Real Issues Blog

Removing the barriers

Danielle van Dalen
28 November 16

As Shawn Fremstad of the Centre for Economic and Policy Research states: “disability is both a fundamental cause and consequence of income poverty.” With the need to pay for extra support, medical bills, and specialty equipment, the cost of living for people with disabilities can be incredibly high. Place this alongside a low income as a result of “job loss and reduced earnings, [as well as] barriers to education and skills development” and the result for many people with disabilities is poverty and isolation from society. + more

The true cost of getting "Ready for Work"

Julian Wood
16 November 16

Labour’s “Ready For Work” policy is a great idea. Unveiled at the party’s conference, the plan offers on the job training for unemployed young people by paying them (through a wage subsidy to employers) to work fixing Department of Conservation (DoC) tracks, killing pests, or riperian planting. The concept is laudable, providing investment in our unemployed youth with the chance to change the trajectory of their lives by letting them see the difference working and earning an extra $300-$400 a week can make. And, at Labour’s quoted costing of $60 million for the programme, it’s a steal. + more

The public square vs the voting booth

Alex Penk
11 November 16

Why was Donald Trump’s election so surprising? One obvious reason is that he was completely unfit to be president. Less obvious is the fact that so much of what is now said and assumed in public life implied that his ideas were out-of-touch with the majority, with reality, and with the future. But as the election showed us, the consensus positions of public life turned out to be out-of-touch with a huge number of American voters. There’s a problem with our public conversations, and it points to a lesson for New Zealand. + more

Lessons from America

Kieran Madden
07 November 16

Thinking, it seems, has gone out of fashion. Over the past decade linguists have shown how the usage of “I feel like” has skyrocketed, becoming a synonym for “I think.” As New York Times columnist Molly Worther writes, “in American politics, few forces are more powerful than a voter’s vague intuition.” The “reflex to hedge every statement as a feeling or a hunch,” as she describes it, illustrates a general unwillingness to genuinely engage with the evidence. Psychologists call this confirmation bias: when faced with facts that contradict our deeply-held beliefs, we tend to rationalise the facts away. + more

Not helping harms us

Julian Wood
25 October 16

In “[m]edieval and earlier times beggars were considered a normal part of the community.” Beggars “reminded people of the possibility of random misfortune” and giving alms to assist them was seen as a duty. It wasn’t until after the black plague, the rise of capitalism and the industrial revolution that “beggars were no longer viewed as normal, but [as] threats to the social order and national prosperity.” Alongside wages and prosperity for many, blame, shame, and division crept into our thinking about societal and economic norms. + more

Posturing doesn't help those facing poverty

Alex Penk
18 October 16

“I know that’s not PC, but you know, that’s me,” said Judith Collins last week as she commented on child poverty at a police conference. Cue Metiria Turei, co-leader of the Greens, who alleged that Collins was displaying “deepest ignorance” and making “a foolish statement” because Collins reportedly had said that child poverty is “primarily” due to “a lack of [parental] responsibility.” + more

Of revolution and reaction

Kieran Madden
10 October 16

Right and left don’t seem to make much sense of the world anymore. Perhaps, as New York Times columnist David Brooks writes, the ideas of revolution and reaction better describe today’s political climate. Are we currently in the “Age of Reaction,” as Brooks contends?+ more

Stretching the potential of flexible work

Danielle van Dalen
03 October 16

“All we really want is a little control – and to make that 6 o’clock yoga class once in a while.” This was the conclusion in a recent New Zealand Herald article about the benefits of flexible work. But the increased interest we are seeing in a more flexible modern day workplace misses the bigger picture.+ more

What is the number?

Alex Penk
30 September 16

Anyone advocating for euthanasia or assisted suicide should have to answer this question: How many wrongful deaths is Parliament prepared to risk if these practices are legalised? What is the number? What is the acceptable error rate, where error means wrongful death?+ more

Between risk and reality

Kieran Madden
19 September 16

The annual release of MSD’s suite of income and material well-being reports usually spark a statistical squabble about the number of children or families in poverty (and who is to blame, of course). Much of the debate this year, however, was rightly focused on the rising impact of a lack of housing affordability, as most poverty and hardship trends were considered to be “flat or falling.” This doesn’t make for attention-grabbing headlines.+ more

"Beautiful as heaven, lonely as hell"

Julian Wood
12 September 16

I have heard New Zealand being described as “as beautiful as heaven and as lonely as hell.” If that's so, it doesn’t bode well for us all - as a 2010 study by Holt-Lunstad, Smith, & Layton highlights that the long-term effects of loneliness brought on by social exclusion is “equivalent to smoking 15 cigarettes per day and to drinking six units of alcohol a day.” + more

Working hard, still struggling

Danielle van Dalen
05 September 16

Traditionally, it is those relying on the social welfare system that come to mind when we think of New Zealanders struggling to get by. However, an OECD report claimed that “on average 7 percent of individuals living in households with at least one worker are poor in the OECD area.” For poor children in New Zealand, that number is around 40 percent. Recent findings from Otago University also support this, suggesting that half of New Zealand’s homeless adults are either working or studying. Astonishing.+ more