Government spin can’t hide lack of progress against poverty

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Jacinda Adern released a press release today that trumped the success of the government in lifting 18,400 children out of poverty.

To be honest, I would have been embarrassed by such a number. It is within the margin of error for the hundreds of thousands of kids in some form of poverty.

In the year ended June 2019, about one in seven New Zealand children (168,500) lived in households with less than 50 percent of the median equivalised disposable household income before housing costs are deducted.

After housing costs have been deducted, the number of children living in New Zealand in relative poverty rises to one in five children (235,400). This measure, accounting for both inflation and the impact of housing costs, shows about 20.8 percent of children live in households with an income below half the 2017/18 median equivalised disposable household income.

As well as looking at incomes before and after housing costs have been deducted, Stats NZ reports on material hardship, which indicates the number of households missing out on more than six of the 17 basic things most people would regard as essentials.

Examples of material hardship include the respondent reporting not eating fresh fruit or vegetables, putting off a visit to the doctor, or not being able to pay the gas or electricity bills on time,” Mr Broughton said.

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Looking at that material hardship measure, in the year ended June 2019, about one in eight children (13.4 percent) lived in households reporting material hardship. There was no significant change from 2017/18 to 2018/19 in material hardship rates.

The Child Poverty Action Group noted that “the hardship measures have not changed for the last six years, while those in severe hardship may be worse.”

“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.”
At a time when the government is running surpluses in the billions, there is no need for continuing tight-fistedness when those reliant on a benefit are concerned.
Similarly it a welcome step that the main benefits are now to start increasing from April 1 according to movements in the average wage rather than the Consumer Price Index. The real value of basic benefits remains half their value in relation to average wages after 20 years of increases tied to the CPI rather than average wages. The last two decades have also seen escalating rental costs and the lowest 20 percent of earners spend nearly 60% of their income on rent compared to only 30 percent in the late 1980s.
Overcoming entrenched poverty and inequality requires a Prime Minister and a government willing to do much more than spin pathetic numbers.

47 COMMENTS

  1. Where the fight has been lost, is trying to pit the majority of people against each other and creating new voices for the left aka the woke voice which is extremely authoritarian. They are doing the right wingers work for them.

    Aka gun reform in NZ. Now if you have a legal gun licence you don’t need a warrant to search a residence (instead of just doing more due diligence on gun owners). Will not be long before this is stretched using that to other areas of the law and the can of worms is already opened.

    Terrorism is such a bonus for authoritarianism!

    Meanwhile the so called human rights defenders, civic space and civic freedom defenders are so busy with their latest minority group to save (transgender seems to be a trendy identity to lobby for) that the majority of people are losing more and more of their hard won by rights.

    Meanwhile the 1% are profiting and lobbying the government/lefties to try to extract more money out of the public like workers or those who have been exited from the workforce into self employment, contracts, gig employment, or under employment has become a mantra for the so called governments because concentrating on the 1% is very difficult and they donate well, too. So it’s more user pays, more petrol taxes, the fight for capital gains, (useless in most forms under neoliberalism which encourages zero tax payments for the billionaires).

    From Brian Easton…

    “Shortly after, I discovered that measured poverty in the country was dominated by children and their parents. This was a revolutionary finding at the time and it took only four decades for it to become the conventional wisdom. Even today, you will find people who focus their poverty discussions on beneficiaries, ethnic minorities, single-parent households, and those in rental accommodation. The research evidence points to the most common household in poverty is a Pakeha couple with children living in their own house (with a mortgage) and being dependent upon wages.”

    https://www.pundit.co.nz/content/invisible-children

    People are as equally turned off with the right bene blaming as the fake lefties middle class blaming.

    The absolute hate for Corbyn and attacks against him, will be interesting to see if Sanders does any better.

    Democrats under Clinton types are closer to Trump in attitudes, than they are to their own people like Sanders.

  2. How truly embarrassing when the government is scrambling to support tourism and others because of the financial outlook due to the virus.

    Apparently unable to scramble to sort out child poverty, despite spending money and time on a report saying an increase of up to 47% is required. Oh dear can’t do that the Focus groups say the middle class don’t like it.

  3. Genuinely shocked about some of the reporting on this subject in election year.

    National Party cheerleader TVNZ News ran a story last night on the news where the positive news on this subject was totally obliterated and remarkably replaced with damning negative news.

    18,400 Children Lifted Out Of Poverty

    Tuesday, 25 February 2020, 11:02 am
    Press Release: New Zealand Government
    Rt Hon Jacinda Ardern
    Prime Minister
    Minister for Child Poverty Reduction
    25 February 2020 PĀNUI PĀPĀHO MEDIA STATEMENT

    Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has welcomed new reporting showing the Coalition Government is on track to meet its child poverty targets, with 18,400 children lifted out of poverty as a result of the Families Package.

    Stats NZ has released the first set of comprehensive child poverty statistics since the Government set targets in the Child Poverty Reduction Act in 2018. They show seven out of nine child poverty measures have improved under this Government, compared to seven out of nine measures getting worse under the previous National Government.

    “Child poverty is a long term challenge that will take time to fix, but today’s figures show that we’ve made a great start and are moving in the right direction,” Jacinda Ardern said.

    “Lifting children out of poverty is an important issue to me and to New Zealanders and while there are no silver bullets I will keep pushing for progress.

    “Today we see the evidence that our $5.5 billion Families Package, which lifts the incomes of 384,000 families by an average of $65 a week, is starting to work to lift children out of poverty – but we know too that income is only part of the solution and that free lunches in schools are also helping kids to learn and easing pressure on families.

    “Our plan to halve child poverty in 10 years is making a difference but there is more to do,” Jacinda Ardern said.

    The numbers are the first indication of how the Government’s policies to reduce child poverty are working. They cover the period from mid- 2017 to mid-2019 and capture a partial impact of the Families Package, which began rolling out in June 2018 and is yet to be fully implemented.

    “While these numbers represent only some of the impact of the Families Package, it’s encouraging to know the policy is working and we are delivering on our core commitment of lifting children out of poverty.

  4. A bit off topic, but what a diabolical reflection on our media that you can have a total zero like Duncan Garner running interference for the National Party for hours every morning in election year. Alongside him is Mr Arrogant, National Party candidate in waiting, Mark Richardson who has adamantly claimed he will be PM one day.

    Garner disagreeing with Ardern is one thing but his comments are misogynistic and very personal, abuse.

    “”She dodges questions and doesn’t say what she really thinks – if she thinks anything at all”

    Fucking disgraceful. The sooner that shitheel, his show and that networked are binned, the better off NZ will be.

    https://www.msn.com/en-nz/news/national/shallow-duncan-garner-slams-arderns-overseas-reputation/ar-BB10lZdK

      • MickeyBoyle,

        Differing views my arse.

        There has been since day 1 an incessant 24/7 campaign from National and their trolls + a significant portion of the NZ media against the Government. Much of it is personal abuse directed at our female PM. How brave these maggots are. They don’t give a flying toss about democracy. Most are entitled, arrogant, divisive, bare faced liars and many of them quintessential misogynists.

        They spend all day every day misrepresenting and ridiculing everything the Government / Ardern does but remarkably still support a vile totally untrustworthy latrine rodent like Bridges to become NZ’s next PM. Their silence is deafening every time Bridges is exposed, even by his own hand.

        The Nats and their trolls will never be silenced and anyone who suggests they are is living in a parallel universe.

        Dropped in for a brief look on the Trade Me message board this morning to see if the status quo % was continuing in the lead up to them being closed down. The status quo is that for every one single contributor there that supports Ardern’s Government, there is on average 15 Nat trolls rushing in to attack and totally ridicule that one person. Nat trolls are threatened by anyone who interrupts their epic scale divisive misrepresenting. Attempting to silence Government / Ardern supporters is a full time position for the Nat trolls. That’s the reality.

        • 15 to 1 against? I guess that shows the dissatisfaction with Ardern.
          It’s not mysogynist – incompetence doesn’t care about gender.

  5. The current scandals of political donations are also matched by the increases in bribery and corruption in NZ at councils and public offices.

    In many other countries (whose nationals are the ones most encouraged here by having visa offices in highly corrupt countries and closing down of NZ visa offices in other less corrupt nations). NZ wants more corruption here, which seems crazy but obviously the neoliberals want their share of the corrupt cash up for grabs and as Thatcher says, “there is no such thing as society”.

    It’s not just the bribes that are contributing to poverty, it’s the closing down of local businesses that don’t bribe or those that don’t use cheap materials and labour that are being liquidated often after decades of being in business when they are now entering a dysfunctional system in today’s NZ.

    This is increasing on going poverty in NZ, less high paid jobs and the race to the bottom, which defiantly increasing.

    Then there is public safety like the rise in fake drivers licenses and drug/tobacco smuggling here and the huge cost of social crime like Meth.

    Today’s news
    Former Auckland Council worker and businessman admit bribery scandal
    https://www.nzherald.co.nz/premium/news/article.cfm?c_id=1504669&objectid=12311748

    Other stories in the last few years about NZ corruption…

    Chinese businessman Yikun Zhang’s donations go beyond Simon Bridges
    https://www.stuff.co.nz/business/money/107902444/auckland-and-southland-mayors-receive-handouts-from-chinese-businessman-yikun-zhang

    Southland mayor in China with ‘$100k donor’
    https://www.odt.co.nz/regions/southland/southland-mayor-china-100k-donor

    Council manager guilty of majority of corruption charges
    https://www.nzherald.co.nz/business/news/article.cfm?c_id=3&objectid=11763594

    Witness: Truck driver’s licences for bribes – no need to turn up for test
    https://www.stuff.co.nz/auckland/108896521/man-who-took-bribes-for-drivers-licence-scam-takes-witness-stand

    Punjabi singer gets home detention for drivers’ licences bribes
    https://www.rnz.co.nz/news/national/365583/punjabi-singer-gets-home-detention-for-drivers-licences-bribes

    Bribes for driver licences: Deportation order issued for star witness
    https://www.stuff.co.nz/auckland/114283545/bribes-for-driver-licences-deportation-order-issued-for-star-witness-and-youtube-sensation

    Queen St money remitter discharged after laundering Polish and Russian crime syndicate’s cash
    https://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=12260326

    John Key assures the public he is not linked to the Panama Papers scandal
    https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/78892068/john-key-assures-the-public-he-is-not-linked-to-the-panama-papers-scandal

    BNZ struggled to abide by anti-money laundering laws
    “But the leaked documents show that BNZ was confident it would not be pinged by New Zealand authorities and rated the risk of fines as “minor”, though it worried about the public finding out, and its reputation being damaged.”
    https://www.stuff.co.nz/business/114664719/bnz-struggled-to-abide-by-antimoney-laundering-laws

    Foreign Affairs minister Murray McCully denies link between party donation and Niue contract
    https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/79029273/foreign-affairs-minister-murray-mccully-denies-link-between-party-donation-and-niue-contract?rm=m

    Saudi sheep deal: Govt accused of cover-up
    https://www.newshub.co.nz/home/election/2017/09/saudi-sheep-deal-govt-accused-of-cover-up.html

    Skycity to build a new convention centre
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Skycity_Auckland

  6. Only 18,400! Sooo deduct that from the 263,000 kids that are impoverished still.
    Its about the same effort they’ve made with Housing many of those kids and their whanau!
    Next thing is, they’ll be talking about future generations! Whilst skipping passed Gen ‘Y’s & Millennials, just like they did with Gen ‘X’s. Every 3rd generation they skip!

    • Didn’t about the same number go on the dole in the same period (15000-20000 poor souls)? It’s a net nothing, Sepuloni is surely taking the piss.

  7. 18,400 children listed out of poverty and Statistics New Zealand, in a household income and housing-cost survey, which surveyed the period June 2018 to June 2019, also showed that more than 46,000 people have been lifted out of poverty.

  8. Before we all get our knickers in a twist, let me explain why the measure of ‘child poverty’ is total bullshit:

    The definition: “50 percent of the median equivalised disposable household income”

    So let’s say the government gave whopping great pay rises to the public sector – teachers, nurses, police etc. (which it did) This alters the the median income, so a family above the median that is not suffering from ‘child poverty’ one day yet and the next, thanks to the shift in the median income suddenly becomes ‘poor’ by this definition. Regardless of how wealthy the nation is, there will always be 50% below the median income. Durr!

    All relativistic measures of poverty are meaningless, so what absolute measures of poverty are there?

    The World Bank: Defines extreme poverty as living on less than US$1.90 per day, and moderate poverty as less than $3.10 a day.

    So by international standards nobody in NZ suffers from even moderate poverty. Everyone has access to education and medical care too.

    So what sort of poverty do we have here? We have poverty of the mind! People making abysmal decisions that keep them down, generation after generation.

    • Nonsense Andrew.

      People actually don’t have sufficient money to feed, clothe and shelter their kids that is poverty. Are you really saying this is their fault.

      The only people who have made bad decisions are those in government year after year after year.

      • The benefit system is there to stop people going under when thinks go pear shape due to job lose or illness and we are lucky it is there. However when those that are poor have more children without any regard to be able to support them without help then it is their fault but if you pumish them it is the innocent children that suffer and the cycle continues

        • okay then what if everyone was poor and couldn’t afford children with out state assistance. Would it still be okay to deny fundamental rights in a first world liberal democracy?

    • I agree with your last statement Andrew. People make abysmal decisions that keep them down,generation after generation keep voting National and therefore are worse off

  9. Before some people completely lose their minds it should be noted that
    “This 18/19 survey asks respondents to consider their incomes over the July 2017-July 2019 period. This means the impact of the Government’s $5.5 billion Families Package was only partially captured in the statistics”

    And the following has also helped…”Actions the Government has taken to help reduce child poverty

    Over the past two years, we’ve delivered policies and programmes designed to turn around New Zealand’s record on child poverty. Under this Government:

    Through the Families Package and Wellbeing Budget we’ve lifted the incomes of more than 384,000 families by $65 a week, on average, now and $75 when the Families Package is fully implemented

    136,000 people have benefitted from the Accommodation Supplement changes

    1 million people have benefitted from the Winter Energy Payment (up to $31 a week)
    12,500 people have benefitted from the Best Start payment ($60 a week)

    We’ve rolled out free and healthy lunches in schools to 7,000 students, increasing to 21,000 students over the next year

    Extended paid parental leave from 18-22 weeks, to 26 weeks in 2020

    Extended free GP visits to children under 14 (56,000 more young people)

    Extended the Nurses in School programme to cover decile 4 secondary schools (24,000 more young people)
    Scrapped the sanction that cuts a woman’s benefit if she doesn’t name the father

    We’re indexing main benefits to wage growth, so families don’t fall further behind

    Lifted the minimum wage to $17.70 an hour in 2019, further increasing it to $18.90 from 1 April 2020, and committed to increase it to $20 per hour by 2021

    Increased abatement thresholds (the amount that people can earn without their benefit being reduced) in line with minimum wage changes

    Introduced measures to stop predatory lending that often impact low income families

    Released the Child and Youth Wellbeing strategy, which sets the vision that New Zealand is the best place in the world to be a child with 75 actions to drive this goal

    We’re easing the pressure on parents by scrapping NCEA fees, and increasing funding so most parents don’t have to pay school donations

    We’ve set child poverty targets into law, to hold governments now and in the future to account

    We’re improving the quality of housing and conditions for renters by implementing the Healthy Homes Guarantee Act 2017 and through changes to the Residential Tenancies Act 1986

    We’re reviewing the price of electricity for households, and investigating whether the prices paid are fair, and investigating the fuel markets within the context of rising petrol prices

    Delivered more than 4,000 extra public housing places”

    https://www.beehive.govt.nz/release/18400-children-lifted-out-poverty

      • They have added hundreds of thousands more temporary workers in to rent the houses, millions of tourists who need accomodation, tens of thousands of new permanent residents and citizens into NZ, extended the student visa for 3 years so the unemployed foreign students can stay here without a job and have kids and bring in more relatives at the same time, exempted Singapore and OZ nationals (like CHCH mass murderer Tarrent) on the foreign buyers ban and allowing anyone is the world to purchase new build apartments driving up the prices….

        But” too woke to vote” er’s don’t believe a word of it, they want their cake and eat it too.

        AKA don’t see the irony in shooting the landlord but can’t find a house to rent. Want more migrants to come to NZ but magically expect the houses to appear, inflation to be unaffected and water currently being given away in 35 year permits in continued climate change conditions to not become in increasingly short supply… and may run out that is currently a real possibility up North where population growth is at the highest levels ever seen and it’s not by natural means…. https://www.stats.govt.nz/news/population-growth-fastest-in-northland-auckland-and-waikato

  10. The absolute bottom line for poverty in this country is rampant property speculation and exorbitant rents. This government has totally wimped out of doing anything meaningful about either.

    • If kids are poor it’s because their parents and families are poor. Using emotive catchphrases is actually dishonest. Stick to information and facts.
      Whether working or on a benefit, the major expense in the weekly budget is rent. Do something about it Labour. Impose a CGT on all property but the family home, damp down the rampant property speculation of the developers and land bankers.
      The idea of owning your own home was to provide certainty and security in your retirement years. Not to “get on the property ladder”. if I hear that one more time I’ll do someone an injury. Likewise “child poverty”. it’s emotionally and intellectually dishonest.

    • Dealing with rent increases is not simplistic. The majority of rental properties are privately owned and the government has no control over rent charged and intervening in the market could have further negative consequences. Keep in mind that the rent increases, as well as other cost pressures is the direct consequence of the previous National governments immigration ponzi. It was so excessive that NZ has reached its 2050 population projection in 2020. The COL has made an effort to reduce it, but it will take time to rectify. National had no economic strategy and used immigration to prop up GDP. If you would reduce it to sudden the economy will go into recession. Alternate economic activity need to replace it and this will take years to do.

      Rent has a huge impact on poverty and the blame for rent increases can be directly attributed to the reckless and incompetent governance of the previous National government. They wanted population growth but did not put the infrastructure in place to cope with it. A typical conservative approach, take the money and delay the expense. Furthermore this supported their housing ponzi, selling housing stock to overseas interests and creating a demand for housing without addressing supply. But don’t be concerned only 3% per year went to foreign buyers, but when you add it up 27% over a 9 year period it is significant.

      There is just no way any government can resolve the mess NZ is in in a 3 year period. Shortages in hospitals, schools, housing and other infrastructure to accommodate the excessive population growth will take 10 to 15 years to resolve. National and its supporters made a lot of money at the expense of ordinary Kiwi’s, hopefully NZlanders have learned a lesson.

  11. Yes statistical figs leaves are not hiding the rampant neo liberalism and ensuing inequality too well these days. People are sick and tired of it and voted on that basis. Shame Labour and co have not gotten the message.

  12. Universal, non means tested income. It will give people leverage when negotiating the wages for the really important but underpaid jobs that keep our society running. It will also take welfare testing out of the hands of uncaring faceless bureaucracies.

  13. Their talkers say the voters won’t take it. Lets do a poll, I’ll send money.

    All it requires is a prelim from a talker, of which is the only real occasion where the Wellington head office know poverty.

  14. 36 years. No more talk. Or go live in the poor suburbs where desperation and gangs reign. It’s against us. Mortgages aside, where our souls lie.

  15. Plenty of money for building roads (many that the Nats wanted to build for their constituents), too little to address effectively child poverty.

  16. ‘Overcoming entrenched poverty and inequality requires a Prime Minister and a government willing to do much more than spin pathetic numbers.’

    Where is such a potential Prime Minister and government hiding?

  17. Laughable, the billions for infrastructure, and the govt is doing its ‘best’ to reduce poverty. We’re not simpletons. The lovable beating heart of Godzone is deeply cynical on that point and isn’t that point the proof of all round cynicism. Little couldn’t convey, but he would have helped the desperate. Surpluses don’t hang around for ever.

  18. As usual Mike, your blog points out important problems. Many of the initial comments were obssessed with defending Jacinda and her pathetic attempts to raise children out of poverty. Then the wimps tried to define poverty out of existence – no connection with impoverished reality for so many people. Somehow that’s their own fault and they shouldn’t have children. Inhumane as well as stupid.

    Good for hungry children that some schools are feeding them. But the problems should be fixed immediately and schools shouldn’t be doing the government’s job.

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