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This paper examines the labour supply responses to the Working for Families (WfF) package of welfare reforms, which was fully implemented in 2008. The policy changes were implemented with the aim to encourage benefit recipients to participate in the labour market and to address income adequacy issues for families with children. The results presented in this paper are obtained using the behavioural microsimulation model for New Zealand, TAXMOD-B. We used the Household Economic Survey (HES) in 2008/09 to capture the full effect of the policy. It is estimated that the introduction of the new policy increases labour supply of sole parents by an average of 0.62 hours per week, but decreases labour supply of married men and women by 0.10 and 0.50 hours per week, respectively. The negative effects for married couples with dependents are about 16 and 41 times larger than for married couples without dependents, with the largest difference observed for married women. A good way of validating the results is by comparing our ex-ante simulated effects of a policy change with the ex-post estimated effects of the policy change after it has been introduced. While it is often difficult to find policy changes which could be used to test TAXMOD-B in a similar way, the Ministry of Social Development (MSD) and Inland Revenue department (IR) have estimated labour supply effects after the WfF changes were introduced. The overall labour supply results from the simulation are in the same direction and of similar magnitudes as the ex-post results from the WfF evaluation reports. Our analysis shows that after allowing for labour supply changes, the cost of the policy change increases for couples but decreases for sole parents. These changes in labour supply are reflected in the tax revenue, family payment and benefit income changes for both subgroups. Overall, our results show that the WfF reform reduced the incidence and intensity of poverty as well as income inequality.
We would like to thank John Creedy, Gerald Minnee, Angela Mellish, Chris Ball and referees for their helpful comments and assistance. This paper was undertaken while Joseph Mercante was on secondment to the New Zealand Treasury.
The views, opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this Working Paper are strictly those of the author(s). They do not necessarily reflect the views of the New Zealand Treasury or the New Zealand Government. The New Zealand Treasury and the New Zealand Government take no responsibility for any errors or omissions in, or for the correctness of, the information contained in these working papers. The paper is presented not as policy, but with a view to inform and stimulate wider debate.