UNICEF defines child poverty as children who experience deprivation of the material, spiritual and emotional resources needed to survive, develop and thrive, leaving them unable to enjoy their rights, achieve their full potential or participate as full and equal members of society.
295,000 New Zealand kids are living beneath the poverty line, which means they are living in households where income is less than 60% of the median household income after housing costs are taken into consideration.
The Material Wellbeing Index (MWI) is another measurement of child poverty in New Zealand which states that 148,000 dependent children up to 17 years old are living in material hardship, unable to afford basic essentials that many of us take for granted.
Living in poverty can mean homelessness. It can mean not having access to healthy food like fruits and vegetables, going to school hungry in bare feet or worn-out shoes, and coming home to a cold damp house to sleep in a shared bed. It can mean missing out on activities that other New Zealanders get to enjoy like learning a musical instrument or playing sport, or even having a birthday party.
Social exclusion as a result of poverty can also be detrimental to the mental wellbeing of New Zealand kids. They may be bullied for not wearing the right school uniform, or stressed from having to move house constantly due to rent increases.
Poverty can cause long term negative health consequences for families. Children in poor communities are three times more likely than the average child to be sick, twice as likely to end up in hospital, and Sudden Unexpected Death in Infancy (SUDI) rates are more than 6 times higher for infants in the most disadvantaged areas of New Zealand. These harmful effects run into adulthood. Growing up in poverty means having a higher risk of heart disease, alcohol and drug addiction, obesity and poor dental health.
As a signatory to the United Nations Conventions on the Rights of the Child (UNCROC), New Zealand has affirmed that children should be given the opportunity to achieve their full potential and participate as equal members of New Zealand society.
Take a look below at other UNCROC articles that New Zealand kids living in poverty are missing out on.
Children who have any kind of disability should have special care and support, so that they can lead full and independent lives.
Me tiaki motuhake me tautoko hoki te tamariki ahakoa he aha te hauā, kia motuhake tonu ai ō rātou oranga.
Children have the right to good quality health care, to clean water, nutritious food, and a clean environment, so that they will stay healthy.
Kei te tamariki te mana ki te hauora kounga pai, ki te wai mā, ki te kai hauora, me te taiao mā kia noho ora tonu ai rātou.
The Government should provide extra money for the children of families in need.
Me whakarato Te Kāwanatanga he pūtea atu anō mā ngā tamariki o ngā whanau hapa.
Children have a right to a standard of living that is good enough to meet their physical and mental needs.
Kei te tamariki te mana oranga e tutuki ai ō rātou oranga-ā-tinana, oranga-ā-hinengaro hoki.
Children have the right to an education. Discipline in schools should respect children’s human dignity. Primary education should be free.
Kei te tamariki te mana ki te mātauranga, Ko ngā akoranga i te kura me kauanu atu ki ngā whakarangatira-ā-tangata, Me kore utu te kura tuatahi.
All children have a right to relax and play, and to join in a wide range of activities.
Kei ngā tamariki katoa te mana ki te whakatā, ki te tākaro, ki te kuhu haere ki ngā momo mahi.
Child poverty is a reality in New Zealand and it’s costing us dearly. As much as $10 billion of public money is required year on year to deal with the negative consequences of child poverty. Independent research has shown that three-quarters of that cost is avoidable, so why isn’t helping our vulnerable children more of a priority for New Zealanders?
The national economic burden of child poverty is mostly made up of health care and hospitalisation costs, poor education and its effect on productivity, support services including housing subsidies and benefit payments, and costs incurred from the criminal justice system.
Children living in poverty develop higher and more pressing health needs. Children who are maltreated are more likely to have poor mental health into the future and also more likely to be involved in the justice system. This extra burden on the justice system alone costs about $2 billion every year.
Our failure to alleviate child poverty now will severely damage New Zealand’s long-term prosperity. Something has to change.
New Zealand is a UN member state, and that means we are committed to implementing the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as developed in 2015 in partnership with the other member states. Article 1.2 of the Goals calls for a reduction in children living in poverty according to national definitions by at least half by 2030. How will we reach this goal?
Government policy and budget has the single biggest impact on child poverty rates, and each year the New Zealand Government has the chance to make some significant steps forward for children living in poverty.
Policy affects family income, housing, health and education – all of which have profound impacts on children. The New Zealand Government knows that the public is watching closely and public opinion polls show that the top issues in this country are inequality, poverty and homelessness.
By investing in the 148,000 children who are not having their basic needs met each day, and the families they live with, the New Zealand government will be able lighten the burden of child poverty on our nation. By providing better housing, supporting parents and single parent homes, and investing in health and education, we have real ways to make a difference for New Zealand's children.
UNICEF advocates for children living in poverty in New Zealand, so that every child can have a childhood.
What could we as New Zealanders be doing better to make sure every New Zealand child has a childhood? Is there any other information you'd like to know about child poverty in New Zealand? Let us know.