Next time you see one of those surveys that tells you what a great place New Zealand is to raise kids, and how you should move there because its ‘so good for families’ and ‘work life balance’ you may like to look at the truth behind the myth. Things for families aren’t so great in New Zealand, almost a third of its children are living in poverty and that figure includes migrants just like you.
One in three children in New Zealand (305,000) is living in poverty and the figure is growing, as are the number of poverty related diseases says the outgoing Children’s Commissioner, Dr Russel Wills*. He just released the latest Child Poverty Monitor and it says
Children living in households earning below 60 per cent of the median household income after housing costs, have almost doubled from 15 per cent of all children in 1984 to 29 per cent last year. Children hospitalised with poverty-related illnesses more than doubled in the 1990s and have increased further in the recent recession.
“Everything points to things being far tougher than they were 30 years ago. That’s not right in a country like ours and it’s not fair,” said Dr Wills, whose five-year term as Children’s Commissioner ends in June. “Today I’m asking New Zealanders to show they share our concern by spreading the message #itsnotchoice.If they visit our website they can take part in a selfie campaign and show that we’re all behind the need for things to change for our kids.”
The report predicts most children who are in poverty now would remain so for the rest of their childhood. It also says children in New Zealand are more than twice as likely to be in poverty than those aged 65+.
No doubt emboldened by his departure the Commissioner is taking this message to social media using the hashtag to challenge Government policy. One has to ask why he waited until the end of his 5 year tenure to hold the government to account? Dr Wills says
“The public of New Zealand needs to understand the impact of poverty on children. The better our collective understanding and the more support there is to invest in these kids, the more support governments will have to invest in these children. So that’s the change we want to see.” source
New Zealand had an infant mortality rate of just over 4 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2012, this is higher than the average of all OECD countries. The rate at which Pasifika children are dying from medical conditions associated with poverty has doubled since 2000, from 5.2 deaths per 100,000 to 10.3 deaths in 2012. Children in the poorest fifth of families are six times more likely to die from medical conditions associated with low income, like respiratory illness, than children in the wealthiest fifth. source
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Data shows where bleak future beckons for youth (December 2015) – New data shows where young adults (15-24) are most likely to fail at school, stay on long term benefit, use mental health services , go to prison or be considered at high risk – Far North, Kawerau, Opotiki, Wairoa, Manakau, Waitkere, Hamilton, Christchurch. Read the full government report HERE.
*After training at the University of Otago Medical School, Russell studied paediatrics overseas and gained a Master of Public Health degree in Brisbane. He then returned to New Zealand and worked as national paediatrician for Plunket, a senior lecturer at the Wellington School of Medicine and community paediatrician at Wellington Hospital before moving to Hawke’s Bay in 2001. At the HBDHB he led the Family Violence Intervention Programme, Before-School Check Programme and Child and Youth Mortality Review Committee. He has also been involved in the Ministry of Education Positive Behaviour for Learning Programme implementation, Incredible Years strategic group and the Youth to Men governance group in Hawke’s Bay