Although New Zealand ranks high among developed nations for its quality of life, poverty in New Zealand is disproportionate among inhabitants, affecting mainly children. As the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) reports, approximately 28 percent of the child population lives in poverty.
UNICEF New Zealand executive director Vivien Maidaborn states: “We have normalized child poverty as a society — that a certain level of need in a certain part of the population is somehow OK.”
Children who live below the poverty line — defined as less than 60 percent of the median national income of approximately $20,000 — do not meet basic life standards. They are plagued with disease, with deficient housing conditions and polluted outside environments serving to exacerbate poverty.
The children in poverty also lack sufficient nutrition, with their meals “consisting of meat pies, hot chips and 99c white bread,” as Eleanor Ainge Roy of The Guardian reports. Clothing, especially shoes, is either worn-out or nonexistent. Lastly, these children lack a full education, as their attendance is often poor due to complications at home.
Although the New Zealand government has taken measures to counter this poverty, including increasing child benefits, such efforts have not been truly effective. The Children’s Commissioner’s Expert Advisory Group on Solutions to Child Poverty, in its 2012 report, identified a number of more effective ways to alleviate these children of their impoverishment.
Priorities include creating “a new income support payment for families with dependent children to replace a number of the existing benefits and tax credits,” as well as increasing social housing for impoverished families. In order to address health risks, the state should also continue and expand the provision of free primary healthcare visits for children.
Lastly, public officials should ensure impoverished children have access to recreational facilities, such as parks, in order to extend personal wellbeing. If the government follows such initiatives, poverty in New Zealand could become an issue of the past.
– Gigi DeLorenzo