The world is actually becoming a better place

Despite a lot of bad news and dire predictions NZ Herald repeats a story from The Conversation on Seven charts that show the world is actually becoming a better place.

Obviously that means better for people overall, there are some who have had a deterioration in their situations, like in Syria and Yemen (wars are always crap for people, but there are fewer and smaller wars these days).

Of course this doesn’t look intoo the future and what may happen through things like over-population, pollution, depletion of resources and climate change.

Swedish academic Hans Rosling has identified a worrying trend: not only do many people across advanced economies have no idea that the world is becoming a much better place, but they actually even think the opposite. This is no wonder, when the news focuses on reporting catastrophes, terrorist attacks, wars and famines.

Who wants to hear about the fact that every day some 200,000 people around the world are lifted above the US$2-a-day poverty line? Or that more than 300,000 people a day get access to electricity and clean water for the first time every day?

These stories of people in low-income countries simply doesn’t make for exciting news coverage. But, as Rosling pointed out in his book Factfulness, it’s important to put all the bad news in perspective, reports The Conversation.

While it is true that globalisation has put some downward pressure on middle-class wagesin advanced economies in recent decades, it has also helped lift hundreds of millions of people above the global poverty line – a development that has mostly occurred in South-East Asia.

one of the big facts of economic history is that until quite recently a significant part of the world population has lived under quite miserable conditions – and this has been true throughout most of human history. The following seven charts show how the world has become a much better place compared to just a few decades ago.

I won’t include the charts here but this is what they claim:

1. Life expectancy continues to rise.

During the Industrial Revolution, average life expectancy across European countries did not exceed around 35 years. Now it is getting close to 80. It has risen to over 70 in most other parts of the world, except Africa but even there it is on the rise and now over 60.

2. Child mortality continues to fall

More than a century ago, child mortality rates were still exceeding 10% (and were much higher than that 200 years ago). This halved overall, and for many parts of the world it is close to 1%.

3. Fertility rates are falling

 UN population estimates largely expect the global population to stabilise at about 11 billion by the end of this century.

That’s still a lot more than the current population of about 7.5 billion.

4. GDP growth has accelerated in developed countries.

Low-income countries, including China and India, have been growing at a significantly faster pace in recent decades and are quickly catching up to the West. A 10% growth rate over a prolonged period means that income levels double roughly every seven years. It is obviously good news if prosperity is more shared across the globe.

5. Global income inequality has gone down

While inequality within countries has gone up as a result of globalisation, global inequality has been on a steady downward trend for several decades. This is mostly a result of developing countries such as China and India where hundreds of millions of people have seen their living standards improve.

6. More people are living in democracies

As of today, about half of the human population is living in a democracy. Out of those still living in autocracies, 90% are in China.

7. Conflicts are on the decline

Throughout history, the world has been riven by conflict. In fact, at least two of the world’s largest powers have been at war with each other more than 50% of the time since about 1500.

While the early 20th century was especially brutal with two world wars in rapid succession, the postwar period has been very peaceful. For the first time ever, there has been no war or conflict in Western Europe in about three generations.

All of these indicators are positive for us here in New Zealand. We live in the best of times ever in human existence, in one of the most human friendly parts of the world. We have a lot to be thankful for, but shouldn’t be complacent about future challenges.

Tamihere on ‘a less equal society’

I think it is difficult to pin down just what equality or inequality mean. It can be quite misleading and misused.

A country in which everyone lives in poverty have a form of equality.

Generally, countries in which people can and do get richer have on average improved standards of living for most people at least.

John Tamihere (NZH): The fruits of 30 years – a less equal society

What were – and are – the major drivers behind the major wealth redistribution that has occurred over 30 years across OECD countries?

The policies that delivered this massive redistribution of wealth requires a look.
In the United States it was known as Reaganomics, and in Britain as Thatcherism, after US President Ronald Regan and UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

The two powerhouse economic leaders set a course that led to an economic framework based on globalisation and underwritten by supply side economics.

In this country, the incoming 1984 Labour Government took these policies and put them on steroids. It was known here as Rogernomics, after Finance Minister Roger Douglas.

The policy foundations are known as supply side economics or trickledown economics. They are underpinned by the pillars of deregulation, privatisation of public assets, monetary control leading to low interest rates, labour deregulation – in large part the destruction of labour and unions and also lower taxes particularly for the wealthy.

The Rogernomics blitzkrieg promised a more efficient and effective delivery of state services. It offered the breakup of state monopolies so that entrepreneurial New Zealanders could dream to start their own business and become self-made millionaires.

Few people argue against major and urgent reform being necessary in the 1980sn in New Zealand. Muldoon had just about destroyed the economy as the country struggled to trade after the United Kingdom ditched us and swung towards Europe.

We didn’t exactly have equality then. Some, like farmers, got unequal amounts of government assistance.

Major reforms like we had can’t avoid negative effects, unintended consequences and collateral damage. Subsequent tweaks have to be made to limit the damage.

The argument was, once we built a more efficient and effective economy, wealth retained by the Government could be redistributed to build wealth for all New Zealanders.

The magic in this policy framework was that all New Zealanders lifestyles would lift and be so good that by the late 1990s we would be the ‘leisure society’ working four days or less a week.

I don’t remember those promises. I was too busy (very busy) working and raising a family.

Funny coincidence just this week: Four-day work week ‘liberating, empowering, exciting’

Tamihere:

So apart from tourism doing outstandingly well – which is all about the race to the bottom
in importing cheap labour to make coffee and serve tables – dairy, beef lamb, fish and forestry are still a significant backbone of the New Zealand economy, even after trickledown.

People that have done extraordinarily well out of the trickledown of course love the status quo and likely have a say over their 40-hour employment contract, and earn enough to feed, clothe, educate and house their families.

While we have low employment, we have thousands of New Zealanders on low incomes who are underemployed because to be efficient and effective you must ensure as the trickledown starts its downward spiral, less and less gets through to the bottom.

That sounds like nonsense – the keeping people poorer to stay richer fallacy.

We do have one type of inequality that’s growing – the inequality of Working for Families that redistributes money from workers without dependent children to everyone with children, including many quite well off people.

So this article has nothing to do with decrying those who work hard and earn a lot. It has everything to do with asking the questions. What sort of society or country do you want to live in? Are you comfortable seeing fellow Kiwis on Struggle Street sleeping in cars and under hedges? And are you comfortable making significant profits, having the whip hand over wages, hours, conditions and therefore the livelihood of your fellow citizen.

What about: Are you comfortable taking significant financial risks and working your arse off to provide jobs?

We’ve seen a major collapse in integrity and credibility in business leadership in this country, whether it was the collapse of the finance houses or whether it was the captains of industry who sat on the district health boards and pretended that everything was okay. That wages for nurses were good and that buildings that housed patients were fit and healthy for purpose.

While there have always been examples, have we really had “a major collapse in integrity and credibility in business leadership”?

We all know differently. We know that in every sector of our community, the great underwrite for this country was that everyone was able to have a fair go. I’m not sure that is the situation.

A fair go can only exist in an open, transparent society. The only institution that can reassert a fair go is the New Zealand Government.

There’s some interesting comments on this at Reddit:

Excellent article, which does a good job of highlighting the fact that inequality is not a partisan issue. The financial deregulation of the 1980s (“Rogernomics”) was a Labour government initiative, and National has spent the best part of the last decade promoting it.

Now, after 30-odd years, we’re all running around looking for someone to blame for the results, but what we really need to do is take a look in the mirror and ask ourselves some serious questions about how we let things get to this point, and what we can do to fix it. Witch-hunts are incredibly unproductive.

And:

That last sentence is important I feel. The previous government took things to the penultimate point and tried to use industry and capitalism to fix all society’s problems (health, housing, corrections, education) which was an abysmal failure.

Capitalism is awesome and a fantastic system in many ways, but it cannot fix all problems and cannot entiry self regulate. So the problems now are far to big for any industry sector to tackle and require significant government intervention. To those who argue against this…well why did you (yes you) let things get so bad under the system of the last 30 years. There was ample opportunity to ensure fair distribution of societal gains to prevent the current disaster in mass inequality, but humanity is selfish by design and needs to be checked.

There have been failures for sure, but have things overall been ‘an abysmal failure’?

Rising inequality isn’t the problem

Laura Rapira on the Q&A panel just referred to the problem of rising inequality around the world as if it an unarguable problem.

There are similar increasing concerns being expressed about ‘inequality’ in New Zealand.

Income is just one aspect of inequality, but growing levels of inequality don’t necessarily indicate a growing problem.

If, say, twenty years ago…

  • the average income of the bottom 10 of people was $10,000
  • the average income of the top 10% of people was $100,000
  • the gap between the two is $80,000

…and the incomes of both have risen by 100% we would have:

  • the average income of the bottom 10 of people is now $20,000
  • the average income of the top 10% of people is now $200,000
  • the gap between the two is $180,000 (it has more doubled)

But this tells us nothing about the standard of living of the bottom 10% of people.

If inflation was high over the same period the poorest 10% would be finding things harder. Most of richest 10% will have had little trouble adjusting.

However if the incomes of the bottom 10% had been boosted ahead of inflation by greater tax redistribution (higher benefits and more tax advantages) they would be better off, regardless of the top 10% incomes.

But in the latter case we have a bigger envy gap.

Apart from that the size of the inequality gap isn’t the problem. The focus should be on helping the bottom 10% (and the bottom 50%) improve their standard of living, improve their education,improve their health, and improve their employment prospects.

Interview: the digital divide and inequality

This morning on Newshub Nation:  Tech entrepreneur Derek Handley talks to Lisa Owen about the digital divide, and how technology could be increasing inequality.

InternetNZ: NZ’s digital divide now on display

InternetNZ has teamed up with the 20/20 Trust to build an interactive map called the Digital Divide Map – which shows the different digital divides facing New Zealanders and their communities.

You can see Internet infrastructure access, digital skill gaps and socioeconomic divides broken down by area units across New Zealand.

InternetNZ Chief Executive Jordan Carter says it’s important that people are aware of the digital divides in New Zealand.

“Some people don’t have access to the Internet, some are not skilled enough to use it and some cannot afford an Internet connection.

“This is something that we want to see fixed. The Internet has so many benefits for us all and no New Zealander should be denied the potential that the Internet offers us,” says Carter.

The purpose of the map is to help identify these divides, understand them, and therefore help local, regional and national decision makers address the divides.

The map also pinpoints known digital inclusion projects and local community resources to address digital skill gaps. We hope that by sharing these digital inclusion projects and resources, they can act as models and inspiration for other areas.

The Digital Divide map.

On Handley two weeks ago: Digital divide holding back New Zealand – tech entrepreneur

In its report Solving Digital Divides Together, InternetNZ claims that “infrastructure access is no longer the primary access issue for New Zealanders. 93% of Kiwis tell us they have the Internet.

in a TechWeek speech earlier this week Derek Handley, whose roles include Adjunct Executive Professor at AUT, board member at SkyTV, and Chief Innovation Officer at a New York-based start-up studio Human Ventures, said New Zealand will fail to become a leading digital nation if it doesn’t address the number of children without internet access in their homes.

During a visit to the Otara Library in Manukau he discovered that the most popular attendance time was directly after school, so that the students could use the library’s computers and internet.

“Many of them (students) use cheap Android phones without data plans, to connect to WiFi – to search, type up essays and assignments, on their tiny screens,” he says. “Many of the homes they go back to might have only a handful of books. In their homes, they are barely connected to the present – let alone the future.”

Handley contrasted that experience with his own five-year-old son, whom he says is “digitally roaming every day creatively and in his own way”.

“If we believe, as I do and I have witnessed, that the internet and a tablet accelerates the learning and discovery of a young child, orders of magnitude beyond what a simple book can – we have on one hand a child growing

The Government also pledged to create a National Chief Technology Officer and is currently recruiting again for the role, following a failed attempt earlier this year. While Handley positively referenced the CTO role in his speech, he later told Computerworld that he has not put his hand up, noting that he is still living in New York.


Tech Entrepreneur Derek Handley “For the last couple of decades, clearly, no government authentically, genuinely committed to creating a pathway for a digital or innovative technology-oriented nation.”

“There are so many ideas and services and concepts that should exist in New Zealand — that we should be leading — that we’re not.”

… says we need to ensure access to internet in the same way we ensure access to water in order to close ‘the digital divide’

…on the Government’s hunt for a Chief Technology Officer – “The fact that it even exists, the fact that it will be working with the Prime Minister and the Minister, to me, is a symbol and a signal that we get it and that it’s important.”

He sort of sound like he could be interested in the job, saying ‘I’m working in the US’ but intends coming back to New Zealand soon.

He could be a good fit for the job, but he expressed no specific ideas on how to ensure the people with none or little online access could join the electronic revolution.

Just like it is difficult to force some people to read and write (or some families to support and encourage education), you can’t make people use the Internet if they don’t want to.

 

The Tax Working Group and ‘inequality’

The Tax Working group has just released a background paper with the lofty title of Distributional analysis

This focusses on the distribution of tax in relation to ‘inequality’.

Inequality of income? Inequality of living standards. Inequality of taxation?

 

Purpose of discussion – the background paper is for the Group’s information. It provides:

  • an overview of distributional information on household income, wealth and consumption; and
  • a preview of initial distributional analysis using household income, expenditure and wealth data.

Executive Summary

This paper provides an overview of distributional information on income, wealth and consumption. It provides a preview of initial distributional analysis of tax policy using household income, expenditure and wealth data.

The paper includes new analysis of household wealth and the potential incidence of capital income and wealth taxation. It uses household wealth statistics from Statistics NZ that were not available at the time of the previous 2010 Tax Working Group.

Some of the analysis has only recently been completed by the secretariat. The secretariat will refine its methods and undertake further quality assurance, which may change some of the results.

Further distributional analysis will be provided to the Group in future sessions through analysis of specific policies under consideration. A separate session on distributional analysis to inform the Group’s interim report is also planned in July.

This paper makes the following key points:

  • The Treasury maintains a model for distributional analysis of the existing tax and transfer system that focusses on household income. For potential new taxes on capital income or wealth, the secretariat will provide distributional analysis using available information on the distribution of wealth, although this will inevitably depend on assumptions and be subject to some data limitations.
  • Household wealth is distributed less equally than annual household income. Income before taxes and transfers is distributed less equally than disposable income and consumption.
  • Capital income and self-employment income is distributed much less equally than wages and salaries. Taxes and transfers reduce inequality in disposable income.
  • Household wealth is concentrated in the top twenty percent of households, which hold about seventy percent of total household net worth.
  • Average wealth rises with age, which is consistent with a life-cycle pattern where individuals smooth their consumption and accumulate savings for retirement. While lifecycle patterns and/or intergenerational differences are an important factor inexplaining differences in wealth, there is also considerable wealth inequality within age groups. There are also significant differences in average wealth by ethnicity.
  • The revenue from potential taxes on wealth or capital gains (excluding owner occupied housing) would be expected to be mostly paid by the wealthiest twenty percent of households in a given year. However, this is based on a one year snapshot of wealth data and does not take account of lifetime effects or behavioural responses to taxation.

‘Inequality’ generally refers to inequality of income and inequality of living standards, but inequality of tax is also an important factor.

Inequality of tax can refer to unequal taxing of income over asset gains, especially with property investments in the current New Zealand context.

It should also take into account inequality of taxing people overall – how much people at the bottom should be free of tax, and how much people at the top of the economic pile be taxed so their earnings can be redistributed.

Poll: most important problems facing New Zealand

A Roy Morgan poll on most important general issues facing New Zealand compared to the world shows that economic issues, inequality and housing are of most concern.

Most Important Problems Facing New Zealand and the World - February 2018

And the most important specific New Zealand issues compared to the world.

It’s not surprising to see economic issues so high, including inequality, and in New Zealand housing is also of major concern.

Interesting to see that New Zealand is significantly less concerned about environmental issues.

Perhaps this is why the Greens are so keen on advocating on social issues.

Source: Economic Issues dominate New Zealand concerns early in 2018

 

Men’s issues and inequality

Inequality doesn’t just affect women, it can affect men too, sometimes differently to women, but there are prejudices, unfair sweeping criticisms and institutional biases against men as well as against women.

This shouldn’t detract for issues that women face, they are overdue for addressing, but things aren’t entirely stacked for men and against women.

One example that is often quoted is the apparent assumption by police that in violent domestic situations men are the instigators and perpetrators and are the ones that must be removed from family homes. I don’t know how true this is now, in 2018, because the treatment of domestic violence has changed markedly over the last fifty years, but it is an obvious issue of concern still.

A thread at Reddit looks at men’s issues: ‘You idiots, Google it’ – Jack Tame fires up over commenters asking ‘where’s International Men’s Day?’

“I’d love to have a conversation about men’s issues that wasn’t set in the frame work of anti-feminism or misogyny for once.”

“Check out r/menslib. It is just sub to say these are the issues facing men, and no, feminists aren’t the cause.”

“I was going to recommend the same place. Good, positive community. Feminist aligned, rainbow alphabet friendly. Angry misogynists need not apply…”

On domestic violence:

I think it’s fair to direct some criticism at feminists for at least not helping, if not holding back addressing men’s issues.

A good example of this is domestic violence research. Feminist researchers pushed there ideological point of view and inhibited research that showed female perpetrators and male victims. See this articleThis video has clips of a Dunedin Longitudinal study researcher talking about the problems they had with sharing their research. Here another video of a partner violence researcher talking about the difficulty of presenting research that is counter to the feminist ideological position.

On the bias towards women’s issues:

I think there is a real issue with influential feminists and feminist theory though.

For example, Dr. Jackie Blue from the human rights commision frame gender equality as exclusively a woman’s issue. Julie Anne Genter believes there is no need to have specific measures to address men’s inequalities. It these attitudes from people in power that make progress on men’s issues difficult.

I don’t know if this is accurate about Dr Jackie Blue and Julie Anne Genter.

As Minister for Women it is Genter’s job to advocate for women, not men.

And what’s wrong with that, exactly? As a male, I too am concerned about men’s issues in terms of mental health, education and justice laws. These are inequalities that can and should be solved through fixing policies within these particular areas and overcoming the societal problems that cause these discrepancies in the first place (eg. alternatives in the justice system towards rehabilitation will by definition benefit men primarily). Women face unique institutional barriers in representation in parliament, pay equity, and have unique health issues that men don’t face(in terms of pregnancy etc.) that need require a dedicated policy more than the equivalent for men do.

Nor, am I convinced it’s JAG’s job to institute these changes. Why not take it up with men that are directly responsible for these issues? Like Ministers David Clark for Health or Kelvin Davis for corrections?

Health and Corrections (prisons) are two areas that men can have disadvantages – far more of them are imprisoned and stuck in incarceration, re-offending cycles, and screening programs for illnesses that largely afflict men lag that of women’s health issues.

Life expectancy for men still lags that for women.

Men face unique institutional barriers as well albeit different ones. I’m actually researching this at the moment so I can make a submission to the UN human rights review. The biggest issue so far is that we haven’t been reporting violations of men’s human rights to the UN. We should have equality under the law, and currently, we have a few laws that discriminate against men. This has not been reported. The amount of violence against women has been reported, but the figure for male victims have been left out.

Another issue is that the Ministry for Women is the government’s expert on gender. It unreasonable for the MfW to have the expertise and knowledge of men’s issues. Cabinet papers are required to have a gender analysis, but this is focused on the effects on women.

Some of men’s issues simply haven’t improved. Boys and men have been behind in education for decades. Suicide rates for men have dropped since the nineties but have flattened out and are still significantly higher than the lowest point. The Justice Minister isn’t interested in addressing the bias against men in the justice system.

You can’t have one gender equality standard for women and another for men. That’s not gender equality.

I’ve made a similar point before – equality means equal standards for anyone regardless of gender.

Problems aren’t always gender equal – for example men are more likely to be violent than women 9but not exclusively), and breast cancer and prostrate cancer are not gender equal.

The argument that women’s issues are different or worse isn’t an argument against a men’s ministry (or equivalent) it’s an argument for a women’s ministry.

The fact that we have some stubborn negative outcomes for men that we haven’t been able to make good progress on in the current system should be enough to consider a men’s ministry or some specific intervention.

Another consideration is that we have obligations under human rights treaties to protect men’s and women’s rights equally.

I wonder if how exactly people expect individual government departments will address men’s issues? Perhaps they will need a men’s advocate for each department and someone to coordinate between departments? Maybe someone who is an expert on men’s issues and can be consulted by other ministers?

A contentious comment:

Except mainstream Western feminism is the very thing that is trying to keep men from discussing their issues. When it began criticising patriarchal gender roles and stereotypes, it made men analyse their own situations and they began to realise things weren’t right.

Feminism needs men to be complacent and accepting of their lot in life. More so it relies on men and their sacrificial tendencies, their need to work for the greater good in order to actually advance their agenda. Hence why feminism doesn’t want men becoming aware because it would result in women losing social and legal privileges, something which the movement today does not want.

A response:

That is just not true. I have lost men in my life to suicide and it has been feminists who offered the most support and only feminists that have been interested in discussing gender roles and the influence they play in the suffering of many men in our society let alone acting to challenge those roles.

Just as male equality and female equality and genders issues are not equal, not all feminists and feminist issues are equal.

There is a tendency to highlight the worst rather than the best examples of feminist activism.

A response to Jack Tame’s comment:

Well he has a point. “What about men’s day” is often used as a reason not to care about woman’s day rather than a genuine call to arms on men’s issues. I do support more attention on a specific men’s day/issues focus tho.

One thing in which men are, in general, not equal is their reluctance or inability to discuss serious issues. There has been a tendency for men, in New Zealand at least, to be ‘strong, silent types’, with debate over ‘strong’.

It can be a weakness to keep problems to yourself. It can adversely affect your well being, and it increases the risks of pent up anger exploding into violence, or of pent up depression or feelings of hopelessness resulting in self harm and suicide – men unequally figure in suicide statistics.

If men want better advocacy on male issues they need to take responsibility for it themselves and not moan about the gains that women’s advocacy have made in recent decades.

If men want a Ministry for men or an International Men’s Day then men should make them happen.

Inequality will not be resolved by inaction.

Inequality has made New Zealand poorer – OECD

A lack of improvement in productivity has been cited as a problem for New Zealand – is that why we feature poorly here?

Rising inequality holds back economic growth — according to a recent report by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

The organization, which is primarily composed of high-income countries, analyzed economic growth from 1990 to 2010 and found that almost all 21 examined countries missed out on economic growth due to rising inequalities. (We take a closer look at the countries that were hardest hit in the second half of this post.)

“When income inequality rises, economic growth falls,” the authors of the report concluded.

They explained their findings by pointing out that wealth gaps hold back the skills development of children — particularly those with parents who have a poorer education background. In other words: A lack of access to high-quality and long-term education among poorer citizens in many OECD countries hurts the economy.

Generally I though access to education was good in New Zealand.

Are failures due to financial inequality, or to an inequality of encouragement of parents and ambition of children and young adults. Lack of hope?

RNZ (June 2017) – NZ’s weak productivity in OECD’s sights

New Zealanders enjoy high living standards, but the country’s low labour productivity continues to be a weakness, the latest OECD report says.

In its latest two-yearly review of the economy, the Paris-based organisation forecast robust growth of about 3 percent over the next couple of years, and noted the government’s healthy financial position.

Overall, New Zealanders enjoyed high living standards, with all components of the Better Life Index stronger than the OECD average except for household disposable income and wealth.

“New Zealand’s robust economic growth and high levels of well-being are enviable, even among the highest-performing OECD countries,” OECD chief economist Catherine Mann said.

However, labour productivity remained an Achilles heel for New Zealand – and well below leading OECD countries.

“Improving productivity growth is a major long-term challenge for improving inclusiveness and living standards,” the report said.

New Zealand’s persistently low productivity has long puzzled the OECD, despite expectations the far-reaching reforms of the late 1980s and early 1990s – which the OECD championed – would reverse that.

It blames the weak performance on the country’s distance from its main markets, relatively small population, weak capital investment and a lack of competition internally.

Stuff (September 2017) – Shamubeel Eaqub: New Zealand has a productivity problem

We are working harder to grow the economy, but we aren’t getting much better at it. Poor productivity has plagued New Zealand for the past 40 years.

We have a productivity problem. The problem is not new, there are no easy fixes, and doing more of the same will most certainly not fix it. We should not pretend that any of the political parties have a convincing plan to fix it.

The weeping wound of inequality

A perceptive quote from a post about Donald Trump:

There is a deep underbelly of American society who feel as deeply resentful of the political and cultural elites as  those voters in Brexit did.

That weeping wound will require healing not mocking and is a reminder that if the fruits of democracy are not shared equitably, rot will set in.

I’ll attribute and link later, but for now I want it to be viewed without prejudice.

The Uk and the UK are certainly showing signs of deep and widespread resentment of the ruling elite, as shown by support of Trump and Sanders, and of Corbyn, Farage and Brexit.

The problems are less pronounced in New Zealand but there are growing signs of concerns about inequality, and the apparent lack of addressing problems suffered by those at the bottom of the financial, education and health ladders.

Parties that fail to recognise this may do so at their peril.

If the weeping wound of inequality remains inadequately addressed then political support is likely to bleed.

 

Inequality and housing

As house prices (and rental rates) keep rising it makes things tougher on people on modest incomes whop want to buy their first home.

And it especially makes things tough on poorer people, many of whom will never be able to own their own home, who have to spend more and more of their meagre money to house themselves and their family.

Stuff: Real cost of runaway housing market comes home to roost

A new report (Household Incomes Report, prepared by the Ministry of Social Development) measuring income inequality in New Zealand paints a clear picture of who is shouldering the biggest burden – the poorest households, which are now spending more than half their income on housing.

Housing costs compared to household income rose from 29 per cent in 2013, to 49 per cent.

That’s a huge jump and will be causing a lot of hardship.

Its other findings include that the number of children experiencing material hardship – living in a cold, damp house, or owning only one pair of shoes – rose from 145,000 to 155,000.  

Around 85,000 children were in “severe” hardship, up 5000.

I’m please to see them using terms for measured hardship and severe hardship rather than the overused and misused term poverty.

So why was the Government hailing it as a good news story? It’s all about how you spin it of course – the numbers show that on a pure percentage basis, child poverty rates were down from 29 per cent in 2014 to 28 per cent last year.

Social Development Minister Anne Tolley used the findings to declare “there is no rise in poverty and material hardship trends for children, which the report says are flat or falling”.

No wonder people always say about politics that there are three kinds of lies – lies, damn lies and statistics.

Housing is just one (significant) part of a bigger problem – growing inequality, and in  in particular growing hardship for a large number of people. Not as large number as the poverty pedlars pronounce, but too many.

This is something the Government should be showing that it acknowledges as a priority problem, and they should be doing something demonstrable about it rather than resorting to statistical spin.

Ministry of Social Development 2016 Household Incomes Report and the companion report using Non-income Measures (the NIMs Report):