New data shows drop in benefit numbers

Source: 1News

There has been a drop in the number of people on a benefit. However, it is still higher than pre-pandemic times.

Minister for Social Development and Employment Carmel Sepuloni.

Figures released on Thursday show 11.7 per cent of people aged 18 to 64 (368,172 people) were receiving a main benefit in the last quarter of 2021.

That was down from 12.4 per cent at the end of 2020. Pre-2020 rates hovered around nine to 10 per cent, representing just under 300,000 people.

Of those main benefits, the number of people on a jobseeker benefit had also dropped to just under 188,000 at the end of December, down from nearly 212,500 at the same time in 2020. About 10 per cent of those receiving the jobseeker support benefit at that time were from Northland.

But, that followed a marked increase from the December 2019 quarter, where 147,500 people were on that benefit.

National Party social development spokesperson Louise Upston said the data revealed a "benefit dependency crisis" under Labour.

“At a time when businesses across the country are crying out for more workers, it will surprise many that almost one in nine working-age adults are receiving a benefit, and over 185,000 Kiwis are on Jobseeker Support.

“This represents an entire city the size of Hamilton who are dependent on the state to support themselves and their children,” she said.

Social Development Minister Carmel Sepuloni said the year-on-year fall could be attributed to the Government’s Covid-19 response.

“Our response to Covid has helped to create a resilient labour market which in turn has ensured our economy remains strong,” she said.

“Despite the challenges of the pandemic, it’s encouraging to see more people are moving from benefit into work. The 2021 December quarter was the highest number of exits into work for a December quarter since electronic records began in 1996.”

However, the figures for December 2021 came after a sudden jump in benefit numbers in 2020 because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Upston said Labour had failed to support those on welfare into long-term work, but Sepuloni said the Government had been better at connecting people on the benefit to work.

The number of people on sole parent support increased by about 5700 in one year to 73,263 in December 2021. That was about 2.3 per cent of working-aged people.

Just over 4500 people were issued a sanction for work-related reasons in the three months to December. Common reasons include people failing to prepare for work and not attending appointments. A further 690 people had a percentage reduction in their weekly benefit rate.

In November, 1News revealed the Government didn’t know how many kids had been caught up in benefit sanctions.

The Government made a number of changes to benefits in recent years, including a lift in benefits as part of Budget 2021. Main benefits got a weekly $20 top-up from July 2021, while additional payments will come in from April this year.

However, some advocates said the increases weren’t enough.

Main benefits include jobseeker support for people looking for work or who have a health condition or disability, sole parent support, supported living payment, emergency benefits, and youth payments.