Children still living in poverty but number of whānau struggling to provide the basics drops – Stats NZ

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There has been little annual change in the number of children living in poverty across most measures, but there has been a drop in the number of whānau struggling to provide the basics.

Boy and girl drawing with chalk home orphan child dream. children paint on the pavement. happy childhood on the street. isolation out.

Photo: 123RF

Stats NZ has just released the latest official child poverty figures, for the year ended June 2020.

The numbers come from the household economic survey, which had to stop collecting data when the country went into lockdown.

That means they provide a picture of child poverty before the pandemic.

Stats NZ said all nine child poverty measures showed downward trends compared to two years ago.

However, year-on-year, the changes are less significant on some measures.

While material hardship measures – which looks at the ability of families to provide essentials, such as shoes, or the ability to pay for doctor’s visits – decreased compared to 2019, low-income measures were relatively unchanged, Stats NZ said.

One in nine children were living in material hardship, down from one in eight a year earlier.

In the year ended June 2020, about one in seven children lived in households with less than 50 percent of the median equivalised disposable income before housing costs, or 14.6 percent, down slightly on the one in six reported in 2018, or 16.5 percent.

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On the after housing costs measure, 18.2 percent of children were living in poverty in 2020, compared to 22.8 percent in 2018.

The data showed that poverty rates for Māori and Pacific children were higher across almost all measures, compared with all children.

For the year ended June 2020, almost one in five Māori children lived in households experiencing material hardship, and for Pacific children this was one in four.

Māori children made up nearly half of the annual fall in the number of children in material hardship. The rates, across all other measures, remained relatively unchanged from June 2019.

For the first time, Stats NZ has also been able to report statistics for households with disabled people.

They show that disabled children and children in household where someone is disabled are more likely to be in poverty.

Nearly one in five disabled children lived in material hardship – more than double the rate of non-disabled children.

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Similarly, nearly one in five children who lived in a household where at least one person was disabled lived in material hardship.

When Jacinda Ardern came to power in 2017, she made lifting thousands of children out of poverty one of the key priorities of her prime ministership.

Child poverty reduction targets were set in law and initiatives including the Families Package, the Winter Energy Payment and the Best Start payment were rolled out, along with some changes to the welfare system and the minimum wage.

Figures for the year ended June 2019, showed some improvement in child poverty rates across seven of the nine measures – though Stats NZ said it was not statistically significant.

Despite that, prior to the pandemic, the government looked on track to hit its three and 10-year targets.

The government’s child poverty reduction targets

By 2020/21:

  • Reduce the number of children living in poverty, before housing costs, from 16 percent (2017/18) to 10 percent
  • Reduce the number of children living in poverty, after housing costs, from 23 percent to 19 percent
  • Reduce material hardship from 13 percent down to 10 percent
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By 2027/28:

  • Reduce the number of children living in poverty, before housing costs, from 16 percent (2017/18) to 5 percent
  • Reduce the number of children living in poverty, after housing costs, from 23 percent to 10 percent
  • Reduce material hardship from 13 percent down to 6 percent

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