Opinion: With bold statements from the opposition about reforming Easter trading rules, announcements of new bridges to be built in the decades to come, the election showdown is starting to gain momentum.
But as political parties vie for our attention this year, beware of policies that promise to benefit ‘all of us’.
Because, like socks, ‘all of us’ is the same as ‘one size fits all’, a marketing ploy to get us to buy garments that actually fit no one properly.
No doubt youth will be a focus of election promises. I must be getting long in the tooth because I remember similar panic about ‘the youth’ a decade ago and a focus on Neets (young people not in education, employment, or training).
Trades academies attached to schools were proposed as a solution. If only schools were more relevant to young people and better prepared them for employment, young people would stay out of trouble.
That’s a pretty compelling pitch to an electorate worried about youth crime and young people starting early on their lifetime dependence on benefits.
And it makes sense; that is, if the problem was schools and their inability to provide relevant programmes.
Some Neets were probably young people in urban areas who had fallen through the cracks in the education system. But if you dug into the data, you would find there were other groups of Neets, such as young women who had ‘dropped out’ to take on caring roles.
What may seem like a simple change – say raising the age of entitlement for NZ Superannuation – could create unintended consequences for many of us
The policy solutions for this group would be different; perhaps more teen parent support at schools, or the provision of trusted in-home care for the elderly or sick so young women did not have to care for their grandparents full-time.
Alas, if the solution proposed by politicians looks compelling and simple, it’s probably too good to be true. The pathways to becoming a Neet were not linear or uniform. The solutions, therefore, could not be either.
Likewise, we will need to look at the fine print to any proposed changes to retirement policies. We are definitely not one when it comes to ending our working lives.
Take a half of the population – women – who on retirement have 20 percent less retirement savings than men, live longer and are more likely to do so alone (as we tend to outlive our partners).
Changes to retirement policies, if not considered through a gendered lens, could inadvertently throw many women into poverty in the last years of their life.
As the Retirement Commissioner also points out, Māori receive NZ Superannuation for fewer years (because on average don’t live as long), have lower KiwiSaver balances because they tend to earn less, and are less likely to own their own home in retirement.
What may seem like a simple change – say raising the age of entitlement for NZ Superannuation – could create unintended consequences for many of us.
Though we will all be promised a better life by our politicians this year, their election promises are likely to create new winners and losers or intensify existing inequalities.
Who loses because of their promises and the consequences of that is, however, unlikely to be pointed out in the glossy brochures that will flood our mailboxes, uninvited.
So it will be up to us to wade through the promises.
But let’s make the effort this election cycle, read a bit more, look for facts and data, ask questions, and not take those sparkling promises at face value.
Because just like those socks, one size rarely fits all.