The latest child poverty statistics are a wake-up call

Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) says the latest child poverty statistics are a wake-up call and we need urgent action from the Government to lift children out of poverty.

This morning Stats NZ released child poverty statistics for the year ended June 2019. The results show that any changes in child poverty are small and within the margin error, suggesting that nothing much may have changed. Although there may have been a small positive impact for children close to the 50% and 60% AHC and BHC median income lines, there is less/no impact on those under the 40% AHC median income line. The best that can be said is that the Families Package is likely to have prevented this measure getting any worse.

Likewise, the hardship measures have not changed for the last six years, while those in severe hardship may be worse.

Associate Professor Susan St John, Economics Spokesperson for CPAG says ‘Put simply: these statistics do not show any change for the children living in the worst, most entrenched poverty. Around 170,000 children remain under the very lowest poverty line of 40% AHC income. This confirms our view that the Families Package (implemented July 2018) was not designed to give the necessary income boost to those in the deepest poverty. This picture is unlikely to change when the full Families Package is counted in the next report due in 2021’.

For the first time, the Stats NZ survey produced statistics for different ethnic groups and regions in New Zealand. Alarmingly, the results show that almost one in four Māori children were living with material hardship (about 23 percent). The rate was higher for Pasifika children (about 29 percent). This compares with 1 in 10 European children.

‘The fact that the burden of poverty is inequitably shared and has a disproportionate impact on Māori and Pasifika children indicates that racism implicit in policy design has helped create and maintain child and whanau poverty in New Zealand’, adds St John.

Overall, CPAG says child poverty requires urgent and immediate action. Meaningful adjustments to the benefit system and working for families must not wait until after the election for implementation.  We know any delay impacts severely on children and can have lifelong effects. The obvious first step is to extend the In-Work Tax Credit to all low-income children. This would cost $0.5b and would reach those children living in the worst of poverty.