Thursday, 14 July 2011

We are beneficiaries too

This post got me thinking about New Zealand, and how often people speak out against those 'tax bludgers,' those who take our hard earned money to sit on their bums, and do nothing all day.

But who are the real beneficiaries in New Zealand? I believe we all are.
In my lifetime so far, here are some examples of the assistance I have received (bludged?) from the government/state;

-Student Allowance
-Interest free student loan
-$300 for emergency dental care
-Annual $500 off my taxes (independent earner refund I think it is.)
-33% rebate on all my charitable donations, annually
- $1-2,000 scholarship from MoE
-Kiwi saver contributions

In the future I would expect to get
-Paid maternity leave
-Working for famalies tax credits

The point I am trying to make here, is that all of us (I assume) have been assisted by the government at some point, in a financial way. But these kinds of 'hidden' help are not as obvious as receiving a benefit, which has a huge social stigma in this country.

Another issue about perception of  beneficiaries is that they are a homogeneous group. I'm sure you all know the stereotype - someone who has never worked a day in their lives, smoking weed, drinking alcohol, ignoring their kids, sitting watching TV all day, evil-ly counting their dollars and vowing never to work when its this easy to get free money.

I truly believe this is the picture many people have in their heads of a benificary when they complain about their 'hard earned money' supporting those people. As with any stereotype, perhaps a few people are like that. However this minority is extrapliated out to encompass all people on a benefit, in many peoples minds.

Having done a bit of work in WINZ offices and the like, from what I see this isn't the case at all. People are struggling to survive on their benefit (which I believe usually comes to about $300 a week), going into debt, people are despondent and wanting to get jobs, and not liking being a beneficiary.

Some people think others should just get a job. But its not that easy - getting a job requires having a marketable skill, experience, confidence in an interview, correct dressing in an interview, and specific social skills. These things can be hard to learn when you are not immersed in that environment. Not to mention many other barriers/discrimination, and it can be very hard to get a job.

And not having a job is like another layer of stigma on top of the benefit stigma. It has been proven that having a job can have so many benefits in peoples lives (beyond monetary) such as pride, social inclusion, ability to be involved in 'leisure' activities and so on. People without jobs miss out on much of these types of social capital and inclusion.

Anyway, my main point here is that people need to re-think how they judge people on benefits, look beyond the stereotype, have compassion, and realise that they too have probably been a beneficiary more than once in their lives.


  1. But arguably those who get a submerged benefit are employed and so pay tax... The only reason there is a stigma to the dole is because people abuse it and this gets to people who feel hard done by but have not abused a government service.
    Also the benefit in nz is not a spring board but a stepping stone that too often people lay down on, the dole needs to gave a time limit to encourage progression through life, or something similar.

  2. Well I was not employed when I got most of those (the student-y ones), but yep I get your point.
    And with your second point, I believe the Welfare Working Group is looking into that right now.

  3. And remember the government LIKES people being unemployed because it lowers inflation! People on the dole sometimes can't get jobs because there literally aren't any. 10% unemployment keeps competition for jobs up, so employers don't have to increase wages and prices stay low.

  4. I think (often) when people get frustrated about people on benefits they generally mean people who are unemployed long term as opposed to say a single mother or someone inbetween leaving uni and starting work etc.

    I'm glad my taxes help those people but not so glad when they help people who don't attempt to even find work (but that is really a very small percentage in NZ).


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