Why the new poverty stats are way worse beyond the identity politics lens


The new poverty stats are out…

Child Poverty Monitor 2021 highlights persistent inequities in rates of child poverty

Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) welcomes the release of the Child Poverty Monitor today, which shows that prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, poverty reduction targets were largely on track for Pākehā children, however significant inequities remained for tamariki Māori, Pacific and disabled children.

Data collected prior to March 2020 shows that material hardship rates – defined as regularly going without six or more items deemed as ‘essential’ – were 1.7 times higher among tamariki Māori (19.5%), and over double the rate among Pacific children (26.7%), compared to the national average (11.3%).

…and they are way worse beyond the identity politics lens!

The knee jerk position by many on the identity politics left is to cry out about Maori regarding any issue. That means the debate quickly deteriorates into arguing whether or not the issue is racist, which has everyone retreat to their defensive corner decrying everyone else in the debate as racist.

Game starts again with no actual resolution.

We do it with poverty, justice, housing and we are doing it with vaccine hesitancy.

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The problem with that is it misses the huge chunk of poor white people who also have poverty, justice and housing problems, many in numerical numbers larger than Maori.

By painting every issue about Maori it allows the rest of us off the hook while providing a stick to bash Maori with!

Last month there were 159, 810 Maori unvaccinated, 42, 183 Pasifika unvaccinated and a staggering 317, 544 Pakeha who are unvaccinated!

By constantly screaming vaccine hesitancy is a Maori and Pasifica problem, we let 317, 544 Pakeha off the hook!

Look at the raw poverty data and we see far more white children living in poverty than Maori and Pacifica…

On the 50% before housing costs measure (Govt’s primary measure 1):
Total number of children living in poverty: 157,800
Total number of Pākehā children living in poverty: 81,500 (compared to 49,500 tamariki Māori, 28,000 Pacific children)
On the 50% after housing costs measure (Govt’s supplementary measure 3): 
Total number of children living in poverty: 210,500
Total number of Pākehā children living in poverty: 114,300 (compared to 61,000 tamariki Māori, 30,700 Pacific children) 

…Yes, proportionately these stats hit Maori hardest, but by allowing that to decide the entire focus of the debate we ignore the far larger numerical problem of those issues impacting poor White families and that allows an escape to scrutinize what’s really happening.

By constantly blaming Maori we can’t see that this is a failure of neoliberalism that cascades across race.

It’s not an identity issue, it’s a class issue!


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  1. Those numbers are ugly but who can be surprised when housing costs are so huge? And worsening!

    Nothing I see from Labour, (apart from hot air), or National give me any confidence this problem is a real issue to them.

    • I suppose you are going to say that class differences do not exist? Much like the previous British PM Ms Thatcher claiming that society did not exist. If so your perspective is not new rather demonstrates your own political affiliations.

      • Sorry Bob. It was just a Monty Python reference. The next line reply is “Thats what its ALL about” which is my position. A position I keep quiet about around Maori activists and Intersectionalists. (“Splitters”)

  2. I can’t see what has been achieved by identity politics that wouldn’t have been achieved without it

  3. People like Davidson who obdurately seem to perceive everything thru’ an “all Pakeha are bad colonialists” lens, and the “ white privilege” preachers, are fostering divisive racist societies which demonise poor white people, and play directly into the hands of the divide and rule elites.

  4. In a general sense poor people vote for Labour/Greens irrespective and rich people vote for National/Act. The middle class is where elections are lost. The Labour mandarins know this hence why you won’t see anything outside of scraps and virtue signaling on pover(d)y.

    • Really poor people don’t vote at all. The working poor might vote either way.
      Most people vote with their gut. Policy is irrelevant. Marketing is everything

  5. Martyn
    This issue is not about race or class. It highlights the serious flaws of Jacinda’s Govt – management.
    1. Big promises without checking if its even possible to deliver.
    2. Amateur senior management…this is her own pet portfolio.
    3. Arrogance…they will find some spin quickly to make it sound like she is performing.
    She should be fired from her portfolio. Even Twyford would do a better job and that is saying something. Someone argued here that we need a govt that represents. No, we need a govt that does does things and gets things done more than anything.

    • Be fair Kraut, the problem is an entrenched NZ problem fostered by 35 years of free market policies by both National and Labour. The only way out of it is to abandon Rogernomics, something which is unacceptable to the rich and powerful. Things will only get worse.

  6. 100% Martyn. You’ve neatly demolished the race argument in a few sentences. Most impressive!

    And yes, it is indeed a class issue, but maybe not quite the one you mean. It’s one of the other meanings of class:

    a set or category of things having some property or attribute in common and differentiated from others by kind, type, or quality.

    So let’s ask the experts what are the common attributes of this class. They say:

    ” These include low workforce participation by working age beneficiaries, low educational achievement, poor transitions from school to paid work and personal employability issues. ”


  7. Yes Martyn, the attractions of simplistic explanations for complex problems, the inevitable failure to solve a problem when your not even confronting its actual cause?
    For example, it’s well known that the biggest factors, regardless of race, in criminality in men (and suicide, substance abuse etc. in women) is the lack of a proper father figure in childhood and that the biggest indicator of poverty is single parenthood.
    What can, or should, a government do about that?
    Blaming it all on “neoliberalism” (by which I presume you mean economic liberalism) is just as mad as claiming race as primary contributor.

  8. It gets painted as ‘a Maori problem’ because journalists and academics want it that way. The stats are always worse for Maori so it makes a bigger, more shocking percentage for the headline.

    If it is ‘a Maori problem’, then it is a failure of government to fulfil the Treaty. Government failure is a political issue (more stories for journalists to write) and requires more research – more funding for the academics.

    Government failure means no unsettling questions about personal behaviour or cultural values need be asked. No-one gets judged harshly or unkindly. No journalist has to ask an uncomfortable question of a ‘victim’ of government policy.

    • Quote: “If it is ‘a Maori problem’, then it is a failure of government to fulfil the Treaty.”
      Not really; there’s nothing in the TOW, implicit or explicit, about equality of outcome, financial or otherwise. There is an implicit requirement for legal equality between the ethnicities but that’s as far as it goes.
      Perhaps the government should watch out they don’t go too far with policies like those contained within He Puapua; they could face a claim from our European, Asian and Pacific peoples for breach of the TOW.

    • or indeed the inevitability of such outcomes under our old fashioned andoutdated 1980s economic system, as long as it is an aberration that we can fix of only ‘x’ ‘y’ or ‘z’ is done, we don’t have to look at the entire economic system

  9. Austerity is only for the poor, homeless, unvaccinated and those that don’t matter.

    Adam Smiths invisible hand has been played well by this government. Putting billions of dollars into the wealthy and middle-class property speculators, $400b worth. At the expense of the 20 per cent of the population deemed unworthy, the great unwashed!

    Austerity has not ended. It just snuck back in by attaching itself to covid and every other strain.

  10. “…this is a failure of neoliberalism …”
    Is it a failure of neoliberalism or a necessary ( And highly profitable ) bi-product of neoliberalism?
    Remember? Neoliberalism is merely capitalism on meth.
    To rid ourselves of the scourge of poverty we must first rid ourselves of the scourge of the neoliberal ‘capitalism’ now dug deep into our democracy. We must replace capitalism with socialism which would be properly armed with brutal taxes for the lazy rich 1%’ers who did this to our working classes.
    We have homeless people, and their kids, living rough on the streets while we have multi-million dollar middle class houses feeding our now foreign owned bankers who send billions of dollars of OUR money off-shore every year.
    For those of you who know me personally, you’ll know I’m dumb as fuck and yet even I can see through the scams roger douglas’s neoliberalism and his mates in foreign banking are pulling on us so why can’t anyone else? Why can’t labour, with its formidable brain power, see that? And act accordingly? Why do I have to keep reading @ Martyn Bradbury’s and others material on poverty in a rich land with only 5 million people and a primary industry that can reportedly feed 40 million? AO/NZ’s literally rich in every respect and yet we have horrendous per capita poverty stats? Why?
    (Here’s why. It’s because AO/NZ is over represented by cunning scammers who’ve surrounded themselves in crooked armour plated government policy that makes them virtually bullet proof and it’s such a tangled cluster fuck of dirty laundry that no government wanting to stay in power to suck on those generous salaries and entitlements would go anywhere near, that’s why. Aye boys? )

  11. I was under the impression that Jacinda from announcements has stated numerous times that reducing child poverty in NZ was the reason she got into politics…what has changed?
    I very much want to see the MSM ask her about this…

  12. Can I just write one last thing?
    The reality is; AO/NZ politics needs a going over by a Royal commission of inquiry spanning generations. Our politics are rotten to the core. What confuses most people is the sneaky, devious, secretive tactics wrapped in policy and protected by politically amoral laws that confuses and deters many of you.

  13. And who announced themselves as ‘minister’ for child poverty, one of the first things to be done as PM?
    After 4 long years….a little child waits!
    Where’s Bert to say it’s all Key’s and Nationals fault….9yrs of neglect etc?
    Probably in hiding as the stats are indefensible! Lol

    • I’ll step in here to remind you righties that it was the Nasty Natz that created the homeless crisis out of thin air., starting back in the early 90’s and putting it on steriods ever since. Every move any political party makes to fix homelessness is immediately reversed by Natz. Increase immigration to bursting point, sell off thousands of state houses, stimulate overseas investment in OUR property, bust the workers unions, circumvent a Capital Gains Tax… the list is as long as your arm. Fucking traitors.
      Labour have been tinkering in the right direction, 48,000 building permits highest on record, increased the minimum wage to $20 per hour, low unemployment, apprenticeships and targeted trades training free… the list is as long as my arm.

    • wellll if she prevaricates long enough the children of 4years ago will be grown up, not children anymore-ergo child poverty reduced

      …..except for the next tranche of ‘little angels’

  14. As one of the few that seem to comment on Poverty Action posts in the “Raw News Feed” section, a repeat of my view on the second researchers progress assessment of implementation of the WEAG recommendations…

    Little point in further describing the problems, WEAG (Welfare Experts Advisory Group) successfully pointed most of those out and some easy remedies such as abatement thresholds. There has been a war on the poor since the advent of the NZ neo liberal state in 1984. The current Govt. has just switched to slightly smaller calibre ammunition. Ministers like Sepuloni are well captured by WINZ/MSD officials and managerialism.

    More reviews and investigations will not move the monetarists from their cruel obsession with punishing working class people–often displaced by macroeconomic decisions well beyond their control–like Roger Douglas swinging a wrecking ball through the provinces and mass manufacturing shutdowns.

    What is needed is community organisation and direct action in support of a political campaign. The 70 NGOs who wrote the “letter to Jacinda” last xmas need to become a formal bloc along with unions and Iwi groupings and push hard for a working class programme–including tracking ministers and protesting, occupying empty properties, and forming neighbourhood action committees.

    A programme leading to the 2023/26 Elections to put some fear into the neo liberal arseholes responsible for the sadistic punishment of vulnerable people–including the sick and variously abled!–could include the following…
    –Immediate implementation of all WEAG recommendations WHILE a transition to the following takes place…

    • WINZ/MSD to be retired, all future welfare payments to be via IRD. Top MSD managers to be forbidden from working in the public sector for x years.
    • Basic income of several hundreds per week paid to all citizens via IRD, higher income people to refund their payments as appropriate by taxation
    • A new special needs agency be set up to cater for people with health or family needs in addition to the Basic Income
    • Free Wifi nationwide to fix the digital divide
    • Fare Free public transport nationwide
    • Free Doctor AND Dental for all low income people

    No current party is going to deliver that lot, but never say never in politics as Climate Disaster starts to bite and younger voters start to rise.

    • paid to all citizens

      Just to those whose income is below a set amount.
      Returning it – doesn’t happen. As with the filthy rich corporations given millions in Covid payments and then making even more and never paying back. Also, just more admin/ paperwork.

      • No, has to be universal as a citizenright for all regardless of income. It doesn’t matter that they don’t need it as they will pay more into system than they receive. It basically gets folded into their taxation. eg $1 million income plus $24000 ubi minus 33% tax for example leaves them $666.666.66 plus the $24000, so $700,000 left. Meanwhile his tax theoretically covers 12.5 other Citizens UBI, though as Gov still needs tax revenue for health, education etc let’s say 6 ubi’s with other 150, 000 going to Gov’s general revenue. It serves them a reminder that they’re part of the society too.

        Cost savings with virtual elimination of no longer necessary case managers achieved by universalism. However in interest of case manager jobs, Winz could pivot them to all becoming work brokers, re-establishing itself as Labour/Training Offices focussed on helping people who want to find work (centralising job offers once more & bypassing the parasite employment agency silos) & help people gain skills/upskill with a new ethos promoting lifelong learning, community volunteer support, ACE/WEA, part time and flexible work.

    • And remove all gst from food!!
      As in other “civilised” countries.
      At least from NZ-grown food.
      Right down the line – from growing, harvest, production, etc etc

    • Very good analysis Tiger and not only that you put forward suggestions unlike the wankfest blame game of I’m Wrong. It so misses the Whale Oil site to spew its vile.

    • I read your comment on the Poverty Action post. The fact is that you were the only one says volumes of how much people care . I wonder if the government was National and not Labour if more would have been said as left wing commentators must be ashamed of these results.
      It is a deep seated problem linked to poor expensive housing poor health poor education oppetunitis and poor wages and racism.

    • Instead of basic income for all I would recommend living wage as the least to be paid to anyone who is working so that the difference between the minimum wage and the living wage would be paid by the state.
      I think that many will agree that education is the key for improving one’s ability to find better paid job. So the government should invest on teachers, schools, school lunches and reform the standards so that they will help children to achieve better quality results. State subsidies should be conditioned so that parents will be obliged to send children to schools.
      And there is the big problem with single parent families. Fathers should be obliged by law to at least pay for their children.
      And yes, it is not a race problem, so the money paid to iwi tribal elites should be used to improve education.
      Victoria university plans to invest 45 mil. to rebild marae in its premises. Would not it be better to invest it for elementary education improvement?

      • I absolutely disagree about the endless idea that education is going to fix things. Education barely makes a blind bit of difference to being a carpenter, plumber and all other trades. Let alone all the boring repetitive things like cleaning, warehousing, supermaarket checkouts etc. Pay people properly for these jobs, not everyone has the brains to remain at school to get a better education but we need to value these jobs just as we value the jobs that are better paid. After all can hospitals do with out cleaners……

  15. Here I am disabled and it seems unemployable but alas I chose to marry someone who works which is above some threshold WINZ set.
    Meanwhile I watch boomers with their pension where they can have a parter work and still get a pension, can have assets and money in the bank too and still be elligable.
    Along came covid and suddenly a higher class benefit was created for workers who found themselves unemployed but they too are allowed partners who work and can earn up to 3 grand per week! and still get their gold plated benefit.
    Its blatant discrimination by the govt, such a fair and equal society they created……
    Written to them all got ignored by them all, 3 years after that report and still nothing, a disability review next year but it will be when delta is going hardcore and I doubt they will have time and its likely to be no different to the disability strategy currently used – just words on paper.
    Not holding out any hope, its clear Labour is now no different to National and dont really give a fuck about some of us.

  16. Yes those stats show failure. I am glad you pointed out that a significant number of pakeha children live in poverty.

    Unfortunately Greens,Marama will bleet on about Maori, colonization etc and miss the point.

    Whatever the cause is we need to find a solution. Now

  17. I read your comment on the Poverty Action post. The fact is that you were the only one says volumes of how much people care . I wonder if the government was National and not Labour if more would have been said as left wing commentators must be ashamed of these results.
    It is a deep seated problem linked to poor expensive housing poor health poor education oppetunitis and poor wages and racism.

  18. Yep, I have been waiting all year for someone to finally start talking this way. NZs problems are all about wealth inequality and framing everything about ‘poor Maori’ is really divisive. The government and the media have wanted to play the race card because it fits in with their elitist co governance plans. But the truth is about 25%? of NZ is poor and they need real help right now.

    Helen Clarke presided over house price inflation and letting landlords get away with everything, John Key had 9 years of giving tax cuts to the rich and running services and infrastructure into the ground. Now 4 years of Arderns’ ideology and her inability to see the downstream effects and generalised inaction, and NZ is a polarised nation teetering on the edge of a 3rd world plunge. And we dont have a single politician that really understands the shit we are in and who is capable of offering an insightful and pragmatic centrist solution. There are a few possibilities across the political parties but I dont think a single one of them is willing to give up their ideology to create a stronger and better NZ.

  19. First time I have ever agreed with you Martyn. By focusing on Maori inequity we do a huge disservice to the larger number of poor Pakeha and Pacifica children, and overlook the lack of opportunity that often hamstrings them for the rest of their lives..

  20. i guess if you were to finally admit that other kids are poor in this country it will fuck up the ‘they are colonizers/racists/abuser/’ mantra that we are feeding people daily. And of course one would have to admit that not every one who is NON Maori is the descendent of someone who stole Maori land and such.
    Divide and conquer don’t work when you point out that the poor in this country come in all shapes, colors, creed and sex.

  21. Poverty. A massive problem for the political parties who seem incapable of tackling it. Even if the state builds enough housing, those who would need it are on low incomes. At existing house prices and building costs most could never afford market rental or ownership so the state has to pay the difference. That action alone perpetuates the gap between rich and poor. To my over simplified mind the politicians need the courage to bring the price of housing down, and that’s policy and not talk. Also implementing policies that will increase wages. Those way more intelligent than me must know how to do that but they won’t, because initially it would be hard on both home owners and businesses who would need to pay more in wages. That means unpopular. You can get around those issues with tax relief but then the government coffers take a hit. The answers are there. Poverty is a National issue and a disgrace. Maori are at the worst end of it but the solution to their problem is the same as is needed at a National level.

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