Wednesday, March 6, 2013
Child Poverty, No Plan!
After four years of a National led Government, children who were suffering from poverty when they first came to power are probably no better off and there are now more children experiencing the same conditions. This Government refuses to address the core reasons for the growing poverty statistics; low family incomes, poor housing and a scarcity of good jobs.
While the Government crows that the average family income is increasing the reality is that most families are experiencing a decrease in income when the median is used. The growing wealth of the rich and top two quintiles of earners have dragged up the average. While the average family income is $81,000 the median is only $62,800 and half live on less. Maori and Pasifika especially suffer when the median annual income for Maori families is now $23,800 and $20,300 for Pasifika families (again half of these families will be living on less).
The disdain that this Government has for the poor is reflected in the pitiful increases in the minimum wage. The latest increase is 25 cents an hour and for those lucky enough to have a full time job, will mean $10 extra a week (over the past four years Maori Families have seen their weekly income drop by $40 and Pasifika by $65).
John Key has lied about the effects that the increasing minimum wages will have on the economy and will often throw in a figure of 6,000 job losses if the minimum became near a living wage. He has twisted data from a 2010 report that refers to jobs that will not be created and not existing jobs lost, and even then it is only supposition. Treasury sees no issue with raising the minimum wage.
With a growing number of parents having to work in more than one job or as casual labour, they have no security of hours or income when there is illness or a family crises. For most single parent households it is the mother who is the parent and sole income earner. Part-time jobs that are dominated by women tend to be the lowest paid. School support staff, rest home workers and home support workers barely earn above the minimum and in the case of school support staff (who make up 1/3 of all school staffing) they have little job security and no pay over school holidays. Despite what we are led to believe New Zealand women and sole parents have amongst the highest levels of labour force participation in the developed world.
Family incomes contribute a great deal to the quality of the environment children live in. While there are no real standards for rental housing, poor families have to accept what they can afford and the average standards of our homes are considered to be fifty years behind those of Northern Europe.
Spending millions on "dob in a child abuser" schemes and the flawed National Standards in Education only identifies the effects of poverty (at best) and goes nowhere to address the causes. The Commissioner for Children's report published at the end of last year made a number of useful recommendations and most have been ignored. Given the urgency of the problem, there is no specific plan from the Government to do much at all (according to their website).
More than 60 representatives from crown agencies and NGOs are meeting in Auckland today to create an action plan for the Government.
According to Doctor Jilly Evans, one of the participants:
"Child poverty statistics in New Zealand are appalling and all the reports that come out offering solutions are just not being implemented to make the changes where they are needed - at both the grass-roots and political levels."