NZ Not So Great For Kids

Two recent reports have  again highlighted poor health and welfare outcomes for children in New Zealand, with disease patterns that are closer to those of developing countries. If you’re thinking about emigrating to New Zealand and raising kids this may make interesting reading.

The Public Health Advisory Committee’s report The Best Start in Life re-iterated that  New Zealand ranked 29th out of 30 developed countries for child health and safety.

Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei commented on them by saying (source)

We have some of the worst child health outcomes in the OECD…The report shows that we urgently need an integrated, whole-of-government approach to child health and wellbeing and a commitment to child health monitoring.”

The second report Children’s Housing Futures, showed that children’s housing in New Zealand was worse than the OECD average and many were living in poor quality, insecure and crowded premises. One estimate is that  a quarter of a million homes in New Zealand are so damp, cold and poorly insulated that they ruin people’s health.

According to Ms Turei

“last month’s budget was going to make the situation worse — a GST increase (to 15%) that would put pressure on low income families, tax cuts that would widen the gap between rich and poor, and funding cuts which would increase the cost of early childhood education.”

New Zealand is one of the few OECD countries to place GST on essential items such as food.

The nation’s young people have a pretty rought time of it, they have some of the worst health outcomes in the developed world. New Zealand youth have higher rates of mental illness, suicide, teen pregnancy and suffered more injuries than young people in other OECD countries.

UNICEF ranks New Zealand joint third in the world for the highest number of  child maltreatment deaths (1.2 per 100,00o children) only the US and Mexico have more (source)

New Zealand youth also feature highly in road fatalities.  For Kiwi youth aged 0-14 it is the highest in the OECD.  For youth aged 15-17 New Zealand comes second, just behind Slovenia.

The organisation Every Child Counts said the Best Start in Life report should set off alarm bells (source) we think those bells have been ringing loud and clear for some time already.

For years now OECD comparisons, Unicef reports and New Zealand Government reports have highlighted the need for concerted action to improve the health and wellbeing of New Zealand children,” said chairman Murray Eldridge.  “It is particularly alarming that the report states that disease patterns here are closer to those of developing countries.”

Mr Eldridge said there was ample evidence that unemployment, welfare dependency, violence and ill-health were linked to deprivation in early years.

“We have all the evidence we need to make a robust social and economic case for prioritising children and investing in them in a co-ordinated, structured and long-term way,” he said.

“Failure to do so will mean we face high costs in the future for remedial education, mental and physical health services, youth justice, social welfare and reduced productivity.”

We rate the chances of it happening from slim to none, the recent raise in GST and cutbacks in mental health services, tax cuts for the wealthy and other government policies will do nothing other than widen the poverty gap in New Zealand, storing up trouble for years ahead.

For further reading about raising kids in New Zealand see posts tagged Great place to raise kids, or our Children and Youth page

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