Poverty numbers and policies

Poverty is a contentious issue in New Zealand. Even the appropriateness of the term ‘poverty’ is debated. And the numbers of people and children ‘in poverty’ vary widely.

NZ Herald editorial: Child poverty is not fixed by numbers

The total measure of children in households below 60 per cent of the median income is 295,000, which is about a quarter of all the children in New Zealand. If it is hard to believe as many as one in four children are living in such deprivation, there is a more credible survey of children’s actual conditions. It estimates 155,000 children are lacking many of the personal possessions, healthcare and housing standards every New Zealand child ought to have.

If a blunt numerical target is to guide social policy under whichever party becomes the Government next month, the figure of 155,000 would be a better one. It would invite more precisely directed programmes than a simple payment per child to all household below the adopted poverty line. The circumstances of children will vary greatly depending on whether they have wider families and on the budgeting skills, lifestyles and resources of their parents.

Labour might not believe these variables matter but if the best use is to be made of the taxpayers’ money it would to go where it is most needed and can make a difference. The “social investment” programmes the Prime Minister is advocating so earnestly in the election debates, do sound like an attempt to focus finance and social work on individuals and households with multiple problems, not just low incomes.

If the economy remains as buoyant as it has been, and generates the revenue required to boost income subsidies for all children below the poverty line, it would be a relief to all New Zealanders. Nobody wants “child poverty” in this country. But the political temptations to adopt blunt measurements and equally blunt solutions could easily leave too little money for programmes that help people to improve their lives.

DomPost Editorial: Poor biggest losers in high-stakes game

We too acknowledge National’s new-found vision, but, like Ardern, wonder why it has taken nine years, with just 17 days before the election, to express it.

The worrying news is that Ardern has also seen the need to roll the dice. Following the debate she pledged to match National’s numbers, to pull 100,000 children from poverty by 2020.

That should be good news, but it’s not: it’s a cynical card game inspired by possibly the most compelling number not mentioned during Monday night’s debate: the four percentage points separating National and Labour in Stuff’s Poll of Polls.

It’s a meaningless race to the bottom of populist politics that undermines the complexity of tackling poverty as an endemic, intergenerational issue; that reduces it to something comfortably dealt with in the space of an electoral cycle – gone by lunchtime, perhaps?

Having gone all-in with his grand pledge, he rounded on Ardern’s own weak attempts to extricate herself from the momentary brilliance of the English headlights.

The prescription, he told Ardern and the nation, was good policy that lifted incomes and tackled the “very difficult toxic mix of social issues – family violence, criminal offending and long-term welfare dependency”.

“Passing a law doesn’t get rid of child poverty,” he exclaimed.

It’s a lot more complex and difficult than can be fixed by a bit of campaign rhetoric and on the fly pledging.

33 Comments

  1. Blazer

     /  September 6, 2017

    a safe secure environment for children is paramount.Living in cars,homelessness is not a policy conducive to this,even though National thinks selling state houses ,spruiking the housing market,and poorly targeted immigration is good….for the..economy.

    • Gezza

       /  September 6, 2017

      a safe secure environment for children is paramount.

      I don’t think there’s anybody that would disagree with that. Where the difficulties seem to arise is in cases where the parent(s) is capable of producing plenty of kids but isn’t capable of providing them with a safe secure environment or with feeding & clothing & properly parenting them, & so some political parties cynically argue that other people, taxpayers are responsible for doing that.

      The problem is there’s a strong element in some cases of here’s all my kids they haven’t got anything & they’re starving – so you guys have to feed them & give them stuff. They should be your priority.

      It’s a contentious issue. I might have more to say on this later.

      • Kitty Catkin

         /  September 6, 2017

        I have mentioned the ‘budget advisor’ before who was advising women on the DPB to pop out another child every 18 months so as to keep their income going.

        I have had endless discussions with people about whether it’s a good idea to give things to children of callous parents who smoke and drink and so can’t/don’t feed and clothe their children. Oh, but it’s the children who suffer and go without. Yes, but whose selfishness is causing this ? A former Minister of Social Welfare whom I know has been privately involved with food banks and such things for a long time.He has been asked what the single common cause of this need is. His reply ‘Smoking.’

        Why not just give these people cigarettes and let them buy food ? It would be easier.

        I once did an article for a newspaper that demonstrated how much food could be bought for the price of a carton of cigarettes, They were cheaper in real terms then, and I still managed to buy enough to feed a person for a fortnight, even if there wasn’t much variety. They had to have Weetbix every morning, but too bad.

        • Blazer

           /  September 7, 2017

          I’ll call you on this nonsense.It does not add up.The benefit does not cease at…18 months.

          • Kitty Catkin

             /  September 8, 2017

            Nobody said that it did, you ass. I said that they were advised to have A NEW ONE every 18 months. This means that they (a) have the extra money from that one (b) will take a very long time before they have none the right age to let them have the DPB with no obligation to look for work. It’s cumulative. There will always be one young enough to keep the DPB going and increasing.

          • Kitty Catkin

             /  September 8, 2017

            Do read things properly before you make smart-alec responses.

            • Blazer

               /  September 8, 2017

              think before you post…’on the DPB to pop out another child every 18 months so as to keep their income going.’…they would need to pop one out as you put it ,only every 6-10 years.

            • Kitty Catkin

               /  September 8, 2017

              The advice given by the budget advisor was every 18 months. I am not that advisor. In fact, popping one out every 18 months would indeed keep their income going and rising, as the DPB gives more money for each child.

              Now do you see it ? Having one every 6-10 years would not result in the same increase in income as having one every 18 months would.

              Having one every 6-10 years would not avoid the obligation to seek work, as this is a much shorter time than that-or was.

            • Gezza

               /  September 8, 2017

              I imagine a few of them will be quite pleased to hear that Blaze! That’d take some of the pressure off. 👍🏼

            • Kitty Catkin

               /  September 8, 2017

              It’s nonsense, of course.

    • PDB

       /  September 7, 2017

      • Blazer

         /  September 7, 2017

        guess what its…2017..Rip Van W……wake up.

        • PDB

           /  September 7, 2017

          Don’t let the facts slam your ass on the way out Blazer……even less living rough in 2017 – best you go back to sleep…..

          Herald August 2017: “Japan only measures rough sleepers. According to the Otago study, New Zealand has around 1400 rough sleepers, or 0.03 per cent of the population – equivalent to Japan.”

          Take into account population increases and under National real homelessness (living rough) is even further down since 2006 in terms of %.

  2. Tipene

     /  September 6, 2017

    Aiming at something that one can’t actually fix is a fool’s paradise.

    Until there is a way that people can be protected from their own choices (which in itself would rob these same people of their personal sovereignty, which would be an unwelcome outcome and an assault on freedom and liberty), poverty is here to stay, for some, forever.

    Might as well try and eliminate air………………………..

  3. David

     /  September 6, 2017

    It would be nice if the media acknowledged all the programs the Nats have done and not limited to the 1st benefit increase in 43 years.
    If you live in a car with your children they should be taken off you until you can show you can run your own life.

    • Kitty Catkin

       /  September 6, 2017

      As the benefit is not the same as it was in the 70s, I can’t see where this ‘no rise in 43 years’ (regardless of who was Government) comes from ! Nobody could live on the same amount now as they could in 1974.

      • Trevors_elbow

         /  September 6, 2017

        Real dollar change not nominal dollar change

        • Kitty Catkin

           /  September 7, 2017

          Eh ?

          • Gezza

             /  September 8, 2017

            I think he means there have obviously been dollar increases in real terms, but not in relative terms, relative in this case meaning considered in relation or in proportion to something else like average wages, as opposed to whanau.

    • Blazer

       /  September 6, 2017

      would you still be able to live in the car…or could you do a course to become a…forex gambler and then get your children..back?

      • Gezza

         /  September 8, 2017

        Probably be a good idea to do the course first, & then when you’ve got an employed, stable, partner & a few pfennigs – to have the children then? At least by then you might have a much bigger car?

  4. Kabull

     /  September 6, 2017

    David – which is exactly what the Nats are now doing. They are working individually with the homeless to find solutions, rather than just tipping money into their hands. I gather that they have resettled all the homeless in Hamilton and (uncertain) Tauranga, and are applying the same approach now in Auckland.

  5. Poverty is a contentious issue not just in New Zealand, but almost everywhere

    • Blazer

       /  September 6, 2017

      poverty in wealthy nations is a very poor…show.

      • I get but it’s relative tho

        • Kitty Catkin

           /  September 6, 2017

          My income is far below the poverty line, and last year was much lower.

          I am neither starving nor homeless and not in rags (Farmers have wonderful clearance racks where one can buy really good clothes for a fraction of the original price; I bought a lovely dress for $15 a while ago, ex $90)

          Opshopping has not only become acceptable, it’s trendy. I take donations in and often see very nice as-new clothes and well-dressed people buying them.

  6. Kitty Catkin

     /  September 6, 2017

    I wonder how many of those crying poverty are living on less than 1/6 of the average income as I was for at least 12 months. Try running heaters on that. There were mornings when the house temperature was in low single figures.

    • Gezza

       /  September 6, 2017

      Average single or average family income?

      • Kitty Catkin

         /  September 6, 2017

        dunno, just average. Some things are the same no matter how many people are in a house; lights, phone….but I don’t think that other people are under any obligation to provide anything but essentials, and really, they aren’t OBLIGED to provide those. It’s a privilege, not a right.

        • Kitty Catkin

           /  September 6, 2017

          The average income was $1500 in round figures, I was on $209 a week.

  7. There’s a song out now about NZ’s decent into the third world, or is it back to the middle ages? Released to coincide with the election:

    Posted here: https://yournz.org/2017/09/07/song-for-the-campaign-serf-city/

  1. Song for the campaign – Serf City | Your NZ