COVID-19 in New Zealand
New Zealand is a developed country in the continent of Oceania, with a population of about 5 million inhabitants. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, New Zealand has maintained a low number of deaths and cases. The following will present reasons for why New Zealand has had this success, along with ways in how the pandemic affected the country.

Statistics

The total toll of cases of COVID-19 in New Zealand has remained low throughout the pandemic. With a total of 4,352 overall cases and 27 deaths as of September 2021, New Zealand has a fairly low rate of cases.

Since the start of the global pandemic in 2020, New Zealand has been very cautious in taking preventative measures to avoid spreading the virus. The country banned foreigners from entering from China the day after the announcement of the virus, and imposed a 14-day quarantine period for any citizens entering the country. As the course of the pandemic progressed, New Zealand also placed a ban on several other countries where the virus was most prominent. The primary reason for New Zealand’s success in reducing cases was their quick response to preventing the virus and keeping their citizens safe.

In addition to this preventative method, New Zealand’s government has also established a concrete plan in eliminating the virus from their country. This method has once again proven effective in New Zealand due to their quick decision-making. Their elimination plan was in the works as early as July 2020. Though there is no concrete definition for a COVID-19 elimination plan, it is clear that New Zealand prioritized restricting foreigners’ entry into the country, particularly those from high-case countries. As the surveillance of New Zealand’s low COVID-19 case number continues, it is likely that the country will be among the first to re-open completely and successfully.

Economy

The most significant effect of COVID-19 in New Zealand originated in its economy. The primary effect on New Zealand’s economy occurred in its agriculture industry. Since New Zealand is a single island, it is relatively isolated from other major countries, making it reliant on its own resources during crises. However, when the pandemic began, a major problem occurred in its agricultural sector. Firstly, there was a surplus of pigs due to the closure of butcheries and other non-essential meat distributing industries. Following this, around 2.5 million bees because workers were not able to go to their location to feed them.

In addition to these examples, New Zealand’s unemployment rate also reached a maximum of 5.3% during the pandemic, which is now beginning to regulate itself. However, New Zealand’s government has claimed that its intense closure measures will benefit its economy eventually by making it one of the first countries to relieve all restrictions successfully.

In conclusion, New Zealand has successfully implemented COVID-19 restrictions at the beginning of the pandemic, thus making their plan beneficial to their population. Though COVID-19 in New Zealand had taken a toll on the population, their rapid prevention methods ensured their success. There is a significant chance that New Zealand’s economy will quickly recover from the pandemic, leaving other countries to learn from their success.

– Andra Fofuca
Photo: Unsplash

Impoverished Children in New Zealand
In New Zealand, the COVID-19 pandemic pushed 18,000 children into poverty, on top of the already large amount of children struggling with unmet basic needs. However, one organization, Share My Super, is working hard to change these statistics and reduce the number of impoverished children in New Zealand.

Impoverished Children in New Zealand

Against the backdrop of New Zealand’s 4.8 million population, more than 235,000 children lived in poverty before the pandemic’s effects. While reducing child poverty is one of Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s signature goals, the country has only seen rising numbers of struggling children in recent years.

A recent study shows a 10% increase in child poverty due to the country’s pandemic policies, mostly impacting minority groups such as the Māori and Pasifika. The report lists several main reasons for child poverty in New Zealand including lack of government support, “unemployment and education disruptions” due to the COVID-19 pandemic and “inadequate income support for children.”

Share My Super

One organization, Share My Super, recognizes the detrimental effects of this issue and is working toward alleviating child poverty in New Zealand. Founded by Liz Greive, the organization functions by uniting citizens older than the retirement age of 65 and allowing them to share their leftover pensions with charities that are helping eliminate child poverty.

“I came to the conclusion that the most needy people in New Zealand, where real progress could be achieved, would be with children who were having a hard start,” Greive told The Spinoff, a New Zealand-based magazine. “I was well aware of the poverty that many people experience and how hard it is to raise a family when there is quite simply not enough money coming in.”

Share My Super hand-selects charities that it believes in and trusts for donors to donate to. The organization fosters relationships with these organizations and ensures that there is a variety of organizations, so people can choose to put their money toward immediate needs like shelter or food, or alternatively, they can put their money toward long-term solutions like mentorship or education.

Additionally, the organization receives 100% private funding. Therefore, the full donations go directly to the organization that the person chooses. Users also do not have to be at the retirement age to set up a donation — anyone can donate through Share My Super.

Impact

According to Share My Super’s 2020 Annual Report, the organization raised $294,296 in donations for charities through Superannuants, which refers to retirement-aged people donating their surplus pension through the organization. Share My Super also has benefits both ways: New Zealand’s children benefit and the country’s older population is also able to make a difference for the next generation. The organization also runs a blog detailing the tangible impacts of the charities on the country’s children so that the Superannuants can see the direct impact of their donations.

Although child poverty rates have been climbing in New Zealand, especially in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, organizations like Share My Super are working to help impoverished children in New Zealand through donations, uniting the older generations with the younger generations.

– Laya Neelakandan
Photo: Flickr

Māori with HIV
The Māori are the indigenous Polynesian people native to New Zealand. The Māori population diminished severely, from 1 million to 40,000, when European settlers came to New Zealand due to warfare and conflict. However, the current population is almost 5 million, and more than 80% of the Māori live in urban environments. Despite the rise in population and reparations from the New Zealand government to the Māori, the Māori have faced economic and social challenges and discrimination. In 2021, Te Whāriki Takapou released the first-ever report on the inequity of Māori with HIV titled “Aotearoa New Zealand People Living with HIV Stigma Index: Māori Participants Report.”

The Te Whāriki Takapou Report

Te Whāriki Takapou is an organization with a focus on the “sexual and reproductive health” of the Māori people. As a result, it has conducted research, such as in the case of the Māori participants in the report. The report centers on “HIV-related stigma and discrimination experienced by Māori people living with HIV.” The report’s main purpose is to showcase the unique experiences of Māori living with HIV and give the participants “a sense of their health and well-being compared to the general Māori population, and compared to the non-Māori study participants living with HIV.” There were 37 Māori participants in the study, which included a survey questionnaire and a peer interview. The final report utilized findings from relative research due to data limitations.

The Findings

The survey and interviews resulted in several findings. About 25% of participants revealed that they faced a violation of their rights due to having HIV or had to report if they had HIV to areas such as their workplace. Māori living with HIV also detailed that the stigma and discrimination affected their mental health and relationships, resulting in almost 33% isolating themselves and limiting their “ability to earn an income that met their needs.” On a positive note, the participants generally felt that their whānau and friends were supportive; however, many of the participants revealed that others disclosed their HIV status without their permission to other whānau and friends, and also at places such as where they work or go to school.

Several of the participants experienced some form of discrimination due to their HIV status, including experiencing verbal abuse when seeking healthcare or losing jobs. Māori with HIV experience several forms of prejudice and injustice in the healthcare sector, including having to undergo testing for HIV against their will, unequal treatment of non-related HIV care by healthcare workers and professionals violating their confidentiality. Māori women also experienced uncomfortable and unwanted pressures and advice regarding their reproductive health and pregnancies, such as sterilizations and/or abortion. The treatment that Māori people receive in and out of the healthcare system is discriminatory and unethical, which is one of the reasons why there are several calls of action within the report following the results.

Future Policy and Initiatives

Currently, there are no modern laws or policies that protect HIV-positive Māori people from discrimination (or even non-Māori who have HIV). Additionally, Te Whāriki Takapou’s study revealed that those who have been HIV-positive for two to three decades have not witnessed a reduction in discrimination. This report details several specific recommendations to stop discrimination and erase the stigma surrounding HIV; some of those recommendations include an HIV and AIDS policy and action plan, incorporating a goal to abolish the stigma and discrimination surrounding HIV. Other proposals involve better quality and access to reproductive health measures and education, especially better resources for Māori women with HIV to improve their health in the long run, no-cost counseling, a better system to file HIV-related complaints and so much more. All of the recommendations center on protecting, supporting and improving the lives of Māori with HIV.

Even though the report focuses on Māori individuals who have HIV, the recommendations also advocate for non-discrimination. The Māori experience discrimination in New Zealand and HIV-positive Māori face even more discrimination and stigma, affecting not only their mental health but also their physical health. The Te Whāriki Takapou report is a loud and necessary call to action to end the HIV stigma and discrimination against the Māori in New Zealand.

– Karuna Lakhiani
Photo: Flickr

Women's rights in New ZealandOn September 19, 1893, New Zealand Governor Lord Glasgow signed off on a new Electoral Act, granting women the right to vote. New Zealand ushered in a new phase of the women’s suffrage movement by becoming the first self-governed nation to allow women the right to vote. Women’s rights in New Zealand have always mattered to New Zealanders, a notion that has become more apparent in recent years. Following the 2017 election, women made up 38% of parliament. Women have held positions in high-ranking offices such as prime minister, governor-general and chief justice. A brief overview of New Zealand’s history reveals that the country has progressed at an accelerated pace over the last decade and is continuing in the right direction.

3 Advancements in Women’s Rights in New Zealand

  1. Paid Leave for Miscarriages and Stillbirths. Women’s rights in New Zealand still play a central role in political affairs. In March 2021, New Zealand’s Parliament approved a bill that provides paid leave for women and their partners after miscarriage or stillbirth. A miscarriage is defined as a loss of pregnancy “earlier than 20 weeks of gestation,” whereas stillbirths can occur after such a point. The only other country to provide paid leave for women following a miscarriage is India.
  2. Women in Parliament. The rich diversity within New Zealand’s culture is displayed within its parliament. New Zealand is ranked number five in the world for its representation of women in parliament. The growing number of women in cabinet has further advanced women’s rights in New Zealand. The country also prioritizes women’s rights in legislation. It has also delivered an effective response to the COVID-19 pandemic, especially focusing on vulnerable groups such as women. New Zealand’s parliament is making great strides in supporting women.
  3. Equal Pay. New Zealand’s commitment to the advancement of women’s rights continues to serve as an example to other nations. In 2018, New Zealand’s parliament unanimously passed the Equal Pay Amendment Bill that guarantees equal pay for workers, regardless of gender. A similar bill was passed in 1972. However, the most recent bill focuses on pay equity. It guarantees that women in “historically underpaid female-dominated industries” will have the same compensation as men in “different but equal-value work.” The bill also makes it simpler for workers to lodge pay equity claims. It also establishes guidelines for pay comparisons, ensuring any possible gender pay gaps are fair and justified.

The Road Ahead

The country continues enacting policies to advance women’s rights in New Zealand. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is also offering relief to those hit hardest by COVID-19. Due to Ardern’s exceptional response to the COVID-19 crisis, she was victorious in her re-election campaign. As the country pushes ahead in hopes of eliminating COVID-19 altogether, New Zealand’s government proposed a $2.8 billion income support initiative. The initiative will serve as financial assistance to the country’s most vulnerable group: women.

As history and current policies reveal, New Zealand is making great strides in terms of women’s rights. The country’s commitment to gender equality is reflected in its legislation and its parliamentary representation.

– Jordyn Gilliard
Photo: Flickr

Renewable energy in New ZealandNew Zealand, an island country located in the South Pacific Ocean, has an economy propelled by agriculture, manufacturing, tourism and geothermal energy resources. The government sees renewable energy as the future, and in accordance, it has taken major steps to expand renewable energy in New Zealand.

5 Facts About Renewable Energy in New Zealand

  1. New Zealand has a history of being innovators in energy. The first hydroelectric power plant in the Southern Hemisphere was built in New Zealand in 1885. Since then, the country has been a leader in renewable energy and was the second country to ever use geothermal energy for hydrogen production.
  2. Roughly 84% of the electricity in New Zealand is produced from renewable sources. This large amount of renewable energy production ranks the country second in the world for energy security. Hydro, geothermal, wind and bioenergy are among the largest producers of electricity. New Zealand’s volcanic and tectonic features give the country the ability to utilize geothermal energy. For this reason, geothermal energy represents more than half of the renewable energy in New Zealand. An estimated one in five people living in New Zealand has to sacrifice powering their homes in order to pay for other essentials because of the expensive energy bill that comes from non-renewable energy sources. When the power grid in a country comes increasingly from renewable energy, those living in poverty are placed in a more favorable situation because the high cost of fossil fuels no longer burdens people.
  3. Renewable energy will play a part in the country’s COVID-19 economic recovery plan. The Labour Party-led government in New Zealand sees the pandemic as an opportunity to invest in more renewables in order to create more jobs. The Labour Party plans to develop more high-skill jobs that it believes will immediately boost the economy and also help the country prepare for the future. It is estimated that renewable energy could create almost NZ$165 trillion in global GDP gains by 2050. Such a large economic comeback would significantly benefit those living in poverty, especially since the COVID-19 pandemic hurts the impoverished the most.
  4. The government is spending NZ$30 million on investigating pumped hydro storage. This investment expects to bolster New Zealand’s broader renewable energy goals as well as create thousands of skilled and semi-skilled jobs. The result of the investigation will potentially create a more affordable solution to the problem of hydropower storage during dry years when hydro lakes are low. This large investment signals the country’s dedication to renewable energy with plans to mitigate much of the risk of supply and demand.
  5. New Zealand’s goal is to have 100% renewable energy by 2030. Additionally, the country hopes to have net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. The proponents of the plan believe this will cause a massive increase in job growth and reduce electricity bills, which will benefit New Zealanders living in poverty.

Overall, New Zealand is making significant strides in its renewable energy sector in order to address the issue of energy poverty that impacts the most vulnerable people in the country.

Stephen Illes
Photo: Flickr

Child Poverty Rates in New Zealand
New Zealand is an island nation in Oceania that, according to the United Nations Happiness Index, boasts a reputation as one of the world’s happiest countries. The government currently holds especially high esteem in the international community, credited for an exceptional job in handling the COVID-19 pandemic. However, beyond these glowing numbers is an escalating crisis: child poverty. Child poverty rates in New Zealand highlight disparities that have otherwise been overlooked.

New Zealand’s Poverty Rates

New findings released by Statistics NZ and the Salvation Army’s State of Nation show gaping disparities among children facing poverty. 19% of Māori and 25.4% of Pasifika children live without all of the basic household needs, compared to the state standard rate of 11%. The issue of indigenous inequality is nothing new. Māori and Pasifika populations have faced historically disproportionate challenges that impact their quality of life.

Child poverty rates in New Zealand were identified as a policy target for Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s administration back in 2018. Until the pandemic hit, the government was making progress in accomplishing the Child Poverty Reduction Act. This was a three-year plan to reduce the rate to 10%. However, the plan was disrupted once COVID-19 became a widespread issue. There is now a data gap, as the collected numbers are only updated as far as March 2020. As New Zealand has managed to control the spread of COVID-19, it is important that Arden and her administration shift its focus to supporting Māori and Pasifika populations who have fallen behind.

How to Close the Gap

Until 2018, there had been both a lack of incentive to collect demographically based data and a caliber for poverty calculation. Now, a census team conducts household economic surveys to calculate the disposable income of each home. The government must prioritize diversifying its numbers to show an accurate representation of indigenous populations. There are challenges to this — a legacy of colonialism has left indigenous communities with little trust to partake in census participation — but existing efforts to collect Māori and Pasifika data now include grassroots outreach.

There are also a variety of hardships that disproportionately impact Māori and Pasifika populations. These include imprisonment rates, houselessness and weather changes. Throughout the pandemic, many indigenous populations have signed up to receive more benefits and welfare payments. The government must continue to ensure these communities receive the support they need.

Another important step to eradicate child poverty is to improve diversity within the government. Increasing Māori and Pasifika representation at the public-sector level would give voice to the people who best understand how to tackle the child poverty crisis in New Zealand.

Many nonprofit organizations are also working to alleviate child poverty. The Child Poverty Action Group holds a series of campaigns to address different poverty-related issues and calls for action in policy advocation. It also provides a number of resources that make navigation among different available services easier. At the community level, food banks support struggling families and provide warm shelter during cold weather.

Looking Ahead

Though the government has taken some promising steps to reduce child poverty rates in New Zealand — such as its new policy requiring schools to offer free period products — its priorities must include the representation of the Māori and Pasifika in poverty statistics and initiatives. Alongside nonprofit organizations and Māori and Pasifika leaders, New Zealand has the ability to reduce child poverty.

– Danielle Han
Photo:Flickr

gender wage gap In “one of the most substantial moments for gender equality in New Zealand in decades,” the Equal Pay Amendment Bill was passed by the New Zealand parliament and took effect in November of 2020. This legislation intends to address pay equity, advance previous work toward pay equality and address the gender wage gap. Rather than just addressing gaps between men and women’s wages in the same professions, this bill targets differences between wages in female-dominated professions as compared to male-dominated ones.

How Equal Pay Addresses Poverty

Addressing gender wage gaps is key to fighting global poverty for numerous reasons. Not only do women tend to be in lower-paying occupations, but they also lack employment opportunities. Females are also tasked with two to 10 times the care work (housekeeping, childcare, etc.) than men. Research in developing countries shows that women lose out on $9 trillion annually due to economic inequality. As the number of women in paid work increased between 2000 and 2010 in Latin America, overall poverty fell by approximately 30%.

To truly appreciate this victory in fighting the gender wage gap in New Zealand, we can take a brief journey through the nation’s history of work toward equal pay.

New Zealand’s Work Towards Equal Pay

New Zealand National Tramways Union afforded equal pay to women in 1942. As women entered the workforce during World War II due to the shortage of male workers, the New Zealand National Tramways Union insisted women received the same pay as men. It became the nation’s first union to win equal pay for females working as tram conductors.

Almost two decades later, The Government Service Equal Pay Act was passed in 1960, thanks in part to the lobbying of the Council for Equal Pay and Opportunity (CEPO). The New Zealand government began to investigate equal pay in the country more holistically. The findings of that investigation led to the Equal Pay Act of 1972. This act gave women in both “private and public sectors” equal pay opportunities. By 1985, the gender wage gap diminished by 22%.

During that time in 1957, the collaboration among multiple New Zealand unions including the Māori Women’s Welfare League and the National Council of Women formed CEPO. The group began advocating for equal pay through raising awareness and educating people, political lobbying and more. CEPO was then revived in 1986 as the Coalition for Equal Value, Equal Pay and began work to disrupt male-dominated professions and fight for truly equitable pay for all New Zealanders.

In another effort to move the country toward pay equity as opposed to equality, the New Zealand Government formed the Joint Working Group on Pay Equity Principles (JWG). The JWG developed principles and formal processes through which the government would field pay equity claims.

National Organisation for Women

One of the more structured groups of the women’s liberation movement in New Zealand was modeled after the National Organisation for Women in the United States. Founded in 1972 New Zealand’s National Organisation for Women (NOW) fought not just against the gender wage gap, but for gender equality in all areas of life. This includes legal protections.

Unfortunately, the organization in New Zealand didn’t have the same impact that it did in the U.S. so members decided to help in different ways. Many feminists took to community projects or attempted to tackle the gender wage gap in the corporate world.

New Zealand ranks 6th place in the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report for 2020. The Equal Pay Amendment Bill is not only an important step toward eliminating the gender wage gap in New Zealand but a great step toward narrowing gender gaps across multiple national benchmarks. This includes economic, educational, health, or political areas.

Despite a three-year stall in the nation’s gender pay gap, the New Zealand government’s continued focus on equal pay for work of equal value is bound to chip away at that gap and foster poverty reduction.

– Amy Perkins
Photo: Flickr

period poverty in new ZealandOn February 18, 2021, New Zealand prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, and associate education minister, Jan Tinetti, announced that all schools in New Zealand will offer free menstrual products starting in June 2021, expanding on a pilot program that started in 2020. This announcement aligns with the country’s Child and Youth Wellbeing Strategy and is a major step toward eliminating the barriers created by period poverty in New Zealand.

Child and Youth Wellbeing Strategy

The New Zealand government’s Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (DPMC) launched the Child and Youth Wellbeing Strategy on August 29, 2019, with the vision of New Zealand becoming “the best place in the world for children and young people” to reach their full potential.

The six expected outcomes of this strategy are for children and young people to feel loved and safe, meet their material needs, be physically and mentally healthy, have access to education, receive acceptance for who they are and develop a sense of autonomy. These outcomes stem from the principle that children and young people are intrinsically valuable human beings with rights that must be respected. Furthermore, individuals and communities should act together as early as possible to promote the multifaceted well-being of children and young people.

Addressing Period Poverty in New Zealand

New Zealand’s free menstrual product program in schools aligns with the Child and Youth Wellbeing Strategy because period poverty is a significant barrier to a young person’s education. Prime Minister Ardern points to research showing that approximately one in 12 young people in New Zealand miss school because of being unable to manage their menstruation. Tinetti notes that many students who have their period while in school face embarrassment, stigma and discomfort and risk missing classes or not having the proper menstrual hygiene products.

Research from the New Zealand charity, KidsCan, found that up to 20,000 students at the primary, intermediate and secondary levels were at risk of period poverty. Globally, the COVID-19 pandemic highlights and exacerbates challenges associated with period poverty, including the lack of access to water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) infrastructure and inadequate access to menstrual education as well as disrupted access to menstrual products.

The government’s new program expands on a pilot program that started in 2020 in which the government provided free menstrual products to more than 3,000 students in 15 schools in the Waikato region, located in northern New Zealand. Government officials used the feedback from the successful pilot program to inform its approach, with Tinetti noting that students wanted more information about the different kinds of menstrual products and how to manage their periods.

Other Period Poverty Programs

Private sector initiatives are also responding to period poverty in New Zealand by providing free menstrual products. For example, The Warehouse, one of the largest retailers in New Zealand, partnered with The Period Place to set up menstrual product donation boxes in several of its locations and provide free menstrual products in its store restrooms.

The Period Place is a New Zealand-based advocacy group whose vision is for New Zealand to be the first country to achieve period equity by 2030 in alignment with the Sustainable Development Goals.

Positive Periods is a coalition of 25 period poverty advocacy groups in New Zealand that advocate for the provision of free menstrual products in schools. In 2019, it released a discussion paper highlighting period poverty in New Zealand and its effect on educational outcomes. It also circulated a petition calling for free menstrual products in schools, which received more than 3,000 signatures.

The Road Ahead

Period poverty in New Zealand is an issue that affects the health and well-being of thousands of girls and women. The government’s free menstrual product program in schools is an important step toward ensuring that all girls and women can pursue an education and manage their menstruation with dignity.

Sydney Thiroux
Photo: Flickr

Child poverty in New Zealand
During the international struggle of dealing with COVID-19, New Zealand stood out as one of the few nations able to effectively and quickly minimize the virus. But the effects of COVID-19 on child poverty in New Zealand have worsened one of the country’s biggest social problems. More than 235,000 children live in poverty in New Zealand, a striking number considering New Zealand’s population of 4.8 million.

Child poverty in New Zealand is among the nation’s most dominant social issues. Tackling child poverty was a key tenant of Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s Labour Party Platform prior to her 2020 reelection. However, the economic fallout from the pandemic has hampered the government’s ability to deal with widespread poverty. Still, the government’s pandemic population assistance could be useful for taking on child poverty in the long term.

The Pandemic of Child Poverty

The New Zealand government defines child poverty across three measures. The first two include children living in low-income families before and after factoring in housing costs. The other encompasses children facing “material hardship.” Material hardship is a condition that a list of 17 factors in a child’s day-to-day life measures, such as owning two pairs of good shoes or having financial access to a doctor. If a child does not meet six of these items, the government considers them as living in material hardship. The government estimates that 13.4% of children in New Zealand were in material hardship in 2019 and that 20.8% of children lived in poverty after factoring in housing costs.

Even before COVID-19, the reduction of child poverty in New Zealand was challenging for the federal government. Even though Ardern and the Labour Party ran on the promise they would halve child poverty and material hardship by 2028, the percentage of children living below the poverty rate dropped by only 1.6% between 2018 and 2019. Early in 2020, UNICEF ranked New Zealand as having the 33rd worst record on child poverty out of 37 nations in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

COVID-19 Response and Alleviating Poverty

The New Zealand government’s response to COVID-19 provided a number of economic and social safety nets to those the pandemic affected, dedicating 4% of its GDP to pandemic relief. New Zealanders received a weekly relief payment until June 30, 2020. The amounts ranged from $585 a week for full-time employees and $350 a week for part-time employees. The government also introduced wage subsidy programs for employers and employees, allowing families to earn their pre-pandemic income even if they were unable to work regular hours or at their place of employment.

According to the government’s 2020 Wellbeing Budget, these relief programs kept several families from slipping into poverty throughout the pandemic. In managing the COVID-19 crisis, Jacinda Ardern’s government found effective ways to manage child poverty in New Zealand. It did this through the subsidization of wages and relief programs with the intention of protecting household economic stability. In addition to wage subsidies and relief packages, the government has worked to fight poverty during the pandemic through:

  • Doubling the “Winter Energy Payment,” a welfare program with a design of helping low-income families and pensioners pay for energy bills.
  • Introducing a rent freeze to prevent low-income or unemployed households from eviction.
  • Negotiating with major banks on deferring mortgages.

The Future of Child Poverty Response

These benefits are temporary, with the purpose of shielding New Zealanders from the economic impact of the pandemic. However, the government is incorporating economic relief into its long-term plans to tackle child poverty in New Zealand. Labour’s 2020 Manifesto, which the government’s response to the pandemic shaped, includes extensive plans to assist low-income New Zealand households and workers. This includes extensions of COVID-19 relief programs, such as wage subsidies for those seeking employment.

Child poverty in New Zealand remains a high national priority for the government and the people of New Zealand. The government’s fast response to COVID-19 mitigated what could have been a disastrous increase in child poverty. Should Jacinda Ardern’s coalition government between Labour and the Green Party continue to follow the success of its COVID-19 response, New Zealand could take major strides in tackling child poverty.

– Kieran Graulich
Photo: Flickr

SDG 1 in New Zealand
World leaders adopted the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the first of which is to “end poverty in all its forms everywhere,” in 2015. In 2019, New Zealand leaders published the findings of the Voluntary National Review as New Zealand’s Progress Towards the SDGs – 2019. Through this report, others can learn the challenges facing the people of New Zealand, the strides the country has made thus far and improvements to come for each SDG, including updates on SDG 1 in New Zealand.

A key challenge New Zealanders face comes in the form of the inequities that can exist in poverty-related measures. According to New Zealand’s 2018 Census, 16.5% of the population are Māori (indigenous New Zealanders) and 8.1% are Pacific Islanders, who poverty disproportionately affects. Poverty is also worse among those living with disabilities. The updates on SDG 1 in New Zealand to follow, contextualized by the challenges the country faces and the goals for the coming years, yield a broad picture of the nation’s approach to poverty alleviation and successes thus far. Here are seven updates on SDG 1 in New Zealand.

7 Updates on SDG 1 in New Zealand

  1. Child Poverty Reduction and Wellbeing Acts: This legislation requires that the New Zealand government sets targets for three predetermined child poverty measures at both three- and 10-year intervals. The New Zealand government is also responsible for publishing annual reports on those measures as well as relevant indicators. For example, the 2020/21 target for the reduction of material hardship is from 13% to 10% of children, whereas the 2027/28 target stretches that to just 6% of children.
  2. Families Package and Wellbeing Budget: Through changes to tax credits, free school lunches, and more, the Families Package and Wellbeing Budget aimed to boost incomes of 62% of households with children in New Zealand, by 2021. According to a 2020 report, the Families Package had already improved the situation of 18,400 children enough for them to no longer live in poverty.
  3. Increase in the Minimum Wage: One of the clearest cut strategies for alleviating poverty was to increase the country’s minimum wage, with the expectation that the country will continue to increase it as the economy permits. New Zealand applied a 7.2% increase in 2019, followed by a 6.3% boost in 2020.
  4. Establishment of the Welfare Expert Advisory Group: The Welfare Expert Advisory Group (WEAG) has the task of advising the New Zealand government as to how and why the nation’s welfare programs should change in order to provide the most benefit to its people. Just a year after its establishment, WEAG completed a report detailing how the nation’s social security system ought to evolve. The report, Wakamana Tāngata – Restoring Dignity to Social Security in New Zealand, includes 42 recommendations for the nation to move from simply providing a safety net to restoring dignity to its citizens. WEAG’s approach emphasizes problem-solving through collaboration with researchers and stakeholders across the country.
  5. Public and Affordable Housing Expansion: Not only is work underway to provide additional options for public and affordable housing, but the New Zealand government also aims to improve the conditions for those living in rental housing. Housing costs are of particular importance when considering how to reduce inequities and poverty in general. In fact, data revealed that 14.9% of children lived in poverty in 2019 even beyond taking housing costs into account, whereas that proportion jumped to 20.8% after factoring in housing costs.
  6. Disability Action Planning: With a new Disability Action Plan having taken effect since the publication of the Voluntary National Review, it is pertinent to look at the most recent plan for 2019-2023. Through the detailing of 25 programs with the primary design of narrowing the gap in employment between disabled and non-disabled people, this plan serves to move New Zealand forward in line with the Disability Strategy 2016-2026.
  7. Broader Sample for Household Economic Survey: In the hopes of capturing a holistic picture of the financial situations of all its people, the New Zealand’s Household Economic Survey expanded its sampling to 20,000 people. With this more inclusive understanding of the impact of the economy on individual households, the nation’s leaders hope to be better equipped to address the challenges faced therein. As mentioned above, it is of vital importance that New Zealand not only combat the inequities among its citizens but also accurately measure them.

As with many countries, these updates on SDG 1 in New Zealand serve to share measures of the success achieved thus far, and as motivation to continue this important work. Other nations and leaders can also consider these points inspiration for strategies to combat poverty worldwide.

– Amy Perkins
Photo: Flickr