Monday, April 09, 2007

Swedish professor tells us what to do

Swedes. Not just vegetables, but people who live in a country New Zealand authorities look towards in the search for a better society. Last week, visiting Swedish professor, Joakim Palme, told a social policy conference in Wellington that New Zealand needs to get more women, particularly mothers, into the workforce, to pay for our ageing population and the welfare state. Their kids can go to childcare and live there.

So, let's look at Sweden for a moment. Most Swedish mothers went back to work and put their children into day care before children turn two. Sweden provides for paid parental leave for 15 months, massively subsidised - and properly funded- childcare.Sickness and unemployment benefits are paid on an income- related basis, a bit like our ACC here but more generous, and education is a lot better than NCEA.

Average wages raise five percent every year, and along with recent tax cuts Swedish families have more spending power.

Yet Sweden also has higher unemployment at 4.8 percent and 555,000 people on sickness and disability benefits. Actually the real rate of joblessness (including those people on government schemes and those on incapacity benefits) was at least double that figure in 2005, and was as high as 20 percent. It hasn't come down much since.

One one in three children are reportedly psychologically damaged in childcare. You can get financial support for sick children - a child sickness benefit - but about twenty percent claim it under false pretenses while working full time.

I won't dwell too much on how bad Sweden's immigration policies are. Nearly half of Sweden's immigrants aged between 20-24 are unemployed, as are more than 40 percent of Swedish residents born outside the OECD. Two- thirds of Aucklanders are born outside New Zealand. Imagine if 40 percent of working-age Aucklanders who wanted a job were jobless!

Perhaps Palme should sort out his country's problems first, and let our leaders to sort out ours.

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