Child Poverty in NZ

What are the facts in New Zealand?

290,000 NZ children - around 27 per cent of kiwi kids - are currently living in income poverty.*

UNICEF defines child poverty as children being deprived of the material, spiritual and emotional resources needed to survive, develop and thrive. This leaves them unable to enjoy their rights, achieve their full potential or participate as full and equal members of society.

135,000 New Zealand children (12%) are living in material hardship. That means 135,000 New Zealand children are living in households without seven or more items considered necessary for their wellbeing. 290,000 (27%) New Zealand kids are living beneath the income poverty line, leaving many unable to experience the basics that many of us take for granted.

* According to the 2017 Technical Report from the Child Poverty Monitor

What does income poverty mean for our kids?

Living in income poverty can mean homelessness, not having access to healthy food like fruits and vegetables, going to school hungry, or coming home to a cold damp house to sleep in a shared bed. It can mean missing out on activities like learning a musical instrument or playing sport, or even having a birthday party.

If a child's living below the poverty line, it means they are living in households where income is less than 60% of the median household income, after housing costs are taken into consideration.

Social exclusion as a result of income 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.

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 with income poverty means having a higher risk of heart disease, alcohol and drug addiction, obesity and poor dental health.

What about child rights?

New Zealand has committed to upholding child rights.

As a signatory to the United Nations Conventions on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), 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.

Article 23: Right to receive care

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.

Article 24: Right to be healthy

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.

Article 27: Right to a good standard of living

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.

Article 26: Right to receive financial help

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.
Read more about the rights that every child has.
child rights

What are the costs of child poverty?

Child poverty is a reality in New Zealand and it’s costing us dearly.

As much as $10 billion of public money is required every year to deal with the negative consequences of child poverty. Independent research has shown that three-quarters of that cost is avoidable.  

Children living in income poverty develop 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. 

Failure to alleviate child poverty now will severely damage New Zealand’s long-term prosperity. 

Something has to change, because if we leave this problem unsolved, we are risking the very future of our nation.

What can we do?

We have to push towards implementing the Sustainable Development Goals.

New Zealand is a UN member state, and that means we are committed to implementing the UN's Sustainable Development Goals. One of the first goals calls for a reduction in children living in poverty 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. 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, and the families they live with, the New Zealand Government can lighten the burden of child poverty. 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.

* According to the 2017 Technical Report from the Child Poverty Monitor