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Poverty in NZ

Child Poverty: Real Action, Real Change

empty purseParents know best what their kids need, and ensuring their income is adequate allows them to get more fresh food, warm clothes, heating for the house, and enable children to participate in normal things like school trips, swimming lessons, music lessons and other educational opportunities. The government doesn’t need more cumbersome programs to deliver support, just give the parents tools and resources to help their kids thrive.

All the available data internationally shows that, with few exceptions, parents in low income households prioritise the needs of their children.

Research published by Superu (formerly the Families Commission) shows that:

  • Making ends meet is stressful and requires planning, time and effort.
  • Families often go without, for example by skipping meals and by children missing out on opportunities.
  • Parents prioritise spending on accommodation, power, food and transport.

Parents want to do their best for their children, both in terms of care and providing material resources.

When these parents have additional income it is the needs of children which are given first priority.

Moreover, New Zealand expenditure data shows that low income and beneficiary households spend less on alcohol, drugs, tobacco and gambling and a greater percentage of their income on food than high income households.


The Household Expenditure Survey provides a range of data on patterns of expenditure in different households. While it doesn’t directly provide data on the expenditure of beneficiaries with children, it does provide data on income groups, expenditure for recipients of benefits and wages and for different types of households with children.

  • Households with the lowest incomes spend 18.4% of their income on food compared with 15.3% for the highest income group.
  • They spend 1.8% of their income on alcohol ($8.20) compared with 1.9% ($42.9) for the highest income group.
  • Both benefit recipients ($14.70) and wage and salary households ($34.70) spend the same proportion on alcohol, cigarettes and drugs (2.7%); comparable figures for spending on alcohol are not available.

Turning to households with children, the percentage of income spent on food ranges between 15.6% for a sole parent household with dependent children ($116.1) and 18.8% ($273.20) for a couple with three or more dependent children.

Turning specifically to alcohol expenditure, sole parent households spend the smallest percentage of their income on alcohol ($6.00 or 0.80%) while the largest expenditure occurs among couples with one child ($22.20 or 1.7%).  A similar pattern emerges for overall expenditure on alcohol, cigarettes and drugs with sole parent households spending the least both as a total expenditure and as a proportion of their weekly spending.

Ambulance at the bottom of the cliff, by Slane (used and cropped with permission)

Ambulance at the bottom of the cliff, by Slane (used and cropped with permission)

State Responsibility

Government is obliged by international law to ensure that all children have a standard of living that enables their physical and mental development.  Government should provide support to families to ensure they can meet their children’s needs.  Children need to be healthy, educated, and have a sense of belonging to participate in New Zealand society.

Children also have a right to the highest attainable standard of health and it’s clear that those living in poverty are unable to achieve this.

60 babies under the age of 1 die each year from poverty-related illness;

40,000 hospitalisations from poverty-related illness each year

Scale of the Problem

The government currently spends $6b-$8b each year mopping up the costs of poverty and its effects.  That cost is made up of the high health needs of children in poverty, remedial education, justice costs, and lower productivity downstream when children don’t get the best start in life.

If we spent just a portion of this – $1bn – we would significantly improve the standard of living, health and well-being of children, while also strengthening our economy.

Real Action, Real Change

The petition is advocating for a move away from the current tinkering approach to the issue of child poverty.

We are demanding the government makes this an unequivocal priority and puts the resources in place to generate the step change for thousands of children and the future of our country.


Petition Link:

Cartoon Sourced from:


About Save Our Schools NZ

"One needs to be slow to form convictions, but once formed they must be defended against the heaviest odds." Gandhi



  1. Pingback: 4 mistakes showing Key is clueless on on dealing with poverty - December 17, 2015

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