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John MacDonald: Politicians can fix child poverty. As if

John MacDonald,
Publish Date
Fri, 23 Feb 2024, 12:30PM
Photo / Getty
Photo / Getty

John MacDonald: Politicians can fix child poverty. As if

John MacDonald,
Publish Date
Fri, 23 Feb 2024, 12:30PM

Former Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern once said that ending child poverty was the reason she got into politics. 

I wish someone had told her at the time that she was dreaming, because a politician standing-up and saying they’re going to end child poverty is like those appalling old Miss Universe competitions where the contestants stood around in their togs saying they wanted world peace. 

World peace is never going to happen, and zero child poverty is never going to happen. 

And, if someone had told Dame Jacinda way-back-when that she might have been setting out to achieve the impossible, then there would probably be less people going ‘na-na-na-na-na’ today. 

Although, she probably would have battled-on anyway, because that’s what idealistic politicians do, don’t they?  

But we are going to have all the ‘na-na-na-na-na’ now, aren’t we, after these latest numbers from Stats NZ which show that thousands more kids in New Zealand are going without essentials such as shoes and visits to the doctor.  

Living in households that get-by on less than half the median income, before basic living costs are taken into account. 

Now I’ve looked-up online to find out what the median income is in New Zealand and there seems to be all sorts of numbers available, but one figure I’ve seen is $91,400. So, let’s go with that one, for the purposes of today’s discussion. 

Half of that is $45,700. So, it’s kids living in households where less than $45k is coming in the door annually.  

With tax, that takes it down to about $38,000. Or about $730-a-week to live off. So, families that have less than $730-a-week to play with before any living costs are taken into account.   

And for the year to June last year, the number of children living in material hardship increased by just under 24,000. So, in 12 months, we’ve gone from 10.5% of all kids living in poverty to 12.5%. Another way of putting it is that one-child-in-eight is living in poverty. 

And the experts are saying, too, that it’s likely to be worse than that in reality because there’s a lag in the time when this data is gathered. 

And that’s just the ones who fit into the way we define poverty here in New Zealand. 

You might have heard Jane Searle from the Child Matters charity on Newstalk ZB saying that, as well as the kids defined as being in poverty, we’ve got the “working poor” who aren’t unemployed but are struggling too.  

Since these stats came out yesterday, not only are we getting people saying Labour failed to deliver, we’ve got others saying they don't have much faith in the new government doing any better. 

Louise Upston is the new Child Poverty Minister and she says the way the Government’s going to reduce child poverty is by reducing the cost of living.      

But Mike O’Brien from the Child Poverty Action Group says the cost of living or inflation aren't the only reasons why people end up in poverty. 

He says, if the Government is serious, it should be paying more to beneficiaries, increasing family tax credits and also paying the family tax credits to beneficiaries, and supporting people better who are on low wages. 

But that’s never going to happen, is it?  

And just like the last government, the current child poverty minister isn’t going to do much to reduce the number of kids doing it tough. In a country which, we tell ourselves, is the best place in the world to raise kids. 

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