Education for the Dole : Why does it sound dirty?

Yesterday John Key delivered the National Party’s new plan for youth. I leave commenting on the many social issues related to the plan to others with who are better equipped to discuss whether his ideas will work. The thing that bothered me was when I was watching the news last night and they mentioned that opponents are labeling John Key’s plan for 16 and 17 year olds to not be able to receive a benefit if they are not working or attending a course that the government will pay for.

I don’t see what’s wrong with this. I’m not old enough to know what went wrong with the working for the dole scheme and why it has such dirty connotations in New Zealand, but on the face of it I don’t have problem with the idea. I have absolutely no problem with a welfare system, but it’s a safety net. It is there for people who can’t work for various reasons and people who are transitioning between jobs. Maybe it’s just my terrible upbringing where my parents told me that if you want something in life you have to work for it combined with that gem of a saying in economics that there is no free lunch, but I have no issue with people taking courses to receive their benefit. My sister was once dating a guy who was 18 and on the dole. He was making absolutely no effort to do anything with his life, he just played American football and thought it was perfectly normal for him to cruise along doing nothing while the government supported him. I realize (and hope) that he doesn’t represent all young people on the dole and I don’t want to stigmatize the welfare system, I just don’t see what the problem is with requiring people who are able to, to give something back to society in return for the support they receive from it?

Again, I wasn’t around when New Zealand had a work for the dole scheme so maybe I’m missing something here, I just don’t understand why there is a stigma being attached to requiring young people who can, to contribute if they are going to receive welfare.

Apologies for the rant 🙂


6 replies
  1. Matt Nolan
    Matt Nolan says:

    I guess part of the issue is an equity concern. If we are willing to give people over the age of 18 the dole for doing nothing, why are we unwilling to do it for 16 and 17 year olds?

    Ultimately I think up-skilling people when they are not working is a great idea (anyone structural unemployment!), and people who are without work should be viewed in the same way as students – in that sense we should give students the dole, after all why punish students for choosing to get an education rather than waiting for the government to pay for it for them.

  2. agnitio
    agnitio says:

    I definitely agree with your concerns about equity. I’m assuming it’s an argument about sorting the problem out early before it becomes an entrenched mindset?

    And punishing people for getting an education is stupid on the face of it. At the end of the day, anyone who is making an effort to learn new skills which allows them to contribute back to society deserves support.

  3. Matt Nolan
    Matt Nolan says:

    “At the end of the day, anyone who is making an effort to learn new skills which allows them to contribute back to society deserves support.”

    Definitely, I think make students pay a greater proportion of the fees, but then give them the dole. I can understand having some free education scheme for the case where there is an unemployed person who is genuinely looking for work, but does not have the natural propensity to develop the human capital required to pay back a significant student loan.

    I hope that politicians realise how closely aligned unemployment and skill development are!

  4. MikeE
    MikeE says:

    Theres also the libertarian argument that it takes work away from the private sector etc.

    But then again, its still better than the status quo for the libs…

  5. lprent
    lprent says:

    The problem with the ‘work for the dole’ programme when it was put in was quite simple.

    The nats underfunded it. Consequently the work that people was asked to do was unproductive. It was the equivalent of wandering around picking up leaves, without bothering to provide a rake that would do it in a fraction of the time with less effort. Consequently, and rightly, it was regarded as being a punitive way of trying to force people to work.

    The previous equivalent, which did work, was in the 30’s and 40’s where people were employed for dole level wages doing something productive like building roads. My grandfather helped build centennial drive in the waitakeres, and was proud of it. Try and find someone who was in work for the dole who is proud of what they were doing.

    Have a look around for research done on the results of make-work economic behaviour. It works where people feel like they are doing something productive with their time, and preserves their inherent dignity.

    Of course to do that costs more than simply paying the dole.

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