New Zealand Retirement & Welfare
In 1937 the Government of the day established the first truly universal welfare system which offered support to the disadvantaged and created a safety net for those out of work, in need or without homes or income. This "cradle to grave" concept as it was known helped to eliminate almost all poverty and certainly the worst of what one sees overseas.
During the prosperous post WWII years and into the late 1960's New Zealand continued to fund this enormous system with relative ease. By the early 1970's however with a changing world New Zealand failed to respond and the system became less and less affordable - so successive Governments borrowed to sustain a standard of living and welfare that was no longer affordable. Only in the mid 1990's did the country attempt to restructure the welfare system so that it is better targeted and those seeking an alternative to gainful employment increasingly have to think again.
However New Zealanders pride themselves on having an absence of beggars on the streets, squatter settlements and shanty towns - most New Zealanders would have it no other way.
Welfare for migrants can be limited within the first two years. For most migrants who have English as a first language will never experience the Welfare Department. For those from non-English backgrounds who can find employment more difficult welfare assistance is available in various forms.
For 24 months after arrival migrants are not entitled to unemployment benefits but can get weekly allowances for accommodation (max $90.00), children (approximately $40.00 per child) and emergency grants of around $150.00 per week.
While your new country will not let you starve or become homeless you are expected to take responsibility for yourself and your family and state assistance should be viewed as a temporary measure and not a way of life.
New Zealanders do not yet have to pay any compulsory retirement contribution during their working life and the universal pension is funded out of income taxes. The retirement age is 65 at which time married couples receive $330.40 per week and single people slightly over half that. Most pensioners do not rely on the state for pension but have made provision through private Retirement funds or by realising assets to see them through. The rate of pension at 65% of the average wage is far higher than in other developed countries.
All migrants of working age are encouraged to establish some form of savings plan as so as you begin working. Life on the pension can be very difficult especially if you have a mortgage over your property or other debt.
With an aging population - reminiscent of most developed countries - the state's ability to continue funding a universal pension must be questioned as we look towards the years 2020 and beyond when the "baby boomers" reach retirement age.
Welfare and the hand out mentality is still without doubt the single greatest impediment to the nations prosperity. Whilst few living in NZ would seek to have the system dismantled an increasing number question the sustainability of spending $250 million every week of the year on welfare. There is no doubt that part of NZ's problem has been caused by a generation of people who believe that they have a right to not work.
The upside of it is that the Government still runs budget surpluses and the dependency culture is being chipped away at.
This is the last area of the country where reforms have been slow. This reflects the power of the welfare vote to the politicians we suspect.