Jobseeker Support up 15% year-on-year in March, food grants issued jumps 54% and KiwiSaver hardship withdrawals rise 14%

Jobseeker Support up 15% year-on-year in March, food grants issued jumps 54% and KiwiSaver hardship withdrawals rise 14%

The number of people feeling the crunch from COVID-19 is ramping up, new Ministry of Social Development (MSD) benefit figures show.

4,866 more people received a main benefit in March compared to in February - a 1.6% increase - to 309,995.

Last week this number increased by another 10,000 people, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said during her 1pm briefing on Thursday. 

No further April data has been made available. 

But drilling into the detail of the March figures shows there was a 3.9% increase in the number of people who received Jobseeker Support in March compared to February.

Year-on-year, Jobseeker Support recipients rose 15.2% to 151,745 people.

The Government’s 12-week wage subsidy, made available from mid-March, will have helped keep workers in their jobs. Over a million people, or more than 41% of the workforce, are being supported by the subsidy.

More than 100,000 Food Grants dished out in a month

However the MSD figures show a number of people still needed urgent support to get by in March.

The number of Food Grants issued increased by a whopping 23.4% from February, to 112,290. Compared to March 2019, the number was up 53.6%.

When the Government on March 17 released its initial COVID-19 relief package, it said all main benefits will increase by $25 a week from April 1.

Currently, single people on Jobseeker Support receive $250.74 a week. Couples receive $401.20, couples with children $428.06 and solo parents $375.17.

All eyes are now on what broader income support the Government might offer, especially for once the 12-week wage subsidy dries up.

Such measures could be detailed in the Budget, due for release on May 14.

KiwiSaver hardship withdrawals up a little 

There was a small uptick in the number of KiwiSaver members who withdrew their funds due to hardship in March.

2,032 KiwiSaver members made hardship withdrawals during the month - 246 (or 14%) more than in March 2019 - according to Inland Revenue figures provided to interest.co.nz.

These withdrawals were worth $11.7 million - 15% more than the $10.2 million of withdrawals made in March 2019.

Given KiwiSaver providers may take a few weeks to process hardship withdrawal applications, the March figures largely reflect people’s financial situations in February.

While the March 2020 figures are higher than the previous year, in December, when people were presumably under Christmas-related financial pressure, 2,000 KiwiSaver members made withdrawals valued at $11.6 million.

We welcome your help to improve our coverage of this issue. Any examples or experiences to relate? Any links to other news, data or research to shed more light on this? Any insight or views on what might happen next or what should happen next? Any errors to correct?

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76 Comments

MAVA: Make Aotearoa Venezuela Again

Venezuela founded a welfare system based on Oil riches … which got found out when Oil prices tanked...

NZ founded a welfare system based on selling produce & scenary…. paid for by Oil riches ….

Yip

We will become Venezuela

I think all that Venezuelan welfare went to the elites didn't it? That's why the protests these days.

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What a churlish comment. So NZ put lives before profit. Bravo! Today, there are only 29 new or suspected cases of COVID19.
We are the envy of the Western world. In a couple of weeks we’ll be back out of lockdown. Alive! And industry can fire up again.

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Well said, mate. In two weeks time, we will be the envy of the world. Congratulations to our PM and to Bloomfield, and we should not also forget the really good constructive opposition action by Bridges in keeping the Government focused on the whole picture. They all have demonstrated, even with their mistakes, that they are, mostly, on top of things. Much more so than clowns like Trump, for example.

Or completely isolated if everyone else develops herd immunity? And we're on the opposite side of the world with our borders closed? (not sure if this is a good thing or a bad thing). We will just have to hope like hell that a vaccine can be developed and distributed in a reasonable fashion.

Herd immunity is a long way away, even in places that have been hit very hard.

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I guess the posts above appear to be 'celebrating' that we've won a war or something (which others might be jealous of?..) when in reality the end of the 4 week lock down is just the end of the beginning.

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Nobody has a sodding clue how this is going to look in 2-5 years and yet the world is awash with angry and/or impassioned opinions!

Everybody thinks they would do better if they were in charge. No one wants to admit or even become consciously aware that they are just terrified and unable to rationalise the monumental change and risk their brain is processing right now. So many people commentating on here, so convinced that they would do better than all the scientific experts and democratically elected leaders... are just going through the grief cycle on all the capital they have or are about to lose. The future that is no longer so certain. They want someone, anyone to blame.

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Agreed, but it would still be nice if the Wise Ones could, just for once, say out loud that there are very large error bars in all the advice, modelling, interim conclusions and policies they urge. And to say that they are navigating these as best mere humans can, with our best interests in mind. Instead, they tend to come across as all-knowing, certain, and definitely rigid.

It's just really clarified for me that the worlds central banks, or governments, have no vision. They are flying by the seats of their pants. 'We the people' are just along for the ride, including if the aircraft they are flying by the seat of their pants crashes and burns.

But I don't want to blame the politicians completely as 'we the people' have a role to play - politicians are just doing what is deemed to be popular in the shape of democracy. So I've come to the conclusion we as a western society have absolutely no idea of what we are doing nor what we want (other than the desire to make a lot of paper money for doing nothing by buying shares in companies that do share buy backs and buying and selling houses to each other). And if something happens to stop me making lots of money for doing nothing, watch out...Its capitalism and politics that has gone completely bonkers.

I think they do so, so they can have the best compliance from the population, and as such the best outcome for everyone.

If they start getting overly technical or act uncertain in their public addresses, they confuse everyone and people are less likely to conform with the rules set in place.

Yes and its like they think that we'll come out of lock down and as they put it 'industry will fire up again'. Well sorry no, the tourism industry won't. The airline industry won't. The ports for the cruise ships won't. The flight centre staff who lost their jobs won't. The air traffic controllers won't.

I think the only thing that will fire up will be the benefit claims. And I'm attempting to stay as positive as I can but the picture isn't that bright. So yes perhaps we can celebrate not having the virus spread throughout the country and every person and mass deaths, but that was probably the easy part.

Just because something fires up, doesn’t mean it gets up to speed straight away. You know what I meant. No one thinks everything is going to go back to the way it was. I can assure, countries that put profit before lives, will take longer to recover.

No one can say right now what the right or wrong action is. That includes you as well Ginger. What you have been advocating for comes with a lot of downsides too. There's all sorts of moral conundrums too which do not have 'right or wrong' answers...
So far the lockdown is looking promising and may well be the right course of action. Hopefully it is and you were 'right' :)

Exactly. I know that I can't know whether I am wrong or right, hence why I keep referring to and naming my own biases.

Morality is a narrative, it isn't fixed. The current moral construct could be unrecognisable in 50 years. But also, I have never suggested that there wouldn't be a downside to the lockdowns. The models seem to suggest that we are choosing between evils. -8-9% (lockdown and quick recovery) vs -11-12% (no intervention and we allow the virus to spread freely). Of course those models are not including the different psychological impacts that either of those two will unleash and it is my opinion that "no lockdown" would be more psychologically damaging and more likely lead to a longer term and more stubborn "depression" style economic mindset. Again, just my opinion. The pandemic will unleash behavioural changes either way, my concern is the degree and longevity of those.

Nice. Happy Easter.

I am certainly not suggesting the war is over. What I am saying is our plan is proving to be better than other countries. Lives saved. Business will start up again. We are already on a better footing than Italy, the UK and the US.
We have had strong sure leadership and I am proud of our PM.

I get where you are coming from. Take the victories where you can in a situation like this. I guess bigger picture, the global economy will be a mess if the likes of the UK and the US don't get through this well and that will have significant flow on effects to us here. Perhaps celebrating how well we've done as a country will count for very little on a grander scheme of thing. I don't see NZ having high confidence (i.e. the confidence to lend and move from recession into growth) if the US is crashing and burning still in 6 months time. We'll go down with them. So yes we've probably saved lives which is great but many now may suffer a worse fate - years of financial hardship (I don't know what would be worse...catching a flu and dying in a few days, or living through a long depression).

IO, it’s bloody tough out there, I agree. But I honestly believe we will find the new normal quickly and while we may not have the same opulent quality of life as we had prior to Covid19, we’ll find a simpler life, isn’t necessarily a worse life. Our great and grand parents survived darker days and built NZ to the country it was. We will build it again

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Yes my grandparents would to talk to me quite often about the depression when I was a child. They weren't greedy as the witnessed the greed of the 1920's and what can happen when that takes place. There has been a lot of greed in the world, before, then again after, the GFC. I hope there are some significant lessons (and a wake up call) for many who have been operating on FOMO and attempting to take more than what they need, at the expense of others. I went to a number of auction rooms in the Auckland property scene around 2015 - absolute disgrace to be honest. Greed and self interest was shocking. Such a shame that it should happen here in NZ.

Real estate agents rocking up in their expensive cars, dozens of foreigner buyers talking over the phone in China (not being racists here), baby boomers there looking to add to their property portfolios, then young families looking so stressed about the amount of debt they were going to have to take on to compete with other parties - simply for a place to call home to raise a family. Those young families are now at risk of going into negative equity for who knows how long, with poor employment prospects. What an absolute disgrace NZ.

Agreed IO. Maybe now we can change things?

If they bought in 2015 unlikely to go into negative equity now.

Wrong because the settlers are the minority. This country despite preaching inclusion can never unite lol.

Tell it to the poor barstards hoodwinked into telephone number mortgages by the real estate mafia.

They just got a life sentence.

I had been wondering about the herd immunity idea. My thoughts were - how do we know we will get herd immunity? Is it a given? Or will only a percentage get immunity? Obviously I'm no virologist, but I'm always open to the idea we could get something we've never seen before.

You might find this article interesting...
https://www.nzherald.co.nz/world/news/article.cfm?c_id=2&objectid=12323816

Heard immunity is around 60 - 80%. The world population is 7,776,396,158 so that is 466 5837 695
to 622 1116 926 people. New Zealand's population is 4 794000 so that is 2 876400 to 3 835200. Heard immunity isn't an option unless the world can deal with a massive death toll.

Is the corona virus (that causes Covid-19) the kind of virus for which a vaccine CAN be developed? After all, the common cold is caused by a member of the corona virus family, and there is no vaccine for it.

Those KS withdrawals (2032 for $11.7m) average out at $5,757 per member. That's a nice buffer for what's coming, but certainly not a huge sum. It would be Interesting to have them banded and as part of a continuing series.

As for a continuing series, here are the datasets:

https://www.ird.govt.nz/kiwisaver/kiwisaver-statistics/datasets-for-kiwi...

Although it looks like Jenee has gotten March results ahead of the rest of us, nice one.

The IRD tells me this dataset is due to be updated on its website this afternoon. I only managed to squeeze a wee a bit of info out of them ahead of time :)

Its a shame that Mugabe is no longer with us. He could have guided us through what is to come as he had been there before.

We could follow the Argentinian model?

What a silly thing to say. I saw what Mugabe did to Zimbabwe first hand and they aren’t even a little bit the same. If you think keeping business booming and the borders open was the right way to handle this, just look at what’s happening in New York and imagine Victoria Park and Aeotea Square being turned into makeshift morgues! Business would still have flatlined here, only the resuscitation would have taken longer a whole bunch longer.

Tell us about Taiwan, General. How did their response to the crisis work out. They didn't have a lockdown, still haven't had one. Had stringent border control and testing out the wazoo. Tell us that tale if you have some breath left over from voicing your displeasure with all these comments you disagree with.

That's 10,000 more people for the National Party to harass.

National still campaigning on tax cuts?

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Last I heard their policy was going to be to ask beneficiaries if they where associated with criminal gangs. I should be very interested to hear the answers of anyone who is about to be laid off by a bank.

Guess we can put 100's of Air NZ pilots, air traffic controllers and tourism staff in that target audience then?

But for now, they can pick kiwifruit

While paying for their $2 million home in Northcote? (AirNZ pilot that is)

Formerly two million home.

Wish the same could be said about their formerly $1.2 - $1.5 million mortgage.

You never know, in 5 years 2 million NZ Dollars could buy you a kilo of kiwifruit...

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How can people survive on $250/w? God help the poor buggers who lose jobs and don't have savings.

Yeah that's not pretty.

I guess we will see the survival instincts kick in

Its more than that. i had to close my business down on the onset of this thing, so i have first hand knowledge ;)...there's the housing supplement on top of that.

Yep but doubt we can afford pay anymore, with all business about to go bust from our 2nd largest sector, plus all those on the fringes of the Tourism sector., the tax take will be way down. Plus all PAYE they are'nt going to get. Plus the lack of any sort of acknowledgement of a plan on the other side of Lockdown 4-3-or 2, it's building to be a very tough and ugly time in our lifetimes.

There is no shortage of money. Central banks tap keyboards and buy govt bonds. Government spends money on sustaining incomes. Rents get paid. Food is bought. Deflationary spiral fought. The government doesn't need revenue to spend.

Deflation is fought but it will be around long after Covid has gone.

Many can't. But plenty on the benefit live a pretty good life don't worry. From having worked in social services I can confirm a percentage have the system all worked out to get food parcels, brand new furniture through the Sallies... you can do cash work, sell stuff on Trademe, sell drugs or do sex work or whatever.

Imagine being one of those people who business is failing or failed, or you've just lost your job, then you go to read the NZ Herald and the first headline reads:

'How NZ dodged a bullet by going into lockdown'.

Yup, ok...whatever NZ herald.

Imagine if the headline read, “Hospitals overwhelmed, 500 deaths in NZ today. Number climbing”
Most people like being alive and like having their family alive.

'The lockdown is working' would be a suitable headline.

This is like focusing on the assassins bullet but forgetting there's a noose around your neck.

But agree, first things first.

There will be some areas of job growth out of this..MSD, Mental health/Social workers, and the Police...

And prisons to lock up those surfers.

It isn't exactly possible to say our mental health/suicide stats were great reading prior to this. I think high debt = high stress = burnout and mental issues. A significant crash might remove some of that burden for some (in whatever manner that occurs).

Agreed

I wonder if people will put bears in the windows or have Facebook templates saying unite against poverty and unemployment?

Yep it's really sad and tough for some now that's for sure.

Or my favourite from the herald...

How to Cope if you've just lost your job?

But it's behind the paywall!...oh herald you so funny.

For things not to get back to normal requires the CV to wipe us all out.

Spot on Kev!

NZ housing market is about to realize it can and will go down in a big way.
Our rockstar economy is built on letting in more and more people and pushing up house prices to make people feel rich but now we will find out houses cost money to maintain and when prices drop you need cash and income earning assets topay for real important things like food.
I am picking the million dollar house market will tank big time as well as the rest of the market as people loose jobs.
Some people will read this and think my job is safe but guess what a lot of businesses will be cutting out a lot of middle/high income jobs to survive.
The shutdown is going to make many businesses look at what happened for last month and they are going to say we can slash many staff as they realize how they can manage with less costs/staff.

Our company had a Friday drinks on Zoom (web cam drinks) today and the housing market made its way into the discussion. Comments from team "Supercity" comprised of "well interest rates are going down so.." and "everyone needs a place to live so...".

I said "what about 30k to 40k empty Air BNB's and 200k Temporary Work Visas expiring".

The shutdown was easy, even if it was messy. The road back up the hill (if you want to go back up the hill?) will be much tougher. I prefer up the hill as opposed to the beach for tsunami reasons.

The one benefit that should happen, if there is any justice in the world, is that some tradesmen and the likes of dentists are going to have to lower their outrageous prices to sub-planetary levels. I would advise that anyone seeking work done in these areas to have a talk with these people and ask them what their fees will be in THE NEW WORLD ORDER. And insist on a TOP JOB:
I just heard from a friend that a friend of his down country, whom I also know from my schooldays, just had a new house built by a prominent residential building company. He is with-holding his final progress payment until they fix all the detailed defects that he discovered with the help of his cabinet-maker son-in-law. ( he himself is a retired hands-on engineer). The building contract did say, in effect, that the smallest detail would be attended to. Here's the goods: they have itemized 2000 defects all up! He won't pay and they're screaming out for their money. I will follow this with interest and see if I can get hold of a copy of the list of the defects, and post it.

That's a benefit until you realise that tradesman probably needs the cash to pay his mortgage and power bills which if he defaults on adds to the downwards slide our economy could be rapidly moving down. But yes maintaining standards is important, but if you make the tradesman cry with a list that large, it might not have the desired effect!

The house was basically constructed before the Covid crisis and reflects what was happening in the construction industry during the time leading up to and just before the hammer came down; this is what always happens in its boom-bust cycles. The construction boom was in full spate and that's when standards slip and then plunge: short cuts to reduce the time till the next progress payment so can buy the new twin-cab ute, hurrying to finish the job to start the next one and another progress payment, she'll be right, etc, etc. This is the reality, not the scenario of the master craftsman conscientiously working his trade to build something his client will be proud of and expecting only fair and reasonable recompense such that he can pay his power and mortgage.

In the next couple of weeks, businesses will start getting some pretty ugly P&Ls through, with the reality that the balance sheets are decimated. The government subsidy will only carry the balance sheet so far, and then the lay-offs will start. I think many businesses (speaking from more of a retail position) are taking their last gasps of air under the lockdown, and a fight for survival will be taking place behind the scenes. I suspect bigger brands will want to avoid the frontpage by being the early adopters of mass staffing culls where possible. But once it starts..the tsunami will be hard to stop. IMHO

Lots depend on what level 3 looks like when it happens and how many regions it applies to . Know a few business owners have told me 1 month tough but able to cope 2 mths unsure 3 mths we are dead

My employer is providing full pay for 6 weeks lockdown, and then onwards 80% to those who earn over $50k. Anyone below $50k will receive full pay for the foreseeable future.

Sounds like a conscientious employer.

A local kiwi company that's over 100 years old.

NZ public & current govt, would love to watch this - during the lock-down period:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MGrBCtOt4Qs

https://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/HL1507/S00101/the-fire-economy-new-zeala...

Early withdrawal of KiwiSaver funds under COVID-19

KiwiSaver is a voluntary, work-based savings scheme, designed to help people prepare for their retirement. The primary legislative objectives of KiwiSaver are to:

• encourage a long-term savings habit and asset accumulation by individuals,
• increase individuals’ well-being and financial independence, particularly in retirement.

The policy drivers for the implementation of KiwiSaver were the perceived low levels of private saving for retirement and a concern that middle-income New Zealanders, in particular, were at risk of experiencing a substantial drop in their living standards during retirement.

However, an IRD study into KiwiSaver, found evidence to suggest that KiwiSaver has not been successful in improving the accumulation of net wealth for its members and that KiwiSaver members actually accumulated less wealth compared to non-KiwiSaver members.

The IRD cost and benefit analysis also showed that each taxpayer dollar the Government spent on KiwiSaver, only resulted in additional savings ranging from 20-38 cents for the target membership.

The study also showed that the primary incentive for people joining KiwiSaver was for the employer contributions.

For those made redundant under Covid-19 and facing long term unemployment, KiwiSaver has become a luxury that is neither consistent with their reason for joining, nor their changing priorities.

This raises an important question as to whether KiwiSaver members should have early access to their funds outside of the current withdrawal criteria which are; (a) reaching the age of entitlement for government superannuation (age 65 but likely to keep increasing), (b) first home buyers, (c) financial hardship, (d) moving overseas permanently (excluding emigration to Australia) and (e) serious illness/permanent disability.

Individual’s best interests can only be served if they get the best possible return on investment applicable to any given world economic scenario. The KiwiSaver rules are currently forcing people to remain exposed to a risky share market producing negative returns or to remain with cash tied up in a fund that isn’t working for them.

KiwiSaver funds have suffered huge losses recently and those losses are unlikely to be recovered in the share market within a long term economic recession.

In the current situation, the cost of debt far exceeds investment returns, so reducing or offsetting debt is a prudent alternative to continued exposure to the volatile share market.

Other alternatives to consider are; diverting KiwiSaver funds into businesses or other investments which are safer or afford more control and liquidity. Some have been forced to retire early and they should not be forced to wait for their retirement funds. Others might wish to invest their funds to re-train or up-skill for new careers.

In summary, my belief is that for many, KiwiSaver is no longer fit for purpose in the post Covid-19 recession. The IRD study showed that even in boom times KiwiSaver was out-performed by alternative investments and that for taxpayers, the costs of KiwiSaver out-weighed the benefits. There is no incentive for those no longer enjoying employer contributions. There are many ways in which KiwiSaver funds can now be put to much better use in order to achieve the original objectives of asset accumulation, individual well-being and financial independence.

If you are interested in pursuing early withdrawal of your KiwiSaver funds outside of the current rules, then please sign my government petition at:

https://www.parliament.nz/en/pb/petitions/document/PET_97690/petition-of...

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