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Real Issues: Youth, Disparity, Sex Offenders

Real Issues No. 319 - Youth, Income Disparity, Sex Offenders
Maxim Institute - Real Issues - No. 319
18 September 2008

'The IPOD generation'
Keeping up with the Aussies
'A delicate balance'

Early intervention key
Mothers and babies
NZ Votes political debates gearing up
Maxim Institute Summer Internship deadline looms


Today's youth are pragmatic, confident and tolerant of difference, according to a report by British think tank Reform, titled A New Reality: Government and the IPOD generation. The report refers to the age group 18-35 with the acronym IPOD, which stands for insecure, pressurised, over-taxed and debt-ridden. It suggests that this portion of British society is significant for Britain socially and economically, but it is largely unreached by politicians. The under-34 age group has the lowest voter turnout in the country. Evidence in New Zealand also points to a politically disengaged youth population, with the Electoral Commission reporting in May this year that only 47 percent of young people knew it was election year.

Reform's report says that while the 18-34 year old age group is very diverse, there are some distinctive features of this demographic that politicians would do well to understand. For example, IPODs tend to be technologically savvy and have a range of pressures that compete for their time and money. Communication from government therefore needs to be fast, reliable and interactive or they will struggle to engage in public life. IPODs are confused by choice and struggle to know what information is trustworthy. This makes the personal credibility of politicians as crucial as their policies or credentials. Many IPODs also support localism, endorsing the devolution of power away from centralised government.

The report uses qualitative research, having conducted a deliberative workshop with 35 IPODs and also drawing on discussions with many young adults in order to develop the research. There are some limitations in using qualitative research to summarise a group that is as extensive and diverse as a whole generation, nevertheless the experiences of these 35 people can help us to better understand young people and engage them in the public sphere. Democracy relies upon engaged and informed citizens. Furthermore, it may be that some of the concerns of the IPODs are an important challenge to government, reminding it of the need to clearly articulate information, and forcing us to ask once again what government means for each of its citizens.

Read A New Reality: Government and the IPOD generation http://www.reform.co.uk/documents/080227%20ILC%20UK%20A%20National%20Care%20Fund%20for%20Long-Term%20Care.pdf


The New Zealand Institute of Economic Research (NZIER) has taken up the vexed issue of the trans-Tasman economic gap in their new discussion document released this week, When will New Zealand catch up with Australia?. The paper points out that 'New Zealand's average income, defined as GDP per capita, is now three quarters that of Australia and even lower than in Australia's poorest state, Tasmania.' Although 'over the last seven years, New Zealand has grown slightly faster than Australia ... at these rates, it would still take 140 years to close the trans-Tasman income gap.' Bad news for the New Zealanders of 2148, who, assuming current rates continue, may still be tempted across the Tasman by income, as many are now. The report quantifies the gap, saying that 'Average incomes in Queensland and New South Wales, where two thirds of the New Zealand diaspora live, were 25-28% higher than those in New Zealand.'

The report further argues that New Zealand's 'poor record on labour productivity' means we are not on track to catch up to the Aussies -- and will not be, without 'major change.' We need more economic growth -- if our 'growth rate doubled, the income gap would disappear in 13 years' and even growth of an extra half percent knocks a century off the catch-up time. Mentioning 'the importance, for achieving growth, of a freer market, freer trade and a better regulatory environment,' the report challenges us to think about the economic future we are leaving to our grandchildren.

With an election coming up, we need to ask the tough questions about productivity, and vision for economic growth. If we are to be more competitive globally, tax rates should come down and tax structures need another look. Our investment in technology and science, and our attractiveness to capital investment need to be a bigger part of the equation. As the report points out, Ireland has achieved the economic growth needed to make substantial gains in the OECD ranking -- and there is no reason we can not do likewise. Keeping more kiwis at home requires more than hand-wringing. It requires the vision and leadership to look past business as usual.

Read When will New Zealand catch up with Australia? http://www.nzier.org.nz/includes/download.aspx?ID=97046


Sexual offending is understandably one of the most emotive issues we face as a society. The Social Services Committee has just reported back to Parliament with the results of its Inquiry into the care and rehabilitation of youth sex offenders, considering how best to re-enter young offenders into society, while maintaining public safety. The inquiry sought public and professional opinion on the systems used in rehabilitating young sex offenders in New Zealand, finding they work well, but that improvements should be made.

In 2006 there were 125 apprehensions and 39 proven cases of 'violent sexual offending' by youth aged 14-16 years in New Zealand -- although the inquiry suggested that there is probably more offending that simply goes unreported. The inquiry worked from the consideration that in treating youth sex offenders, 'a delicate balance must be struck between guarding the safety of the public and providing effective care and rehabilitation services to the offender.' In doing so, a public attitude shift is required to give these youth a second chance. Sexual offending has been linked to a troubled history including abuse, neglect, family dysfunction and substance abuse. A study from 2000, considered by the inquiry, found that 95 percent of youth sexual offenders had been sexually abused themselves. The inquiry found that although difficult, rehabilitation can be successful, and it places an emphasis on the importance of 'strong families, early intervention, stable care, and managed transitions from care to independence' in the success of these programmes. While care and treatment facilities are available for young offenders who are not in jail, the inquiry highlighted that the spaces in these facilities are limited and there is a greater need for a 'continuum of care' that eases them back into the community.

In theory it is clear that the more we can rehabilitate people, the safer our streets will be; in practice it can be complex, time-consuming and only okay if it is 'not in your own backyard.' Yet persevering is important: family, community and adequate care have a vital role to play. The high incidence of sexual abuse on those who then become perpetrators is something rarely discussed -- it highlights how often tragedies and difficulties go unsaid when commentating on offenders and crime.

Read the Inquiry into the care and rehabilitation of youth sex offenders http://www.parliament.nz/NR/rdonlyres/369F6C05-DDB5-4E81-A1F1-8DDF6ED82AE3/93474/DBSCH_SCR_4209_6251.pdf



The Centre for Social Justice and the Smith Institute, think tanks representing both sides of the British political spectrum, have released a new report, calling for British politicians to 'put aside their differences to avert social collapse.' The report, Early Intervention: Good Parents, Great Kids, Better Citizens, calls for more emphasis on 'Early Intervention programmes targeted at boosting the life chances of deprived children aged 0 to 3.' British MPs Iain Duncan-Smith (Conservative) and Graham Allen (Labour) have collaborated on the report, saying: 'We are convinced it is cheaper and more sensible to tackle social problems before they begin, rather than spend ever-greater sums on ineffective remedial policies, whether they take the form of more prisons, police, drug rehabilitation or supporting larger and more costly lifetimes on benefits.'

The policy recommendations include a renewed emphasis on parenting programmes and 'social competences,' 'anti-drug and alcohol programmes,' and more support for families in the first years of life.

Read Early Intervention: Good Parents, Great Kids, Better Citizens http://www.centreforsocialjustice.org.uk/client/downloads/EarlyInterventionpaperFINAL.pdf


The Corrections (Mothers with Babies) Amendment Bill has been passed into law by Parliament, amending the Corrections Act 2004 to allow babies to live in prison with their mothers until they reach 24 months of age. The purpose of this amendment is to focus on the 'best interests of the child,' extending the opportunity a child has for 'bonding, feeding, and maintaining continuity of care' with their mother, despite her past offending. There are some conditions to this law, and practical changes required to be made within the prisons, but there are potentially large benefits to the passing of this child-focused legislation. These early years are foundational in children's lives, and giving children this time with their mother -- when they would otherwise be passed out to other family, relations or placed in foster care -- can only help give them a stable and safe foundation to begin with.

Read the Corrections (Mothers with Babies) Amendment Bill http://www.legislation.govt.nz/bill/member/2006/0056-3/latest/viewpdf.aspx


With the announcement of election day -- as 8 November 2008 -- it is time to start finding out more about the parties and their candidates.

NZ Votes debates around the country provide a great opportunity to hear from the parties themselves. With debates happening in Pukekohe, Whangarei, Rotorua, South Auckland, Helensville, Queenstown, Dunedin, Christchurch, Upper Hutt, Nelson, Central Auckland (Greenlane), Wellington and Tauranga.

Find out more about the debates, including when there is one near you!



The deadline for applications for Maxim Institute's Summer Internship 2008-2009 is 26 September.

The Summer Internship is residential and runs from 24 November 2008 - 13 February 2009. The interns will study a range of topics including jurisprudence, civil society, theology, economic policy, philosophy and politics, while gaining professional experience working directly with the Institute's research, policy, communications and events departments.

Find out more about the Maxim Institute Internships and how to apply http://www.maxim.org.nz/index.cfm/Tomorrow_s_Leaders


'Think not forever of yourselves, O Chiefs, nor of your own generation. Think of continuing generations of our families, think of our grandchildren and of those yet unborn, whose faces are coming from beneath the ground.'

T S Eliot


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