From 90% extreme poverty to 10%

The Communist Party took over China in 1949.

  • In 1981 90% of Chinese lived in ‘extreme poverty’.
  • In 1976 Mao Tse Tung died.
  • In 1978 Deng Xiaoping took power and started major economic reforms.
  • In the 1990s China’s economic performance pulled an estimated 150 million peasants out of poverty.
  • In 2010 10% of Chinese lived in ‘extreme poverty’.

This has changed as China has rapidly transitioned between socialism to a capitalist/market driven economy, just about entirely in the era of ‘neoliberalism’.

10% of 1.3 billion people is still a lot of people in extreme poverty, over 100 million people, but it is a huge improvement in living standards for Chinese people overall.

 

ChinaPoverty

Source – Share of the population living in extreme poverty, 1981 to 2010

Extreme poverty is defined as living with an income of less than 1.90$ per day. All incomes are adjusted for inflation over time and for price differences between countries and expressed in 2011 PPP international dollars.

Change has been less dramatic elsewhere but the move out of poverty has also been significant.

  • India – from 53% to 21%
  • Bangladesh from 70% to 44%
  • Uganda from 95% (1988) to 33%
  • Vietnam from 49% (1992) to 4%

 

A steady hand and inspiration to alleviate poverty

There has been a lot of political and media pressure put on the Government in the weeks running up to next week’s budget. But the Government will already have decided on how it is going to gather and distribute taxes.

Stacey Kirk suggests that a continued steady hand is required, but with some added inspiration on how to deal with real issues like housing and health that are adversely affecting the lower end of our society.

A steady hand with a magic wand, needed to alleviate poverty in Government’s 8th budget

It’s no coincidence political campaigning on behalf of New Zealand’s poorest has reached a zenith in the weeks leading to the budget. 

But that doesn’t change the fact people are living in cars, children are unable to learn at school, and many families struggle to pay their power bills, let alone rent.

And this all under a Government which has made it a priority to address rising inequality in New Zealand. 

It’s a little unfair to suggest it hasn’t made a difference in an incredibly complex area.

During Bill English’s seventh budget last year, the Government delved deep into left territory to surprise everyone with a $25 increase to welfare payments for families with children – the first rise beyond inflation since 1977. 

Aside from the added political bonus of leaving an opposition near-silenced on budget day, since coming into effect this year, it has made a difference to families. 

And it definitely wasn’t money for nothing. The Government made it clear it expected people – including single parents – to work more hours, and boost budgeting skills.

The year prior, free doctors visits for under 13s was a direct appeal to struggling families. 

In the week to Thursday, the Government has to show a steady hand at the till, as it were. It also needs an inspired idea. 

John Key has set a course of lifting families out of poverty, so it’ll be those left behind on which the Government is measured. 

Don’t expect a mass of money throwing (and Labour and Greens will have their “not enough” tweets and bleats prepared) , but there should be something to try and close the gap between poor and the better off – by lifting the poorest without dragging down the rest.

Understanding Poverty in New Zealand

AW has pointed at an excellent report on poverty in New Zealand, written by the New Zealand Initiative (Bryce Wilkinson and Jenesa Jeram).

No matter what your views on whether we have poverty here or not, what sort of poverty we might have or how many people are suffering from poverty this is a worthwhile contribution to the discussion.

Poorly Understood

The State of Poverty in New Zealand

Are more than a quarter of a million New Zealand children living in poverty? Big numbers make shocking headlines, and invite questions about New Zealanders’ empathy.

This report argues that such claims are hyperbolic and are potentially counterproductive in influencing public opinion. Ministry of Social Development estimates show that different measures of poverty yield markedly different results.

Fewer than half of children in households experiencing such relatively low incomes are also experiencing material hardship under the ‘standard’ European Union deprivation measure. Moreover, some children in higher income households are experiencing such material hardship.

Even so, far too many children, and indeed adults, are living in miserable circumstances, despite massive efforts and spending by well-meaning and untiring public and private organisations.

However, as public opinion appears to appreciate, earned income can be low relative to expenses for many reasons, from unlucky circumstances to poor choices. Low earned income and unaffordable housing can be caused in part by government policies that limit access to jobs and quality education, that unduly raise housing costs, or that hold back productivity growth.

Problems of such complexity emphasize the need for nuanced responses, based on specific knowledge of individual circumstances, by both government and nongovernmental bodies.

This report outlines the state of poverty in New Zealand, providing the basic facts and tracing out the history of government and private support for preventing and alleviating hardship. It will form the basis for The Initiative’s coming report on welfare policy.

If you want to understand about poverty in New Zealand this is an excellent resource.

POORLY UNDERSTOOD THE STATE OF POVERTY IN NEW ZEALAND (PDF)

Rapidly declining poverty

Poverty levels in New Zealand are often talked about, and disputed. What shouldn’t be disputed is a significant decline in the percentage of people living in poverty in the world over the last 200 years.

Rapid population growth meant that the number of people living in poverty increased – until recently, when that began a decline as well, although there still about a billion people living in ‘extreme poverty’.

Our World in Data has details on poverty levels.

Almost all people in pre-modern times lived in poverty. This has changed dramatically over the last few decades; more and more people have left the extreme poverty of the past behind.

In 1820, the vast majority of people lived in extreme poverty and only a tiny elite enjoyed higher standards of living. Economic growth over the last 200 years completely transformed our world, and poverty fell continuously over the last two centuries. This is even more remarkable when we consider that the population increased 7-fold over the same time (which in itself is a consequence of increasing living standards and decreasing mortality – especially of infants and children – around the world).

In a world without economic growth, an increase in the population would result in less and less income for everyone, and a 7-fold increase would have surely resulted in a world in which everyone is extremely poor. Yet, the exact opposite happened. In a time of unprecedented population growth we managed to lift more and more people out of poverty!

PovertyDecliningPercentage

Even in 1981 more than 50% of the world population lived in absolute poverty – this is now down to about 14%. This is still a large number of people, but the change is happening incredibly fast. For our present world, the data tells us that poverty is now falling more quickly than ever before in world history.

The first of the Millenium Development Goals set by the UN was to halve the population living in absolute poverty between 1990 and 2015. Rapid economic growth meant that this goal  – arguably the most important – was achieved (5 years ahead of time) in 2010.

The number of people living in extreme poverty increased until the 1970s but since then has decreased with increasing rapidity. People who oppose neoliberalism say they want to return things to how they were before the 1980s.

PovertyDecliningAbsolute

There is still a large poverty problem – about a billion people still live in extreme poverty. But if the recent trend continues this should reduce significantly and quickly

A primary reason for reduced poverty is economic growth.

In 1820 only a few places in the world achieved economic growth – and only to a rather small extent. The progress of the last 200 years was achieved as economic growth brought higher incomes to more and more people in the world.

A correlation between he relation between average income and the share of the population that lives in absolute poverty suggests that in a society with an average income around 10,000 International Dollar, absolute poverty is abolished.

Source: Max Roser (2016) – ‘World Poverty’. Published online at OurWorldInData.org. Retrieved from: http://ourworldindata.org/data/growth-and-distribution-of-prosperity/world-poverty/

The current Purchasing Power Parity conversion factor for New Zealand is 1.47 so 10,000 international dollars equates to $NZ14,700 average income (source)

 

Must work harder Anthony

Anthony Robins (at The Standard) has praised Lizzie Marvelly’s  poverty piece at The Herald and makes a suggestion to the media – while he claims to be an academic he wants them to publish things he agrees with (he calls that fact-based narrative) and to not publish things he disagrees with (he calls them execrable nonsense and isolated and inconsistent snippets).

He does this in a footnote to What to do about poverty (and a suggestion to the media).

Footnote (I’m an academic, I love footnotes!) on a suggestion to the media. Almost everything you publish is a piece in isolation. There is a better way.

Take The Herald for example. You publish Marvelly’s piece on poverty today, just a week after (re)publishing Whyte’s excerable nonsense. If you had any kind of overview / foundation of established fact / ongoing context on the topic of poverty you wouldn’t be publishing such wildly inconsistent pieces (the Whyte article would have been rejected as the nonsense that it was).

Take climate change as another example, no responsible media should be publishing denier nonsense these days.

Now you (the responsible media) might say that you’re offering a range of opinions. But when some opinions are clearly and provably nonsense that excuse is just an abdication of responsibility. It’s laziness, clickbait, and harmful.

I guess I’m asking for context and sanity checking in the media. Fact-based narrative instead of isolated and inconsistent snippets. Harder work, but much better for everyone.

So Robins praises Marvelly, who shames and guilts anyone who won’t go along of her framing of ‘poverty’ in New Zealand and her vague suggested solutions.

And he wants the media to reject opinions that don’t fit with his views. That certainly isn’t better for everyone.

It’s harder work providing balance and a wide range of views, even if they might not be the same as your own. And much better for a relatively free and democratic society.

Footnote

Related to this are comments by ‘weka’ at The Standard.

On the Open Mike discussion on Marvelly:

The other problem I have with this is that it allows the deserving poor memes to continue which in turn allows the neoliberalis to keep treating so many people like shit.

I get why child poverty is focussed on. For socially intelligent people, if you address child poverty you are in fact addressing family poverty (not so much for the neoliberals and socially inept), and that in turn creates more healthy societies.

‘Socially intelligent’ (people she agrees with) versus socially inept (people she disagrees with).

And in response to Robins’ post:

Good punchy post r0b.

Re the footnote, does this mean the standard will no longer be publishing comments that are AGW denialist or poverty denialist? I hope so (although I appreciate the work involved may not make that possible).

She wants even more censorship at The Standard than Robins suggests for the media.

And Wayne Mapp takes Robins to task:

This item by Anthony Robins seems more like a request for Herald censorship than having a contest of ideas. It seems that you would prefer that arguments and positions you don’t like not to be published.

On climate change, while i accept that it is happening and is manmade, there does seems to be a genuine scientific debate about the rate of change. Surely a legitimate matter for the media to report.

Whyte’s piece was clearly an headed as an opinion piece, and not from a regular Herald columnist. His basic idea, on the best way to measure poverty, is clearly not nonsense. There is a genuine debate about whether poverty should be measured on whether a child is deprived of things that we see as essential in New Zealand, or whether a percentage of average incomes will in essence give the same answer.

If you disagree with his theme so strongly, submit your own item to the Herald.

More broadly modern media in all its forms allows any views to be aired. Or should these debates be confined to new Media, and that old media be tightly regulated. Just writing that sentence shows the impossibility of that. I for instance subscribe to The Spectator. There would not be one view expressed in The Spectator that you would agree with.

So what? That is what free speech means.

But forums like The Standard aren’t so interested in free speech. They seem want to want free speech as long as you are from the labour left and don’t threaten their opinions with alternative views or awkward questions.

 

 

 

 

What to do about guilting and poverty

The poverty campaign continees today in the Herald: Lizzie Marvelly: The only debate is what to do about child poverty. Who is Lizzie Marvelly?

One of the best things to do about ‘poverty’ in New Zealand is to stop calling it poverty.

There are serious issues involving deprivation, hardship,  income and social inequities.

But in trying to frame it as poverty, in particular child poverty, campaigners have alienated people that would otherwise be more than happy to see real problems dealt with better by the Government.

Anti-poverty campaigners have overstated their case by using a term that is widely seen as inappropriate in New Zealand. They keep using a Godwin equivalent term and fail to see that it is counter-productive to their cause.

Marvelly says:

Poverty isn’t generally associated with the Kiwi childhood.

She’s right, and that’s the problem with trying to address it.

I… wonder whether the people asserting that poverty isn’t an issue in New Zealand have ever left the comfortable bounds of their own privileged neighbourhoods. I wonder whether they realise just how ignorant they are.

Marvelly is the one who is ignorant, of the problem she is a part of. Most people realise there are social and income and would like to see more done about them.

But they don’t like being preached ‘poverty’ and they are hate being guilted by those who are promoting a misguided agenda.

What is poverty? It’s a question that’s been given a considerable amount of airtime. While a number of thresholds and frameworks have been suggested, for a certain group of people, none will ever be good enough, for if we accept the validity of a measure we are then duty bound to accept what it is telling us.

That sounds like nonsense.

In a country where an unacceptable number of children live below the much-debated poverty line, we are becoming accustomed to hearing the lives of Kiwi kids and their families being thrown around as political hot potatoes.

While we can argue about poverty, its definition, origins, and how it is conceptualised until we’re blue in the face, such meaningless politicking does nothing to show people the reality of poverty.

But the reality of ‘poverty’ in New Zealand is that it is a term that is counter productive to addressing real problems.

The idea that people living in poverty are somehow to blame for their fate is attractive if one wants to absolve oneself from any sense of responsibility, but it is a notion that I find deeply sad.

I find it sad that Marvelly blasts anyone who is repelled by her own blame game.

When did we become so hardened and self-centred that we began to believe that those poorer than us deserve their suffering? When did we become so divorced from our own communities that we stopped caring about the families around us?

She is making things up about anyone who won’t buy into her narrative. This is not going to win over any support. It alienates people who care but don’t like being abused.

Our political parties found that they could shelve their disparate ideologies to sort out superannuation … why can’t they show our youngest and most vulnerable citizens the same level of care?

Mravelly must have missed all the party arguments over how to deal with the escalating cost of superannuation  over many years.

The wellbeing of our children should never be up for political debate.Nor should we feel disempowered.

The wellbeing of our children is our our responsibility – ‘our’ meaning parents and wider families.

Does “should never be up for political debate” mean that parents and families should be able to ask for and get whatever they want from the Government without any debate?

What the heck does ‘feel disempowered’ mean?

There are so many things we could do to make the lives of Kiwi kids better: feeding kids in school, bringing back a means-tested child benefit like the one scrapped in the “mother of all budgets”, requiring a warrant of fitness for rental properties to prevent children growing up in cold, damp, leaky houses, and simply helping out in our neighbourhoods.

The first step, however, is for us to look out into our communities and really see other people, to realise that even in the most privileged areas, poverty is just five minutes down the road. It’s not a conspiracy. It’s real.

The first step is to drop the ‘poverty’ framing. It repels rather than attracts support.

The second step is to stop guilting and blaming everyone who doesn’t accept the framing of people like Marvelly.

And then we need identify issues and problems intelligently and responsibly, and consider what might be the most effective way of dealing with them with limited and competing resources.

Poverty not black and whyte

Poverty in New Zealand is examined again, this time by ex ACT leader Jamie Whyte in Poverty statistics suffer from paucity of common sense (NZ Herald).

There is no poverty in New Zealand. Misery, depravity, hopelessness, yes; but no poverty.

The poorest in New Zealand are the unemployed. They receive free medical care, free education for their children and enough cash to pay for basic food, clothing and (subsidised) housing. Most have televisions, refrigerators and ovens. Many even own cars. That isn’t poverty.

Why then do we keep hearing that more than 20 per cent of New Zealand children live in poverty? Those who tell us this do not mean by “poverty” what most people do. They have a statistical definition: you live in poverty if your household’s income is less than 50 per cent of the national median (after tax and housing costs, and adjusted for the number of adults and children in the household).

For example, the Herald recently published an article by Susan St John, spokeswoman for the Child Poverty Action Group, that claimed 220,000 children live in poverty because they “fall under the stringent 50 per cent after-housing-costs poverty line”.

Alas, the measure is not stringent; it is ridiculous.

Whyte goes on the explain why he thinks the claims of poverty in New Zealand are ridiculous.

Why would anyone use such a preposterous definition of poverty? Interviewed byThe Guardian, British poverty campaigner Peter Kenway defended it on the grounds that “it is a simple and reliable statistic which has played a huge part in propelling poverty up the policy agenda.”

It is far from reliable, and what it “pushes up the policy agenda” is not really poverty but inequality, which, in rich countries, is not the same thing. Poverty statistics based on this measure are misleading anyone who believes them.

Or the so called poverty statistics are being misused by people promoting an agenda with hints of socialism.

David Farrar agrees at Kiwiblog in Whyte on poverty.

And there is both strong criticism and agreement in a discussion at The Standard.

Weka:

Good grief. Couldn’t get past the first paragraph. Since when has there been free ‘medical’ care in NZ? What a dick.

Quite a bit of medical care is free for quite a few people in New Zealand.

Lanthanide:

Looks like a pretty reasonable article, to me. He eventually does at the end say the statistic is measuring inequality, not poverty, which I think he should have mentioned much earlier (short attention spans and all that). Also his sudden overuse of the word ‘pauper’ was strange.

Yes, Whyte’s repeated use of the term ‘pauper’ was odd, it seems as out of place in a New Zealand context as ‘poverty’.

This exchange illustrates part of the problem with the poverty campaigning.

maui:

I think what the poverty campaigners are trying to highlight is the people going without proper housing and proper food (amount and quality). In the 1st and 3rd world’s I would say this is a pretty good definition of poverty.

Lanthanide:

Then they should talk about that, instead of talking about the number of people who live in a household with less than 50% of the median household income.

But even defining poverty as “going without proper housing and proper food” can invite debate over what is judged proper housing and food.

The poverty debate is far from black and whyte.

Poverty is a State of Mind

Guest post by Alan Wilkinson

How to define poverty in developed nations is a subject of much earnest angst and statistical controversy.  The dictionary definition such as “The state of being extremely poor” invites the question of whether, in our typically mixed capitalist/socialist states with welfare safety nets, anyone really qualifies compared with the worst of the undeveloped world.

To meet that challenge, various “internally relative” economic measures are promoted – such as the current “60% of the median household income” which is currently popular in New Zealand and has been adopted by the Commissioner for Children.  This kind of measure is then extrapolated into statistical measures of inequality based on distributions of income and/or wealth within these countries.

Finally, these statistical measures of inequality have been compared across nations in studies analyzing whether inequality, changes or measures to deal with it affect economic growth.

Further complicating the definition are the historic improvements in wealth, health and standard of living across developed nations.   The elderly are inclined to scoff at claims of hardship such as cold, uninsulated houses and lack of heating or appliances compared with the Spartan homes of their youth.

Finally, there is the issue of lifestyle choice.  Some in wealthy nations may choose to live a simple, non-materialistic life perhaps living off the land in an isolated rural or island location.  By economic measures of income and wealth they may be judged as poverty stricken, but in reality their lives may be satisfying and even idyllic.  In less extreme examples, very many will choose an occupation and way of life that gives them freedom and less stress than an alternative which may provide a higher and/or more risky income or potential wealth.

So we must come to the conclusion that economic measures are a very inadequate assessment of poverty and are never likely to produce agreement on their relevance or effective action to make improvements.  That leads to thinking about the real causes of poverty hardship in our developed societies, particularly as they affect children.  These are not hard to find.  By the time they begin school at age 5 there are huge differences in the abilities and experiences of most poor vs wealthy children.  Not only do these never recover but they widen as children grow older.  The consequence is that these poor children have drastically reduced options in life and vastly less chance of economic success.

In short, real poverty is a state of mind that cripples all future prospects.  Worse, it transmits powerfully from one generation to the next.  This is the curse of stupid beliefs manifesting in destructive behaviours with many aspects.   These include:

  1. Disbelief in education
  2. Belief in violence to solve conflicts
  3. Valuing power over kindness
  4. Disregard for personal or private property
  5. Lack of trust and disregard for the value of trust
  6. Disregard for sexual integrity
  7. Disbelief in reliability and honesty
  8. Disbelief in goal setting or working to achieve goals
  9. Disbelief in investing in the future
  10. Belief in instant gratification
  11. Disrespect for self and everyone else
  12. Rejection of individual and family responsibilities

That is real poverty:  permanent, pervasive and self-perpetuating.  Other people can be economically poor, for example many recent immigrants or young people, but with the right ingrained beliefs that will only be temporary.

Just as individual poverty is best assessed on the quality of the individual’s minds, so it is with nations.  An economically poor nation with good beliefs will not stay poor and will not feel poor.  Honest Government maintaining peace and supporting education, personal freedom and free and open markets will create wealth and prosperity.  The transitions in Asia since WW2 demonstrate the possibilities.  Once again, the personal stupid beliefs above manifest in a country’s leadership or in any significant portion of the population are a recipe for national poverty.  So too are religious, racial and tribal hatreds and conflicts.

In summary then, poverty is best assessed on the basis of the above beliefs and consequential behaviours.  That leads to the conclusion that poverty is best addressed by changing those beliefs and cannot be fixed simply by redistribution of income or wealth.  Almost certainly doing the latter alone will merely facilitate greater and faster spread of the destructive beliefs that comprise real poverty.

More children “in poverty”

The Children’s Commissioner’s says that Nearly one third of children live in poverty – report.

Child poverty rates are on the up and nearly 30 percent of children now live without the basics, according to a new report by the Children’s Commissioner.

305,000 New Zealand children now live in poverty – 45,000 more than a year ago.

Sadly that’s more likely to invoke shrugs of indifference rather than outrage.

A major problem is that this is a statistical measure. While it points to real and serious issues most people’s perception of poverty is quite different to how they see New Zealand standards of living.

The report says nearly one in three children now live in poverty – defined as being in a household earning less than 60 percent of the median income after housing costs. Fifteen percent live in a cold house, lack decent clothing and go without fruit and vegetables.

By all those measures but one I grew up in poverty. I had plenty of fruit and more vegetables than I wanted, because we grew our own and swapped with neighbours. But money, lack of clothes and footwear and a cold house were a way of life for me.

Children’s Commissioner Russell Wills said the report was not aimed at policy makers.

“The public of New Zealand needs to understand the impact of poverty on children,” he said.

“The better our collective understanding and the more support there is to invest in these kids, the more support governments will have to invest in these children. So that’s the change we want to see.”

Dr Wills said the government was making some good moves, like insulating more homes and increasing benefits.

While the report did not make any formal recommendations, he said the government needed a more overarching plan to deal with child poverty.

“Each of these ad hoc things the government does doesn’t add up to a greater whole, and that’s why we need a plan.

“We need to set targets to reduce the number of children living in poverty.”

The Commissioner’s report also pushed the blame for child poverty off individual parents.

Lack of money and poor standards of living are real problems for many people.

But the poverty issue as framed is unlikely to outrage or prompt pressure to do much about it.

Most people don’t liken New Zealand poverty to international poverty.

The ‘collapse in poverty’ and ‘the Great Migration’

According to a report at The Telegraph a collapse in world wide poverty is feeding a ‘Great Migration’ that is likely to last for decades.

Prepare yourselves: The Great Migration will be with us for decades

It is not war, but money, that drives people abroad. That is not going to change any time soon

War must be a factor in prompting people to migrate. But it’s also true that many of those migrating by sea and by land from Africa and the Middle East into Europe must have money to finance their movements, whether they pay people smugglers or do it on their own.

When the crew of HMS Bulwark first fished immigrants out of the Mediterranean, they were expecting to find the world’s hungry, wretched and destitute. Instead, they found them relatively healthy, well-dressed and carrying mobile phones and credit cards, which they intended to use upon arrival in Italy.

The military learnt then what politicians are only slowly beginning to work out – that this is not simply a refugee crisis. The world’s poor are on the move because they’re not quite so poor as they used to be, and can afford to travel. A great migration has begun, and it could be with us for decades.

A report on the news right now – there has been an influx of 20,000 refugees/migrants onto one Greek island alone, Lesbos. “As soon as people are processed more arrive”.

This Great Migration was not expected because, for years, politicians believed that there would be less of it as poor countries became richer. Give aid, not shelter, ran the argument. “As the benefits of economic growth are spread in Mexico,” Bill Clinton once assured Americans, “there will be less illegal immigration because more Mexicans will be able to support their children by staying home.”

When José Manuel Barroso led the European Commission, he made the same argument: third world development will tackle the “root causes” of the problem. In fact, the reverse is true.

Never has there been less hardship; since Clinton’s day, the share of the population in extreme poverty (surviving on less than $1.25 a day) has halved. Never has there been less violence: the Syrian conflict is an exception in a period of history where war has waned. It might not feel like it, but the world is more prosperous and peaceful than at any time in human history – yet the number of emigrants stands at a record high. But there is no paradox. As more people have the money to move, more are doing so – and at extraordinary personal risk.

So the Great Migration is a side-effect of perhaps the greatest success of our times: the collapse in global poverty. The Washington-based Center for Global Development recently set this out, in a study drawing on more than a thousand national censuses over five decades.

If you misjudge the refugee crisis, you incubate a political crisis: this is the lesson that David Cameron has learnt.

We’ve seen similar here over the past week.

Efforts intended to help can end up causing harm, costing more lives. Since the Italian navy decided to send rescue missions to the Mediterranean, the number of people making the crossing (and perishing) has trebled.

Doubtless Angela Merkel meant well when she invited every Syrian to apply for asylum in Germany. But she will be toasted by the new breed of people traffickers, who will now have far more families to extort and leave stranded in Budapest or pack into boats on the coast of Libya.

Allowing and aiding mass migration encourages more of it. The Syrian migration may be only just cranking up.

So there is a growing dilemma – propsective migrants will have been encouraged by the surge in refugees successfully breaking through borders in Europe.

The Great Migration is a 21st century problem, far bigger than Syria and bigger than the authorities in Brussels seem able to comprehend. To panic now, as Mrs Merkel is doing, will just bring more to panic about. The solutions of the last century – refugee camps, or the notion that you can stem the flow of migrants with foreign aid – need to be abandoned, and a new agenda needs to be forged. Europe, in short, needs to begin a new conversation.

It’s a conversation we should also have in New Zealand. Our geographic isolation makes ikt far easier for us to control how many migrants make it here. But the ‘humanitarian’ and political pressure to take may more migrants has significant implications for New Zealand’s future.

A photograph of a drowned child is heartbreaking, but should not change policy: a botched response can lead to many more dead children. Hundreds of Yemeni children will likely starve this winter, victims of its civil war – we won’t see the pictures, so we’re unlikely to see anyone petitioning Parliament about them. But it’s no less of a tragedy.

Rather than media driven “we must do much more right now” perhaps we should be looking at how ‘the Great Migration’ may impact on us in New Zealand over the next few years and the next few decades.

It could have much more impact here than any climate change.