Mike's Minute: Are the child poverty figures really a win for the Govt?

Author
Mike Hosking,
Publish Date
Wed, 24 Feb 2021, 10:05AM

Mike's Minute: Are the child poverty figures really a win for the Govt?

Author
Mike Hosking,
Publish Date
Wed, 24 Feb 2021, 10:05AM

What is it they say about statistics and damn lies?

The poverty measure we use is all wrong. That's because wrong because it doesn’t include the initial Covid period, therefore is pointless. And it looks at poverty from a very crude pre-determined set of statistics and is predicated on the simple idea that if the government tosses money at something, it can change it.

We have got extra excited about it this year because the government, mainly through the Prime Minister made such a big deal of doing something about it, and up till today has failed spectacularly.

So, to this year's lotto draw of numbers, is it better? Well, who would know? In some senses, yes.

For example, 14.6 percent of kids lived in households with income less than 50 percent of the median wage before housing costs. That was down from 16.5 percent in 2018, so a win.

But it was up on last year when it was 13.5 percent, so it’s a loss.

So, the obvious question is, is the government winning? No. There are more kids than last year doing it hard.

Look at it another way, and this is yet another reason why this thing is a complete mess, too many measurements that make little, if any sense. Kids in households with income less than 50 percent of the median income after household costs for the 2017/18 base financial year, that number is 18.2 percent. That’s down from 2018's 22.8 percent but only just lower than 2019's 18.3 percent. In all reality, it's gone nowhere.

So, so far of two measurements, we've gone backwards and barely moved. Is that a success?

Material hardship got a good going over at the election. That's shoes, doctors, power bills etc. That’s sitting at 11 percent, down from 13.3 percent in 2018 and 13.2 percent in 2019.

So, a win for the government. Or is it? Even that last number, from 13 to 11, we feel good about that, do we? Is that the sort of progress this government really wanted? Are these numbers to crow about?

And I haven't even got to the Pacific Island and Maori part of the statistics. They're the mess you'd expect. They're hopelessly over-represented in everything bad.

What solves poverty is growth. Jobs, skills, attitude, desire, hard work, progress, innovation, and productivity. The list is long, detailed, and, sadly, not featured in our report.

What the report reflects is the government throw money at stuff. They threw billions, and what did the billions get us? At best a tiny improvement in material hardship, essentially nothing elsewhere.

People's lives, outlooks, hopes, and dreams are reduced to statistics poured over by wonks with magnifying glasses. And like all statistics there will be something for a government spin doctor to stick a headline to.

But if this is what we get on the issues the government is most passionate about, and most free with the money on, we are buggered.

Transformational? What a joke.