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Child poverty figures show much more needs to be done around wages and the cost of living

Updated: Jan 8, 2020

The New Zealand Maori Council has called the latest childhood poverty statistics released by the Children’s Commissioner as appalling for a first world nation and has called upon the Government to do more. Matthew Tukaki, the Councils Executive Director has also indicated that a good per head of population proportion within the data shows that Maori and Pacific communities are most affected.

“The reality is we are not doing anything anywhere enough to really address the root cause of much of the problem and that is wage growth and a lift in incomes. The reality is that we have an economy where wage growth is minimal for a lot of whanau. Using the Governments own cost of living calculator for two people working in customer services roles with two children take home pay is sitting at $1334.74 per week while the cost of living in a place like say Auckland $2,081.90. In other words that is a deficit of $747.16 per week in the red. In other words that is a deficit of more than $38,000 per annum.” Tukaki said

“Yes we do need to have a look at lifting benefit rates but we also need to address the elephant in the room and that is the middle class working poor. We are also coming up to a period where the need or demand to spend is also going to create additional poverty leading into Christmas and then directly after as kids return to school and the stationary lists start coming out – yes it may be a boom time for retail trade figures but it’s also a period where people become trapped with additional debt leading into a new year.” Tukaki said

“And let’s not forget we have working whanau living in their cars with their tamariki around places like Auckland because they cannot afford the rent or even then bond and lets not talk about the fact many will never won their own homes because of the lack of being able to save because they are just trying to keep up with cost of living.” Tukaki said

So what needs to happen?

“First of all we need to look at an increase in supplementary allowances such as accommodation and clothing grants – while it may not be much it could help with those out of pocket expenses that often come up. The second is looking at lifting the main benefit rates to at least be in line with the cost of actual living – to get to an accurate figure of what this might cost the economy we should also take a look at what the positive side might be in terms of a decline in ancillary service demand.” Tukaki said

“The second thing we need to do is look at pay equity and parity with a view to have an annual rated adjustment for those in the lower to mid end of the economy – so, for example, if a customer services officer married with two children in a double income household starts the week off with a deficit of $747.16 then what do we need to do in terms of wage rates which obviously plays into wage growth.” Tukaki said

“At the end of the day much of this falls into two categories – firstly what can we do to create equality around wage growth and the cost of living but also comes down to some of the choices we also make – so taking a look at what we actually spend per week and on what – budgeting and a better path to financial freedom – there is a limit to what the state can do and while they can create the operating environment in which we live our lives often its also about the decision we make.” Tukaki said

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