Should the voting age be lowered to 16?

Children’s Commissioner Judge Andrew Becroft has called on politicians to lead a nationwide discussion on lowering the voting age to 16.

Stuff:  Children’s Commissioner calls for discussion on lowering voting age to 16

Judge Andrew Becroft mooted the proposal at Parliament on Wednesday, when he appeared in front of the MPs on the Social Services Select Committee and said those teens would be “up for the responsibility”.

“I’m calling for a genuine discussion,” he said.

“All that I have seen about our democratic system, shows that those that are least involved and invested in it are our young. The lowest voting turnout is the 18-29 age group, we’ve got to do better.

I don’t know what effect lowering the voting age would have on the poor turnout of the 18-20 age group. Perhaps young people generally aren’t very interested in voting.

“I think provided it went hand-in-hand at good civics education, with a commitment to teach about the operation of Government, how kids can be involved, what voting means, everything I’ve seen indicates that 16 and 17-year-olds will be up for that responsibility.”

I presume that the civics education would be via schools – could teachers be relied on to teach children about politics impartially?

Becroft said a discussion was the best place to start.

“Something like [voting], which is fundamental to our way of doing, I’d rather it was done by a serious national discussion that was begun by MPs, community groups and school principals, and it would give everybody a chance to involve themselves.

“And of course there are disadvantages – 16 and 17-year-olds are still developing, there is much for them to learn. But they’re equally capable of expressing views and thinking about our future in encouraging and quite sophisticated ways.”

Becroft said children under 18 made up 23 per cent of New Zealand’s population however, but had no other way of influencing policy.

He isn’t proposing that that whole 23% of the population had the vote, just 3% of it.

“If they voted and had a lobby, I’m quite convinced that our policy for under 18-year-olds would significantly improve.

New Zealand led the world in how it cared for its aged population, with a universal superannuation scheme that was not means tested. However depravation rates between those under 18 and those over 65 were one of the worst in the world, according to OECD statistics.

“Some of that is because the elderly are deserving of our support and should be prioritised, but they have a vote and an influence as well.

“Children don’t have that. If 16 and 17-year-olds voted, you can guarantee there’d be a change.”

Yes, but what sort of a change?

Perhaps school children could lobby on improving schools and education – would teachers lobby against that?

I have no view on whether the voting age should be lowered to 16, or to 14, or at all, but having a discussion on it won’t do any harm.

Perhaps 16-18 year olds should be asked whether they want to be able to vote or not – they could vote on it.

Slight drop in NZ child ‘poverty’

There has been a drop of 1% of NZ children measured to be in ‘poverty’.

RNZ: Number of children in poverty dropping, but still severe – report

The Child Poverty Monitor, released today, revealed 290,000 children up to the age of 17 are living in homes where money is tight and 135,000 are lacking basic items.

I’m surprised there aren’t more in households “where money is tight”. Money was always tight in the home I grew up in, and it was usually fairly tight in the home my children grew up in.

There has been a one-percent drop in the number of children living in poverty in the past year.

That’s a bare minimum change, but at least it’s in the right direction.

The Children’s Commissioner Andrew Becroft said it’s one of many small steps needed to wipe out child poverty.

He added that he was encouraged by the previous government’s commitment to child poverty measures, as well as the Labour-led Government’s proposed Families Package, Best Start, and increases to Paid Parental Leave will make a real difference.

So not some praise for the last Government.

 Child Poverty Monitor: 2017 Technical Report

Key Points

“Poverty is not just about having “less than” it is about “not having enough” 6

Child poverty measures

Income poverty

The number and proportion of dependent 0–17 year olds living in income-poor households increased significantly between 1988 and 1992, and these figures remain high.

The number and proportion of dependent 0–17 year olds living in households with the most severe income poverty have not declined since 2012.

To meet the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal target New Zealand must achieve at least a 50% reduction from 2015 levels in all indicators of income poverty by 2030.

  • In 2016, 27% of dependent 0–17 year olds were living in households with equivalised incomes below 60% of the contemporary median income after housing costs, approximately 290,000 children and young people.
  • Using a more severe poverty threshold, 19% of dependent 0–17 year olds were living in households with equivalised incomes below 50% of the contemporary median income after housing costs in 2016, approximately 210,000 children and young people. Thirteen percent of dependent 0–17 year olds were living in households with the very lowest incomes, below 40% of contemporary median after housing costs, approximately 140,000 children and young people.
  • Using a fixed line indicator, 20% of dependent 0–17 year olds were living in households with equivalised incomes below 60% of the 2007 median income after housing costs, approximately 220,000 children and young people.
  • Using a more severe fixed-line indicator, 7% of dependent 0–17 year olds were living in households with equivalised incomes below 50% of the 2007 median income before housing costs, approximately 75,000 children and young people. With inclusion of housing costs 14% of dependent 0–17 year olds were living in households with equivalised incomes below 50% of the 2007 median income after housing costs, approximately 155,000 children and young people.

Material hardship

In 2016 the New Zealand Household economic survey included child-specific items for the first time. Over half of New Zealand 6–17 year olds experienced no lacks in 12 selected child-specific items.

  • Among the 20 percent of 6–17 year olds living in households with the highest levels of material hardship, 42% experienced restrictions in 2 or more items; 28% in 3 or more and 19% in 4 or more. The restrictions most commonly experienced were lack of good access at home to a computer and internet for homework (33%), lack of two pairs of shoes in good condition and suitable for daily activities for each child (23%), involvement in sport had to be limited “a lot” (20%), lack of fresh fruit and vegetables daily (21%) and lack of a meal with meat, fish or chicken (or vegetarian equivalent) at least each second day (20%).
  • These restrictions were experienced even more strongly among the ten percent of children living in households experiencing the most severe material hardship. In this group 49% of children lacked 2 or more of the 12 items; 41% lacked 3 or more; 29% lacked 4 or more.
  • The 2016 household economic survey also included the general household items used to construct a material hardship time series.
  • Since 2015 there has been a slight decline in the number and proportion of 0–17 year olds living in households experiencing forced lacks in seven or more essential items listed in DEP-17, and in households experiencing forced lacks in nine or more essential items.

    In 2016 12% of 0–17 year olds lived in households experiencing forced lacks of seven or more essential items, approximately 135,000 children and young people.

  • Using an indicator of more severe material hardship, 6% of 0–17 year olds lived in households experiencing forced lacks of nine or more essential items, approximately 70,000 children and young people.
  • To meet the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal target New Zealand must achieve at least a 50% reduction from 2015 levels in all indicators of material hardship by 2030.
  • If New Zealand meets the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal target of reducing material hardship levels to 50% of 2015 national measures, the percentage of children will reduce to 7% in material hardship and 4% in severe material hardship by 2030.

Persistent poverty

The lack of longitudinal data about New Zealand does not have a current longitudinal survey that collects income data from the same households over time. This is a serious lack in official data to measure indicators of income poverty.

The material hardship list: