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

Mental Health in New Zealand
Mental health in New Zealand became an important issue in the New Zealand 2017 general election. One survey from 2016/17 shows that 19% of New Zealand adults experienced anxiety and 20% experienced depression. In response to voter concern about low funding and a shortage of mental health professionals, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern created the well-being budget in 2019.

The Well-Being Budget’s Objectives

The well-being budget has five main objectives:

  • Transition to a sustainable, low-emission economy.
  • Support a digital age in the nation.
  • Raise Māori and Pacific economic position.
  • Reduce child poverty.
  • Support mental health.

Within the well-being budget, New Zealand has allocated $1.9 billion toward mental well-being specifically over five years. The aim of this new well-being approach in mental health is to replace New Zealand’s outdated Mental Health Act with a more comprehensive mental health framework that focuses on wider quality of life measures and making long-term improvements to the system of mental health services.

The Mental Health Act

New Zealand originally enacted its Mental Health Act, also known as the Compulsory Assessment and Treatment Act, in 1992. The act mainly concerns individuals who could be a danger to themselves or others. This act states that doctors should try to obtain a patient’s consent, but that it is not absolutely necessary; in fact, they can use a degree of coercion in attempting to get a patient’s consent. Many no longer consider this kind of treatment acceptable, so one of the main objectives New Zealand’s government set to improve mental health services within the well-being budget is to replace the Mental Health Act with a law that is more in line with international standards.

The Well-Being Budget

New Zealand’s mental health provisions in the well-being budget come out of a longer trend moving the focus of mental health treatment to recovery and social well-being. This movement stresses individuals’ rights to make the most informed decisions for themselves. To support mental health in New Zealand, the government set goals to establish the Mental Health and Wellbeing Commission, strengthen suicide prevention response, replace the Mental Health Act and expand access to services.

New Zealand’s plan for suicide prevention has a $40 million budget that will go toward bolstering existing services as well as place more nurses in secondary schools to reach students. Expanding access to mental health services also comes as a two-part plan. The first part involves making mental health services a part of existing primary care services and the second part involves increasing the workforce of therapists and psychologists that provide therapy for people that have mild to moderate mental health diagnoses.


While the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic placed additional stress on New Zealand’s mental health services, the country has still made considerable progress:

  • Passed the necessary legislation to create a Mental Health and Wellbeing Commission (which should be operational by February 2021).
  • Used $40 million to create a Suicide Prevention Office and a suicide action plan.
  • Begun drafting to replace the 1992 Mental Health Act with the updated legislation.
  • Pledged $455 million toward new primary mental health and addiction services over the next five years.

The rollout of many of these new policies and services slowed down in 2020 to put more focus on the COVID-19 response, but expectations have determined that the rollout will pick up more in 2021. Mental health in New Zealand has come a long way, but the government still has not met all of the goals it laid out in the well-being budget.

– Starr Sumner
Photo: Flickr

Homelessness in New Zealand
New Zealand is a high-income country located in the southwestern Pacific Ocean. In 2019, New Zealand’s GDP per capita was $42,084, a number almost identical to the United Kingdom’s GDP per capita. Despite this high level of wealth, an increasing number of New Zealanders are facing homelessness. New Zealand’s definition of homelessness includes people living in temporary residences or uninhabitable conditions, those sharing a residence with another household and those sleeping in cars or on the streets.

10 Facts About Homelessness in New Zealand

  1. About 1% of New Zealanders are homeless. New Zealand’s homelessness rate is the highest among the 35 high-income countries in the OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development). It is important to note, however, that New Zealand’s definition of homelessness, as explained above, is much broader than many other nations. Those living on the streets face additional dangers, especially as it gets colder. As a result, many homeless New Zealanders have died on the streets during recent winters.
  2. The recent housing crisis has contributed to the high rate of homelessness in New Zealand. The price of renting or buying a home in New Zealand has been on the rise in recent years. For instance, in the country’s largest city, Auckland, housing prices climbed 90% from 2008 to 2018. In January 2020, the Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey examined eight housing markets in New Zealand, and ranked them all as “severely unaffordable.” Due to these increasing prices, many find themselves unable to afford a permanent home, even if they have employment.
  3. Applications for public housing increased by 47% from 2019 to 2020. According to a report by New Zealand’s Ministry of Housing and Urban Development, 11,607 people applied for government-provided public housing in the first quarter of 2019. One year later, that number jumped to 16,309. As this number continues to grow, more New Zealanders are unable to find a stable residence.
  4. The Auckland region had the highest number of housing applicants. As of March 2020, 6,086 Auckland residents were on the housing register, awaiting a response to their request for public housing. The Wellington region, which includes the country’s capital, had the second-highest number of housing applicants.
  5. Housing applicants faced long wait times for public housing. On average, a housing applicant waited for public housing 213 days in March 2020. This wait time represented an increase from the previous year, where the average time was only 172 days.
  6. A disproportionate number of housing applicants were of Maori ethnicity. In March 2020, 48% of housing applicants identified themselves as Maori, the indigenous people of mainland New Zealand. This number is significant considering that only 16.5% of the general population are considered of Maori descent according to the 2018 census. Therefore, the Maori people are disproportionately likely to be homeless.
  7. The New Zealand government has been aware of the country’s problem with homelessness. In 2017, Jacinda Ardern became the prime minister of New Zealand. Despite her promise to address the issue once in office, homelessness in New Zealand has increased under her leadership. Additionally, the number of people applying for public housing has broken previously high records.
  8. In 2020, the government launched the Aotearoa New Zealand Homelessness Action Plan. The plan strives to both reduce and prevent homelessness in New Zealand and will continue through 2023. The government hopes to support over 10,000 people who are either at risk or already homeless. The Homelessness Action Plan is an important step forward in the government’s fight against homelessness. Though the plan may not aid New Zealand’s entire homeless population, it can help a great majority.
  9. As the COVID-19 pandemic hit New Zealand, the government worked to provide shelter to those living on the streets. As New Zealand’s national lockdown began, the government opened motel rooms to homeless New Zealanders who had previously been living on the streets. The government made this decision in order to slow the spread of COVID-19. However, as a result, it has also virtually eliminated the cities’ problem of “rough sleeping,” or homeless people sleeping or living outdoors.
  10. Moving forward, the government plans to provide for many of the country’s homeless. After the national lockdown ends, what will happen to the New Zealanders who had been living on the streets? The government has pledged to ensure that 1,200 motel rooms remain available for homeless New Zealanders until April 2021. There are many other homeless New Zealanders not in this category, and the government seems to be looking out for them as well. The May 2020 federal budget included plans to construct 8,000 new public housing places. With luck, these new construction projects will help housing applicants find a home.

Only time will tell how homelessness in New Zealand may change as the COVID-19 pandemic wanes. The hope is that the government’s recent actions will provide protection to those living on the streets, while also preventing the spread of the COVID-19 virus. The government’s construction plans also have the potential to provide housing to many homeless New Zealanders, securing a brighter future for both the individuals and the country.

 – Emily Dexter
Photo: Unsplash

Childhood Poverty in New Zealand
Jacinda Ardern was born on July 26, 1980, in Hamilton, New Zealand, an island country in the South Pacific Ocean with a population of more than 4 million people. In 2017, at the age of 37, she became the third female leader of New Zealand. She is the youngest Prime Minister of the country in 150 years and the second world leader to have a baby while in office. She is a global icon in many regards but lacks publicity for her work in fighting childhood poverty in New Zealand. This article will explore her success in passing and implementing recent poverty-reduction policies, including those during COVID-19.

Families Package

According to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern herself, one of her proudest achievements as Prime Minister is implementing the Families Package on July 1, 2018. The goal of this package is to provide families with more money to support their children. It aims to reduce childhood poverty in New Zealand while redirecting $2 billion to health, education and housing.

As of 2019, one year after the Families Package came into effect, it has helped 1 million New Zealanders. The package increases maternity leave from 18 to 22 weeks to 26 weeks. Additionally, it has provided $67NZ to over 36,000 families with newborns for the first three years of the child’s life. Additionally, the Families Package has increased financial aid to more than 13,500 families who care for orphans and foster children as well as enabled more than 1 million elderly to heat their homes during the winter with the Winter Energy Payment.

Well-Being Budget

New Zealand’s Well-Being Budget emerged in 2019 to reduce homelessness and childhood poverty in New Zealand, expand mental health services, combat family violence and protect and advance the rights of indigenous populations.

It added an additional $40 million to suicide prevention assistance and $455 million to mental health services. Expectations determine that this will help 324,000 New Zealanders by 2023 and 2024. This package will also benefit 2,700 homeless people by creating 1,044 shelters. It will also increase funding for education and hospital research. It prioritizes the preservation of Māori and Pacific languages and the fight against illnesses such as rheumatic fever as well.

The United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network tested the success of the Well-Being Budget. Citizens rated their happiness on a scale of one to 10, with one being the least happy and 10 the happiest. This scale found that New Zealand had the eighth happiest population in the world whereas the U.S. ranked 19. This speaks to the positive impact of New Zealand’s Well-Being Budget on the quality of life within the country.

Stimulus Package

In light of COVID-19, New Zealand’s government launched a stimulus package similar to many other countries. The difference is that New Zealand’s stimulus package is greater than Great Britain, Australia, Singapore, Ireland and several other countries as it represents 4% of the country’s total GDP. This stimulus package covers incomes for people who cannot work from home. It allows them to take care of a sick relative or self-isolate after contact with someone with COVID-19. It also helps businesses in terms of taxes and provides more social welfare and income to low-income families. The package also includes funding for the healthcare industry to ensure a timely and appropriate response to the virus. Not only does this stimulus package indirectly help children, but it is undoubtedly a contributing factor to why New Zealand was able to eradicate the virus completely from its country.

These initiatives demonstrate the progress under Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in the fight against childhood poverty. Though the reality of COVID-19 hinders this, many agree that others can learn from Jacinda Ardern and her administrative action.

– Rida Memon
Photo: Flickr

Child Poverty in New Zealand
New Zealand is an island country located southeast of Australia. The population of the nation is estimated to be 4.8 million with 1.2 million of its people under the age of 18. The issues of income inequality and poverty impact children heavily. The children living in this unfortunate situation lack quality meals to eat, sanitation products and adequate opportunities in education. COVID-19 threatens to increase the number of children these hardships affect. The child poverty rate in New Zealand stands at 27% which is higher than the 13% world average. However, government officials have a plan for the next 10 years to lower poverty in New Zealand among children.

4 Ways New Zealand’s Government Fights Child Poverty

  1. Free Sanitary Products: Government officials have agreed to help girls in school between the ages of 9 and 18 years by providing them with free sanitary products. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has said that this addresses the concern that young women potentially stay home from school because of the lack of access to these products, which may hamper their educational development. Ardern said she hopes this will ease some of the stress girls experience while in school and thinks it will improve attendance rates.
  2. Exercise: The country’s Ministry of Health implemented guidelines to promote physical wellness for its adult and child population. Children living in the poorest areas are expected to live almost nine years less than those who reside in the wealthiest areas. Exercise can help increase the lifespan of children in poverty, especially as child obesity is a growing concern. The guidelines for children under the age of 18 recommend one hour a day of participation in recreational activities such as sports and no more than two hours a day of engaging in other interests like watching television.
  3. Housing Initiatives: The nation’s government is working on fighting poverty in New Zealand by providing better affordable housing options. The initiative has created an opportunity to assist those living in impoverished areas and provide other resources besides housing. Access to doctors for little to no cost, as a part of the initiative, has benefited families experiencing “material hardship” by helping them receive medical treatment for their children and themselves.
  4. Addressing Child Abuse: New Zealand has had a high number of child abuse reports over the years. With COVID-19 forcing schools to shut down across the globe, some officials have worried about a sudden spike in child abuse. The country’s Chief Executive of the Ministry for Vulnerable Children, Gráinne Moss, said that social workers have received tools to help combat this issue and be there for children at risk. Poverty in New Zealand remains one of the biggest factors for the occurrence of child abuse. Effective methods such as sending meal kits, arts and crafts and virtual chatting between children and social workers have helped to lower the number of abuse cases during the pandemic.

The government of New Zealand believes these steps will reduce child poverty in New Zealand. Over the next 10 years, officials plan to add more items to the list of solutions to help children suffering from a lack of needed resources. The added items will focus on the purposes of improving child health and wellness.

– Donovan Baxter
Photo: Flickr

Period Poverty in New Zealand
On June 3, 2020, the parliamentary government of New Zealand announced an initiative designed to combat one of the most pervasive but least discussed forms of poverty across the globe; period poverty. The initiative will provide free sanitary products (tampons and pads) through a school-based program in order to alleviate period poverty in New Zealand. The investment will start small in the Waikato region, the 11th poorest region in New Zealand.

What is Period Poverty?

Period poverty exists in nearly every country across the globe, albeit to varying degrees. No matter the location, one could easily find an individual who is struggling to pay for proper sanitary products. One can define period poverty as a lack of access to sanitary products, menstrual hygiene education, toilets, handwashing facilities or proper waste management. Period poverty most commonly exists in developing but isolated nations.

Prime Minister Arden Answers the Call

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern brought the real facts of period poverty to the general public explaining how it affects the women and girls of not only New Zealand but also other countries across the globe. Expectations have determined that the government will roll out a NZ$2.6 million ($1.7 million) program providing free sanitary products through schools across the country. At first, the program will only exist in 15 schools in the Waikato district of New Zealand with plans to expand nationwide by 2021.

While New Zealand does not have a national index to measure the poverty levels of various communities, using a fixed-line analysis showed that roughly 15% of the total population of New Zealand lives in poverty. Similar to other products (unfortunately even medical ones), the price of sanitary products fluctuates fairly rapidly depending on the brand. On average the cost of a package of tampons in New Zealand is roughly NZ$5.50. With women typically having 480 periods throughout their lifetime, that brings the total long-term out-of-pocket cost to NZ$2,640 if the individual only buys Bargen tampons.

Eliminating Period Poverty in New Zealand

The New Zealand government believes that through this initiative, it can begin to cut childhood poverty by half in the next decade. In her speech on June 3, Prime Minister Ardern said that roughly 95,000 girls between the ages of 9-18 miss school and other activities due to a lack of access to proper sanitary products.

One of the perceived and anticipated effects of this program would be to allow children the opportunity to continue with their daily activities despite their period. Providing free sanitary products and education on menstrual health will do just that, all the while ensuring that individuals experiencing period poverty do not have to make homemade tampons and pads out of non-sanitary household items.

Period poverty may not seem like an issue that could possibly affect many people around the globe. However, when considering the data surrounding the situation, 2.3 billion people globally do not have access to clean water and sanitary products. When one throws the price of a single pack of tampons into the equation for countless families struggling to put food on the table, the question becomes whether or not the family in question will be able to eat. Unfortunately, the answer to this question is all too obvious.

Fortunately, New Zealand is not the only country that has put forth legislation to provide free sanitary products. Both England and Scotland have recently written legislation providing free sanitary products through schools. The New Zealand government and the U.K. and Scottish governments have made huge strides in the right direction to provide proper sanitary products to families, taking a direct swing at childhood poverty and the afflictions that come with living in that economic bracket.

– Craig Bahnsen
Photo: Flickr