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Progress in child poverty reduction moves NZ up international rankings – UNICEF NZ

A new report released today shows New Zealand has made good progress in improving child poverty rates compared to other wealthy countries, but urgent action must be taken if New Zealand is to continue this momentum, says UNICEF Aotearoa.

UNICEF’s 18 th Report Card, ‘Child Poverty in the Midst of Wealth’, released by its Innocenti research unit, compares child poverty rates in high-income and upper middle-income countries in the European Union (EU) and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), using publicly available data.

A country’s ranking in the league table is based on absolute rates of child poverty and proportional change in child poverty rates over a seven-year period. New Zealand’s ranking of 19 out of 39 countries comprises its rank relating to progress in reducing child poverty (17 out of 39) and absolute child poverty rates (29 out of 39).

“It’s encouraging to see the focus on child poverty reduction in New Zealand over a number of years is starting to have a positive impact on our precious tamariki,” UNICEF Aotearoa CEO Michelle Sharp says.

“However, we still have a long way to go. Now is the time to double down on our efforts and ensure we have Government-wide commitment to seeing numbers continue to trend downwards”.

The report called out New Zealand’s high rates of poverty amongst Māori and Pacific children (20 and 24 per cent respectively) when compared to children of European descent (around 8 per cent), and high rates of poverty amongst children with disabilities, who are twice as likely to live in material hardship as children without disabilities. The report also mentioned that children living in a one-adult household were more than five times as likely to be in poverty as other children.

“No level of child poverty is acceptable in New Zealand, and we remain particularly concerned for Māori and Pacific children, children with disabilities and those living in single-parent households who are still suffering from unacceptably high levels and completely avoidable poverty,” Sharp says.

Report Card 18 highlights the role of cash benefits, finding they are among the most effective ways to support children and families and alleviate child poverty. Further, the report highlighted the importance of indexation of cash transfers and abatement rates to ensure the value of transfers do not decline over time.

On Monday the Government announced a small, mandated increase in Family Tax Credits, but plans to freeze the Working for Families abatement threshold at $42,700, where it has been set since 2018, rather than increase it to $50,000 by 2026 as previously indicated. This means families with children will miss out on crucial money for the basics.

“We are urging the newly formed Government to prioritise children in its Budget. This includes adjusting the Working for Families abatement rate to ensure money ends up in the hands of those who need it most,” Sharp says.

“The report title ‘Child Poverty in the Midst of Wealth’ demonstrates what we are experiencing here in Aotearoa New Zealand. There is more than enough to go around, and children’s basic needs shouldn’t be compromised to deliver tax cuts”.

UNICEF Aotearoa is also calling on the Government to:

– Expand the Best Start payment to the age of five now, and establish a roadmap to a universal child payment up to age 18 by 2030.

– Keep the campaign promise to maintain healthy school lunches in schools, and in future budgets make Ka Ora, Ka Ako permanent and available to all children in all schools.

– Develop a housing strategy that ensures warm, dry, safe and secure homes for families, particularly for the more than 3500 children currently living in motels. We urge the new Government to keep election promises of supporting the community housing sector to grow and provide warm and dry homes to New Zealanders in need.

Read the report in full.

About UNICEF Aotearoa New Zealand

The New Zealand National Committee for UNICEF (UNICEF Aotearoa New Zealand) is an independent charitable trust registered in New Zealand that raises funds for UNICEF’s emergency and development work around the world and advocates for the rights of children in Aotearoa and around the world. UNICEF Aotearoa New Zealand is one of 33 National Committees who as national charitable organisations support UNICEF’s mission in their countries. For more information about UNICEF Aotearoa New Zealand and its work for children, visit www.unicef.org.nz


UNICEF Innocenti uses publicly available data from each country to create the league table. In New Zealand’s case, they accessed child poverty data from Stats NZ, in consultation with relevant officials.

The league table summarises the current status of, and progress made in reducing, child income poverty in 39 countries in the OECD and EU. It was not possible to include four countries in this league table – Costa Rica, Hungary, Israel and Mexico – due to limitations in availability of data.

The table is based on two indicators:

1. The most recent available rates of child income poverty (2019-2021).

2. The proportional change in child income poverty over a seven-year period (2012-2014 and 2019-2021).

The overall rank is based on a statistical average of these two indicators.


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