16 Apr 2020

Scrap rules on benefits for people in relationships, CTU says

8:34 am on 16 April 2020

The Council of Trade Unions says with more unemployment looming, Work and Income (WINZ) rules on benefits for people in relationships need to be reviewed.

Work and Income offices

Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

CTU economist Andrea Black said underlying the benefit rules for relationships was a "1950s expectation that one partner will support the other".

"But since about the '90s our households have kept off hardship ... by both partners going out to work.

"Now that we are coming into a world with increased unemployment, this is going to become more exacerbated. You have one partner lose their job and if the other partner is even full-time minimum wage, the household has completely lost that second income."

She said it was time to look again at the WINZ rules.

"To be fair, it's reasonable to have some sort of limit."

In addition, increasing the benefit was also needed.

"The current $25 that the government has done alongside indexing it to incomes rather than prices is very welcome, but that $25 in a couple's household - they get $25 total.

"But absolutely benefits need to rise. The Welfare Advisory Group showed that for an individual it needs to rise at least $100 to avoid hardship and for a couple, it needs to rise at least $300."

Black said in terms of a universal basic income, on the surface it was attractive and simple, but people in hardship would still need top-ups, and in some cases, it would go to people who did not need it.

Finance Minister Grant Robertson said a universal basic income was one of the options being considered to help people who lose their jobs or face uncertainty.

However, National Party leader Simon Bridges did not support a universal basic income. "What would concern me is the situation where effectively you are seeing the same or double funding for the same issue."

Last month the government announced wage subsidies would be available for businesses in all parts of the country that can show they've had a 30 percent decline in revenue for any month between January and June 2020 compared to the year before.

For eligible businesses, employers will be paid $585.50 per week for full-time staff, and $350 for part-time staff.

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