Save the Children, Feed the Children, Teach the Children: Child Poverty In New Zealand

After the release of the United Nation Convention on Rights of Children report, New Zealand has been in hot water due to its high levels of child poverty. The United Nations condemned the island nation, citing that the New Zealand government has not taken proactive steps towards improving the current child poverty situation, but rather let the rate grow exponentially through the years, and decreed that New Zealand must address its growing child poverty rate and embrace the recommendations outlined by the United Nations Committee in order to ensure the security of its youngest citizens.

The current state of New Zealand’s child poverty has grown to nearly a third of New Zealand’s child population, or approximately 300,000 children. This number has increased by 45,000 children from last year, and is double the child poverty rate from the 1980’s; making 2016 the highest year for child poverty the country has ever seen. According to the United Nations Committee on Rights of Children (UNROC), “the committee is deeply concerned about the enduring high prevalence of poverty among children, and the effect of deprivation on children’s rights to an adequate standard of living and access to adequate housing, with its negative impacts on health, survival and development, and education,” which, according to the report, demonstrates a lack of dedication New Zealand’s government in improving the children’s situation. The New Zealand government refused to take the necessary steps to limit the growth of poverty, which resulted in a poverty rate so high that the United Nations had to step in to ensure basic necessities to New Zealand’s children. The original report came from a yearly review of 195-countries focusing on solely the state of children. The United Nations found that not only was child poverty a pervasive problem in New Zealand, but that it also mainly occurred within the minority ethnic groups of the Maori and Pasifika, who experience a lower socioeconomic status on the whole compared to the rest of the New Zealanders, compounded by problems of physical and mental health, education, and employment. The United Nations believes that taking “urgent measures” to improve the standard of living, health services, and education for the children in New Zealand is the only hope for improving this child poverty.

While the government and nation has begun to view child poverty as a growing norm, particularly in minority ethnic groups, the United Nations has presented New Zealand with clear and concrete goals of improving the current situation. The recommendations include “establishing a national definition of poverty, changing the name of the proposed Ministry of Vulnerable Children, increasing funding to combat child poverty, and intensifying efforts to provide safe and adequate housing to all children,” all of which hopes to set New Zealand on the right track to reducing the growing child poverty rate. Currently, New Zealand lacks a tangible definition of child poverty, making it hard to gather data needed to conduct research that will help actively and efficiently improve upon the issues. According to Metiria Turei, the Co-Leader of the New Zealand Green Party, “John Key [The New Zealand Prime Minister] continues to say it’s too hard to measure [poverty]—and that’s simply a failure in leadership.” The National Party, currently run by John Key, has been pressured to define the means of poverty on multiple occasions but has refused to do so until the United Nations took initiative.

Current PM John Key and former PM Helen Clark speak at the UNDP / UNDP,,_UNDP.jpg
Current PM John Key and former PM Helen Clark speak at the UNDP / UNDP,,_UNDP.jpg

New Zealand created set plans to lower child poverty, largely as a result of the United Nation’s pressure. Andrew Becroft, the Children’s Commissioner, stated that New Zealand plans on cutting child poverty by 10% by 2017, which demonstrates the newfound and vehement dedication to tackling the child poverty problem. The plan includes free general practitioner visits for those less than 12 years of age, free breakfasts for those in school, and free raincoats and shoes through the government program, ‘Kidscan’. Along with these plans, the New Zealand government plans on creating a database to record acts of abuse against children in order to improve their living situation. The Minister of Social Affairs, Anne Tolley, has been working closely with the goals presented by the United Nations, attempting to integrate these objectives into the new program.

New Zealand recognized the humanitarian crisis occurring within its country and has begun to take the necessary steps to actively fight against it. The United Nation has proven its dedication towards helping New Zealand improve upon child poverty throughout the nation. Refusing to proactively address the growing child poverty rate undoubtedly hurts the nation. With the influence of the United Nations, New Zealand is finally taking the necessary step towards improving the living standards of its youngest generation.

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