Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Super breach of Te Tiriti

Midst all the benefit debates we’re having at the moment, and despite evidence our current situation is unaffordable, John Key has held firm on not raising the age we can receive superannuation.  New Zealand doesn’t agree, with other political parties saying we need to have the discussion about raising the threshold age to 67 – and that this should not be a party-political issue.

If we raise the threshold age to 67, Maori men will be eligible for Super for three years, and Maori women for eight.  Non-Maori men on the other hand, will be grabbing hold of this universal benefit for 12 years, and non-Maori women for 15 years.

So non-Maori live just over eight years longer than Maori.  The gap has lessened in the last 70 years, but reports on early contact between Maori and Europeans suggest Maori had a higher life expectancy than the British around the time of Captain Cook’s visits.

We are beginning to have a debate about Super without even acknowledging we’re basically talking about making sure non-Maori are well-looked after retirement.  When Mana raised this last year, their solution – that the age of Super be lowered for Maori to 60 – did not receive serious consideration.  But what is fair here?  How do we ensure this “universal” benefit can be accessed equitably?

The Treaty – both the Maori text and the English text – clearly guarantee Maori the same rights and privileges as British subjects.  How does that work with our Superannuation scheme?  And if it doesn’t work, is redress due to Maori on the grounds that this is pure and simple discrimination, directly traceable to the impacts of colonisation?  Is this a Super breach of Te Tiriti?


Trouble said...

I suppose you could argue it, but I'd have thought the bigger issue was the discrepancy in lifespan to start with - perhaps the Crown failed to take some action to improve Maori health that led to the inequality. There are a lot of areas where a similar argument would equally apply, and I'm not sure how the Waitangi Tribunal has approached them. I don't think there's a lot of what you could call Article III inequality jurisprudence.

The most likely way to trigger a breach is to make a change affecting Maori without consulting first.

Fight for the Triti said...

It's also a breach that Maori can't get into school until age 5 or university until age 18... since Maori live less time they get to spend a smaller proportion of their life with the benefits of an education.

sadly pakeha controled courts refuse to acknowledge

Psycho Milt said...

Average life expectancy at birth tells us nothing much about how long people will be drawing superannuation - it's easily skewed by infant and child mortality rates. For example, hundreds of years ago when average life expectancy at birth was around 40, that didn't mean a 40-year-old you encountered was a geriatric about to die of old age, it just meant that lots of people died young.

The relevant figure is average life expectancy of someone turning 65, which I haven't seen provided. Any case for special treatment for Maori would have to be based on that figure, not the "at birth" figure. Personally, I expect the lower average life expectancy for Maori has to do with infant/child mortality rates - something which bears no relation to how long someone's likely to draw super, but might genuinely be a Treaty issue.

Psycho Milt said...

Well, and smoking/diet-related health problems in later life of course, but those aren't treaty issues.

Beerbaron said...

Earlier Maori mortality is due to less Maori personal care and individual responsibility for the most part.

Graeme Edgeler said...

Superannuation is provided on the same basis as other benefits - it provides for those who are at a stage in their life where they may be unable to provide for their .

We do not pay taxes in order to save for our retirements, but in order to care for those who are in a position that they are unlikely to be able to do so themselves.

This is also the reason we pay taxes for the DPB, unemployment benefit etc.

Providing govt super to only those who need it, is no more racist than the DPB is sexist.

If you die at 60, having worked all your life, you have never needed govt super to survive, so we haven't provided it to you. No different from how if you've worked all your life, you'll never have received an unemployment benefit.

Moz said...

To extend Grahame's argument a little, if someone (incl Maori) needs to retire before they're 65 or whatever, we have the sickness and unemployment benefits for that.

I'm curious that a feminist blog doesn't extend this argument to women, and argue that because women live longer than men they should obviously receive the pension later than men do.

(and the Captcha is truly insane today:

LudditeJourno said...

Thanks for comments, this is pretty interesting I think. Trouble, I completely agree the bigger issue is life expectancy - this part of the issue is just about what the implications of that are I think, which sometimes is a chance to drive change.
Beerbaron - right. So were Europeans just taking less personal care pre colonisation, or do you think there might just been some social issues here?
Psycho Milt - when we know rates of smoking are correlated with social disadvantage, I'm not sure about your argument re; smoking and Te Tiriti personally. Re: your good point about life expectancy from age 65 - thank you, that is useful - and the same data I linked to above does provide that information. The figures are non-Maori men live 4.4 years longer than Maori men; and non-Maori women live 4.8 years longer than Maori women.
Graeme - but isn't Super available to all people over 65 who have lived here long enough, or their spouses? So the idea it's only about "need" is not really applicable surely - it is a universal benefit.

Graeme Edgeler said...

Moz - I believe they're using the picture part of the captcha as some sort of human assisted number recognition (maybe for Google maps or things like that). You don't actually have to get that bit of the captcha right.

Graeme Edgeler said...

Luddite - yes. I agree that Super should be for those who need it. If you're still working and earning $250k a year (as Jim Anderton was while a minister), you should not get super.

LudditeJourno said...

Haha Moz, you're so right that I'm not looking at gender in this post, or the social reasons why men die earlier than women, on average. Another time perhaps. It just really struck me that in near universal calls for lifting the pension age, there is an injustice being done, to pile on top of the injustice of poorer health outcomes for Maori, so that's what I wrote about.

Psycho Milt said...

...when we know rates of smoking are correlated with social disadvantage, I'm not sure about your argument re; smoking and Te Tiriti personally.

It's exactly because smoking rates are correlated with social disadvantage, not with being Maori. The poor are more likely to smoke; Maori are more likely to be poor. The second part is a Treaty issue but the first isn't.

...The figures are non-Maori men live 4.4 years longer than Maori men; and non-Maori women live 4.8 years longer than Maori women...

Thanks, I had a look and found the relevant info in table 2.01 of the NZ life tables 2005-2007. For people born in 1950-52, predicted average life expectancy for a Maori at age 65 is 10.5 years. For a Pakeha it's 12.9 years.

Table 2.02 puts the difference in predicted life expectancy between Maori and Pakeha at 65 at 2.4 years for men and 2.7 years for women. The predicted difference seems to range between 1.4 and 4.3 depending on cohort. And as expected, the difference is way higher at younger ages than older ones, which indicates there is a Treaty issue in there but it's to do with infant/child mortality, not retirement ages.

Brett Dale said...

You cant have super starting at different ages for different ethnic groups, the system would be abuse.

How about a lower retirement age for people who have battled cancer. Their life expectancy is lower.

Or how about starting Super at 70 for people of Asian descent, since they live longer.

This country would get very angry, if super is going to start for different ages for different ethnic groups.

LudditeJourno said...

Psycho Milt - it's not how the life expectancy for Maori is lower that's the issue, but the fact of it meaning there is less entitlement to a supposedly universal benefit for all New Zealanders. I agree with you that how the life expectancy happens is a Treaty issue, but the playing out of it around Super is what I'm exploring here.
I'm curious that the number you've found in one part of those stats is different from the number I found in the Appendix 1 tables, which were stating life expectancy at age 65?

Keely said...

I just find it interesting that the govt has managed to get the country arguing FOR raising the super age. Maybe I'm being cynical, but I think this is a great way for Key to keep his promise to the electorate and then 'reluctantly' change it because he is listening to the voters. Much easier than telling voters that he is raising the super age and having everyone up in arms against that.

Moz said...

Kelly: good point. That Nice Mr Key does it again.

I think different ages to collect super based on demographics is a door we don't want to open. Using the treaty might be a way to limit that, but you seem more to be using the treaty as a lead-in to the demographic argument. And I'd be wary of anything that sounds like "Maori are inherently defective and therefore...", no matter how well-intentioned.

Splitting it seems more useful: Maori as a group are less well off and therefore we owe them ... which sounds a lot like the settlement process we already have; and poor people don't tend to live as long so in a progressive system we should compensate for the shorter pension duration somehow; but on the gripping hand the whole pension system is out of whack right now due to the baby boomers retiring and not having saved enough to pay out their pensions. The latter means any increase in the cost of running the pension system has to be dealt with cautiously.

The "poor people" argument is the one I am wary of because it's very hard to limit it and the potential for abuse is high. TNMK would no doubt try to arrange things so that the emphasis is on "men don't live as long" rather than "whites live longer" and "straights live longer" (just to use the SWM categories). And I really don't want to get into the class divisions IMO because they're actuarially challenging.

Psycho Milt said...

I'm curious that the number you've found in one part of those stats is different from the number I found in the Appendix 1 tables, which were stating life expectancy at age 65?

Yes, that's odd - same document, different tables, different numbers. Maybe Appendix 1 averages it across the cohorts.

Anyway, what I'm getting at is the difference between Maori and Pakeha life expectancy at the age of retirement is only a few years, which doesn't strike me as a huge level of unfairness, especially as it's similar to the difference between male and female life expectancy. I guess it would be possible to rebuild superannuation on some kind of actuary system so that your personal age of entitlement was based on predicted life expectancy at any given year, such that you got superannuation once you hit predicted life expectancy of, say, 15 more years, but that would also involve unfairness - eg, picture your superannuation consultant telling you at 67 that you're predicted to live another 30 years...

Acid Queen said...

"The latter means any increase in the cost of running the pension system has to be dealt with cautiously."

Raise taxes on the rich, should cover it nicely.

Got any other "objections" straight from the neoliberal handbook there?

Cat said...

France is lowering the retirement age to 60 for people who entered manual labouring jobs at 18.

The idea is that they're more worn out/less able to continue on physical labour than people with desk jobs.

Brett Dale said...

People who do manual jobs though, should be fitter, people who do desk jobs, are unfitter, but they are still as stressed.

jamie said...

cat, greece did something similar and the result was hairdressers/barbers among others on pensions from ~50.
acidqueen, while most here will agree with higher taxes for the rich (something more in line with clark/cullen's previous settings), the "rich" arent some bottomless piniata that can magically solve the problem of the projected 1 superannuitant for every 2.5 workers.