Encouraging progress has been made in reducing child poverty in Aotearoa New Zealand but more focus on the issue is urgently needed to maintain it, according to a new report from UNICEF.
UNICEF’s 18th Report Card, ‘Child Poverty in the Midst of Wealth’, uses public data to compare child poverty rates in high and upper middle-income countries in the OECD, including New Zealand.
The report also ranks countries based on these rates and their proportional change over a seven year period. Taking both measures into account, Aotearoa New Zealand is ranked 19th of 39 countries.
When it comes to New Zealand, the Report Card highlights disproportionate rates of poverty amongst Māori and Pacific children (20 and 24% respectively) when compared with Pākehā (8%). It also shows the significant impact of poverty in the lives of mokopuna whaikaha, who are twice as likely to live in material hardship as mokopuna without disabilities.
Regarding solutions to poverty affecting children, the Report Card highlights the importance of cash transfers and indexing benefits to incomes to maintain their value for families who need them most.
“It’s encouraging to see that concerted efforts by government over recent years have improved our child poverty rates,” says Chief Children’s Commissioner Dr Claire Achmad.
“Every child in our country should be growing up in a home and a family with enough resources. We need ongoing government commitment to bring poverty rates down. The inequities experienced by mokopuna whaikaha, Māori and Pacific children continue to concern me.
“As a small, relatively rich nation, we can and must do better for our children and their whānau, and young people themselves tell me this is what they want to see,” she says.
“I call on the new government to prioritise the interests and wellbeing of children in its decision-making, and look forward to continued cross-party commitment on poverty reduction so we can continue to see tangible change.
“Let’s keep up the momentum and build on the progress we’ve already made, so that all our mokopuna can flourish to their full potential.”