Child Poverty In New Zealand - TOP

We all think New Zealand is a great place to raise a family. However, a new global report card from UNICEF shows that for many New Zealanders this isn’t the case. We are failing our children, and one of the key reasons is because we give so much of our money to the elderly.  


Overall New Zealand scored 34th out of 41 countries – near the bottom. On many measures, such as education we do okay, but that particular measure doesn’t show the problem we have amongst our poorest families. When we look at the measures that demonstrate the impacts of poverty we can see that the families at the bottom of the heap in New Zealand are amongst the worst off in the developed world.

The worst aspect of this was our health record, which Newsroom summarised nicely:

Looking at children’s health and wellbeing, New Zealand ranked a lowly 38th.

The country’s teen pregnancy, neonatal mortality, adolescent suicide, and child homicide rates all contributed to the poor ranking.

Of particular concern is the suicide rate amongst 15-19-year-olds, which is the highest in the world and more than twice the global average.

Poverty is the main driver

The evidence is clear – these problems are all strongly impacted by poverty. Incredibly, New Zealand was unable to be included in the ranking for poverty as we were one of the few countries to not have a measure. 

There are always other factors at play but experiencing poverty, particularly during the early years of life, determines the lifetime risk for many of these issues. Yet for some reason we allow children to have the highest rates of poverty of any group in this country.

This isn’t a problem faced by a tiny portion of society. Roughly half of families with kids under 5 experience at least a year of poverty. This is the most difficult time for many families, and it is also the most important time of any child’s life. In terms of a long-term investment, this is madness.

Where are our priorities?

The most notable thing about poverty in New Zealand is that we have some of the highest rates of child poverty in the world, and some of the lowest rates of elder poverty.

The reason behind this is very simple; we give a lot more money to the elderly than we do to families. Payments to families are low, tightly targeted, and full of conditions. Often as these families earn more they lose the money, and end up in a poverty trap. By contrast our elderly receive a generous, universal benefit that doesn’t alter with income and rises in line with wages.

At The Opportunities Party (TOP) we don’t think this makes sense. By reducing superannuation for those that don’t need it, we can afford to offer all families a support package that would greatly reduce poverty at a critical time in a child’s development. We propose giving all families with children under 3 $200 per week, and free full time high quality early childhood education for children aged 3 & 4.

By taking some money from the elderly that don’t need it, we can make an investment in our children’s future. The evidence says this investment will ultimately pay for itself in reduced health, welfare and crime bills, and greater tax take.


Showing 12 reactions

  • Olive Hill
    commented 2017-11-27 16:48:47 +1300
    Anything that can help children be fed, sheltered and given health care, can only benefit us all. I’d like to think that no child will be neglected here in NZ. We who comment here, are only in our position due to luck. If we’d been born into a different family, we may not have been so fortunate. On the flip side, there is also very limited care for the elderly who suffer from dementia, altzheimers, strokes, complications due to age etc. UNLESS, of course, you can afford to pay for it. So I guess in NZ currently, only the wealthy are entitled to care and assistance at the beginning and end of life. Also we make money out of those very poor, we charge them for child care and charge them for end of life care. Seems pretty unfair to me. Nowadays you have to be born wealthy, which is NOT a choice and stay wealthy, otherwise you’re not considered valuable. Well that really doesn’t seem fair to me. Surely ALL people deserve basic equality of housing, health care, education and fair pay; a level playing field where intelligence and/or hard work can be rewarded and those less blessed need not be punished for it. Just a thought.
  • Friend
    commented 2017-07-29 14:03:06 +1200
    Disagree that we give so much to the elderly. We do not give enough. That report was compiled over a period of time that has not taken into consideration the previous election tax credits working for families or this years proposed taxed credits for children working for families. If todays generation can not afford children they should not be encouraged to have them. Todays elderly brought up their children successfully and they did not have paid parental leave nor early child hood care, nor working for families tax credits, nor free doctors visits for children, Nor baby bonus packages.
  • Orania Savage
    commented 2017-07-22 17:05:33 +1200
    How do you judge wealth-that is the question. Many millionaires and other highly paid people hide their earnings in trusts to rort the system however they can and still have a sense of entitlement.
    The Australian super system pays a bulk sum to those entitled who choose to work for and extra few years, which is cheaper for the government and healthier for all concerned, if they are fit and able to work.However the Australian super is means tested and thismis exremely punative. Any means testing would have to be set at income of $80000 mijimum, or me to support it. A frugal person who chose to save to travel or have the good things in later life should not be penalised, the population shiuld be rewarded for saving surely
  • Oliver Krollmann
    commented 2017-07-21 20:07:36 +1200
    The fact that Metiria Turei “cheated” to receive more benefits while struggling to raise her daughter on her own is all the proof we need. If a UBI for families had been available back then, she probably wouldn’t have had to play the system to get more out of it.
  • Venus Yerkovich
    commented 2017-07-07 13:19:36 +1200
    the 58million this Govt spent on a stadium in Dubai, should have been invested in our children. The billions spent each year on dealing with crime could have been spent on our children. There are all sorts of our ways and places and things that our tax dollars get spent and shouldnt……… yet you pick out the group who cause the least harm, who have worked the longest and may have over the years paid the most taxes……….. now tell me again how fair your party is ??? I am not entirely against means testing Pensioners, but dont make a beeline for us without consideration to all the other failings that are wasting this countries money first.
  • John Hurley
    commented 2017-06-24 11:39:20 +1200
    I know lots of superannuants who work over the summer with the goal of overseas travel in the winter but I also know many who have fallen through the cracks. I know one single man who sold up all his assets and invested $700,000 in Eric Watson’s finance company and “lost the lot” (he was going to buy a house bus, retire to the Marlbourgh Sounds and live off the interest). I know someone else who sold his house and bought a bus “we soon got sick of that”. He then found his bus wasn’t worth much of a house. Someone else bought a mower nad chainsaw shop which bled money rather than making it while others got divorced. many just didn’t earn much.
    Another thing I notice is that our housing market is a failure. The notion of “selling down” is a false meme. I know that from personal experience.. If I lived in Singapore my neighborhood would have been redeveloped with pizzas.As it is if I sell down I get a little house (one of 6) squeezed on a section where there was one state house.
  • bob Atkinson
    commented 2017-06-23 20:48:48 +1200
    There is child poverty and there is teenage suicide. Any evidence they are related?
  • bob Atkinson
    commented 2017-06-23 20:47:21 +1200
    You cannot reduce superannuation for those that don’t need it. Bureaucratic. Easy to rort. The current system is already none too fair – I’d get more if I left my wife (which since we own two houses side by side wouldn’t be difficult)!

    I can understand the concept of giving more government money to children and less to pensioners – in fact I like the idea – but keep it universal. Both would involve giving taxpayers money to the wealthy but it is easy to claw it all back with appropriate taxes.
  • Jean Budd
    followed this page 2017-06-18 10:25:56 +1200
  • Kevin FitzGerald
    commented 2017-06-17 07:02:53 +1200
    I agree we are giving money to those who don’t need it. Another of Muldoon’s legacies still draining the economy. However I cannot see that if people don’t need super in the first place why give them anything. Equally if young families don’t need extra why give them any. Targeting benefits is not all that likeable but neither is going cap in hand to the Welfare like young Oliver Twist saying ‘Please sir can I have some more.’ UBI has that drawback. There is always the option of clawing it back through tax but that too may not always work. Scrap the universality of super and lift benefits to the same level. Targeting benefits for the unemployed and sick seems to be accepted so why not pensioners like me.
  • Jaimini Hatchard
    commented 2017-06-16 21:50:09 +1200
    Please don’t pit children against pensioners it doesn’t have to be either or! If we are doing well by our pensioners we can do well by our children as well. :(
  • Oliver Krollmann
    followed this page 2017-06-16 18:05:07 +1200