Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has highlighted the Labour government’s NZ $5.5 billion (US $3.5 billion) Families Package program, which began rolling out in June 2018, as the driving force behind the substantial reduction in the number of children living in poverty between June 2018 and June 2019.
"Child poverty is a long term challenge that will take time to fix, but today’s figures show that we’ve made a great start and are moving in the right direction,” Ardern said in a media release. “Today, we see the evidence that our Families Package, which lifts the incomes of 384,000 families by an average of $65 a week, is starting to work to lift children out of poverty — but we know too that income is only part of the solution and that free lunches in schools are also helping kids to learn and easing pressure on families.”
Arden claims the Labour government's plan to cut child poverty in New Zealand in half over the next 10 years is “on track.”
We want New Zealand to be the best place in the world to be a child, and Stats NZ’s latest figures show we’re on track to deliver on that promise, with 18,400 children already lifted out of poverty since we formed Government. Read more: https://t.co/CHskP2RnFNpic.twitter.com/Ro1z76D1BZ— New Zealand Labour (@nzlabour) February 25, 2020
In a post to Twitter, the government also highlighted that the new statistics show seven out of nine “poverty indicators” improved under Labour, compared to the previous National government.
The indicators include measures like the percentage of children living in low-income households before housing costs, after housing costs and in households that experience material hardship — where families are unable to afford essential items like fresh food, doctors visits and necessary bills.
New Zealand’s opposition National party has clashed with Labour over interpretations of the new statistics.
In a media release, National Leader Simon Bridges said 20,000 more children have fallen into poverty since Ardern became prime minister in late 2017.
The 20,000 figure relates to the difference between 2017, in which 243,300 children lived in poverty, and 2019, where 263,400 children lived in poverty. New Zealand political publication the Spinoff explains, however, that in 2018, this figure sat at 281,000 — meaning the number of children in poverty indeed fell by around 18,000 from June 2018 to June 2019.
Bridges also made note that the number of children living in material hardship has not improved since 2017.
"Jacinda Ardern promised to lift 30,000 children out of material hardship by 2020/21. One of the measures released shows there are 11,000 more in material hardship under her leadership,” Bridges said. “On top of this, there are 15,000 more children living in benefit dependent homes under this government. We know there is a proven link between growing up in benefit dependency and poverty.”
According to Ardern, the number of children in material hardship will drop once all Labour’s policies are “fully implemented.”