. And we will all lose if it is enacted.