Hundreds of documents briefing new Government ministers on key policies have been released. Herald journalists have been analysing the Briefings to Incoming Ministers (Bims). Here we look at Ageing and Social Development.

An ageing population, poor social outcomes for Maori and 30 per cent of jobs at risk of automation are some of the challenges Kiwis will have to deal with in the not too distant future.

The revelations were made in a briefing report to the new Minister of Social Development, Carmel Sepuloni. She is responsible for social development funding of $21.1billion.

The three aims in the portfolio were alleviating poverty and hardship, supporting people into work, and responding to family and sexual violence.


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Briefings to incoming ministers: The highlights

An ageing population will challenge New Zealand's ability to grow economically, the Ministry for Social Development warned.

The report predicted that in the coming decades Kiwis would rely more heavily on seniors as carers, volunteers, employees and their consumer spending and investment. The numbers of superannuitants is expected to balloon from 730,000 to 1.3 million in 2039.

The future looked bleak for some older people as material hardship was expected to increase, particularly as mortgage-free home ownership will be lower for future cohorts of elderly.

"There will also be more older people with disabilities over the coming years, and social isolation and elder abuse are likely to continue to be issues," the BIM reported.

"A growing proportion of older people will need to rely on supplementary benefits in addition to their New Zealand Superannuation."

The report recommended that policy changes be signalled well in advance so future generations can save and adjust.

Around 30 per cent of Kiwis receive some sort of financial support, the Ministry of Social Development explained in their BIM. This includes 276,000 on a working age benefit, 97,000 on a health or disability benefit, 730,000 on superannuation, 187,000 on student allowances or loans and 62,000 receiving supplementary assistance like the accommodation supplement.

Minister of Social Development Carmel Sepuloni is responsible for social development funding of $21.1billion. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Minister of Social Development Carmel Sepuloni is responsible for social development funding of $21.1billion. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Māori currently represent 15 per cent of the working-age population yet comprise 37 per cent of those receiving Job Seeker Support and 48 per cent of Sole Parent Support recipients.

Factors influencing this include intergenerational welfare dependence, low levels of education and poor health. Available information suggests that successful approaches for Māori are likely to be community-led and strengths-based, use kaupapa Māori frameworks, and focus on positive relationships within whānau and communities.

A rapidly growing Maori economy, currently estimated at $43 billion, could help address social issues where Maori are disproportionately represented, the report stated. The ministry should explore leveraging partnerships with Maori businesses.

Family and sexual violence costs the country around $6 billion each year (including long-term health effects, lost wages and reduced productivity) and New Zealand has one of the highest rates in the OECD. Around half of all murders are committed by an offender who is related to the victim.

Almost 90 per cent of expenditure responds to violence after it occurs. The ministry suggested a better cross-agency approach to prevent violence before it occurs.

According to OECD estimates, around 35 per cent of New Zealand jobs are at risk of automation over the next 20 years, so common pathways to employment will no longer be available.

The ministry want to focus on retraining people for the changing job market and overcome barriers to employment.

The report also suggested rewriting the Social Security Act which has had more than 150 amending acts in the last 50 years to make it clearer and more consistent.

Read the report here.