“Brown underclass” of over 100,000 children living in poverty

A report released by Every Child Counts provides evidence that children are the “victims in New Zealand’s growing brown underclass” with over over half of the 200,000 New Zealand children living below the poverty line being from Maori and Pacific Island communities.

Child advocate Dr Hone Kaa, who helped prepare both reports, said the brown underclass has been around for more than a decade, but the recession exacerbated the split between rich and poor (Auckland Now).

The Child Health Social Monitor released today confirms there are huge disparities in the wellbeing of New Zealand children, with Pasifika, Maori, those in beneficiary homes, and those in the youngest age group (0-6) suffering hardship with the potential to lead to significant long-term costs.

It feels a bit like Groundhog Day as we once again call public and political attention to the levels of deprivation New Zealand children are experiencing and the huge disparities between different groups of children,” said Murray Edridge, Chair of Every Child Counts*.

“However, the Child Health Social Monitor reinforces the call by Every Child Counts for public and community investment in the most important early years – the first 1000 days of life – that secures every child’s health and wellbeing.  Poor outcomes cost the nation dearly and there are measurable benefits from ensuring appropriate investment in children.

“This report shows that children in deprivation suffer significantly worse health outcomes than others.  It says that Pasifika children are more likely to be admitted to hospital with sickness or medical conditions with a social gradient.   Maori children are more likely to be admitted to hospital with injuries from assault, neglect or maltreatment and such events are much more likely in high deprivation populations.  Deprivation relates to the socioeconomic environment people live in and includes income, housing and access to other services.

“The Child Health Social Monitor highlights the impact of high housing costs and signals that New Zealand’s current benefit provisions are unlikely to protect the children of beneficiaries from severe or significant hardship.

“At a time when living costs are rising, children are increasingly vulnerable to deprivation, but this is particularly so for the 234,572, or 20.4 percent of children, reliant on benefits.  The highest proportion of children on benefits are those in the 0-4 age group – a time when children are the most vulnerable to the negative impacts of deprivation.

“These are serious issues requiring sustained political commitment and public support.  All New Zealanders have a role in helping improve life for these children and when we achieve it there will be real social and economic benefits,” concluded Mr Edridge.


Children are the victims in New Zealand’s growing brown underclass.

A new report has revealed just over half of the 200,000 New Zealand children living below the poverty line are Maori and Pacific Islanders.

The revelation comes just weeks after another report highlighted the grim prospects for Kiwi children.

New Zealand ranked 28th out of 30 OECD nations for child outcomes.

Child advocate Dr Hone Kaa, who helped prepare both reports, said the brown underclass has been around for more than a decade, but the recession exacerbated the split between rich and poor.

He called for a shift away from using a Pakeha approach to deal with the disparity faced by Pacific Island and Maori communities.

Instead, a Government taskforce, made up of Pacific Island and Maori experts, should be tackling the issues of child poverty, Kaa said.

“Cultural specific projects make people believe in themselves,” he said.

The latest report, commissioned by a coalition of child advocacy organisations called Every Child Counts, draws attention to the growing disparities between Maori and Pasifika and other groups across the health, education, and welfare sectors.

”A combination of high dependency on welfare benefits, high rates of single parenthood, and a concentration of workers in the manufacturing industries keep Maori and Pasifika families trapped in poverty,” the report found.

”There is no level playing field and our children are subjected, disproportionately, to the malaise that emerges out of poverty.”

Maori and Pacific Islanders have hardship rates two to three times higher than other groups.

Maori and Pasifika children have two to three times poorer health than other groups.

A quarter of working-aged Maori and 30 per cent of Pacific Islanders are on some form of benefit.

A high proportion of Maori children live in sole-parent beneficiary families around 43 per cent of all Domestic Purposes Benefit recipients were Maori.

The report called for new measures of wellbeing to take into account Maori and Pacific Island values, rather than a European economic approach.

The research is paired with an earlier report which revealed New Zealand lags behind most other OECD nations, based on a comparison of areas including education, deprivation, suicide and infant mortality.

New Zealand fell to the bottom half for most measures, while our suicide rate was the worst, at more than twice the OECD average.

The only countries below New Zealand were Mexico and Turkey.

The country’s teenage birth rate was also high, surpassed only by Mexico, the United States, Turkey and Great Britain.

The report also found New Zealand’s spending on children was disproportionately low, despite a growing awareness that spending in the early years had the most impact.

The report recommended government attention and funding be focused on the first 1000 days of a child’s life, and warned that support for at-risk families tended to discourage people from working.

At the time, Social Development Minister Paula Bennett said our ranking was a ”real concern”.

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