Just as festive shop window displays in shops appear in the run up to Christmas, so warnings to claim your KiwiSaver member tax credits proliferate in the weeks before June.
Okay, I promise this will be the last sentence in which I use that hideous, profoundly in-human ‘‘member tax credits’’ jargon.
From here on I will call it a ‘‘bribe’’ to save into KiwiSaver.
But once again as my email inbox fills up with seasonal warnings from KiwiSaver providers, I am struck by the sad truth that there is a strong link between the likelihood of a person collecting a bribe and the colour of their skin.
It’s more than an accidental outcome of the ‘‘invisible hand of the market’’.
Yes, unemployment levels are lower, and incomes generally higher for Pakeha than for Maori or Pacific Island people.
But KiwiSaver is a recentlyconstructed bureaucratic creation.
This is not the equivalent of me calling Christmas racist because statistically Pakeha households Understand the KiwiSaver bribes Get your full KiwiSaver bribe
Don’t get frightened by the jargon
have higher incomes to spend on presents and mince pies.
People sat down just over a decade ago, and nutted the rules of KiwiSaver out.
Part of that nutting out involved the bribes, which are basically the government chipping in free money on the proviso that people save into KiwiSaver.
Now those good people doing the nutting didn’t consciously conspire to create a scheme where outcomes were correlated to skin colour.
Of course they didn’t.
The back story of KiwiSaver was the merging of three political wishes of the then Labour government.
1. Lift the savings rate for the good of individuals and the economy. Great. Not racist.
2. Give people a tax cut. Great. Again, not racist.
3. Not to let people spend that tax cut, but instead use it to help create a long-term pool of retirement savings. Again, not racist.
The trouble is, the bribes paid to each KiwiSaver member were based on the amount they saved.
For someone to get the current full bribe, they needed to stick in just over $1000 a year.
The bribe paid to an individual is 50 cents for every dollar saved into KiwiSaver in the 12 months to the end of June. The maximum bribe a person can get is $521.
Pretty easy for households with higher incomes to get full bribes.
Much harder for lower income households and the unemployed coping with high rents as a result of us stuffing up the housing market.
A household with two grown-up KiwiSavers wanting the full bribe would need to set aside just over $2000 a year. Much easier for a household with an income of $100,000 than one with a household income of $40,000.
ANZ told me this week it was working hard to encourage the roughly half of its 600,000 or so KiwiSaver members who have not qualified for their full bribe to take action and make a voluntary oneoff payment into their KiwiSaver to get it.
I encourage you all to try and get over that line, and perhaps have a word with your local MP about whether it was time to reorganise the KiwiSaver bribes on a fairer, less accidentally racist basis.
KiwiSaver is working on aggregate better for Pakeha and Asian people than Maori or Pacific Island people.