An opinion piece in the NZ Herald earlier this week by the former head of Telstra Clear, exhorted business to get more involved in solving the social problems of NZ children:
Let's look at the facts. Today, a quarter of children live in poverty in New Zealand. That means going without a doctor, good food, shoes, raincoats and decent housing. If you look at Pasifika children, that statistic rises to 51 per cent; and more than half of Maori families are dependent on benefit incomes.
Firstly, Mr Freeth has defined living in poverty by the 'reduced living standards measure' which is where his 51 percent of Pasifika children comes from - MSD's 2008 Living Standards Survey. So, 51 percent of Pasifika children experienced (or didn't as the case may be) 4 or more of the following
- A good bed
- Ability to keep main rooms adequately warm
- Suitable clothes for important or special occasions
- Home contents insurance
- Presents for family and friends on special occasions
- Continued wearing worn out clothing
- Continued wearing worn out shoes
- Went without or cut back on fresh fruit and vegetables
- Bought cheaper or less meat than wanted
- Postponed visits to the doctor
- Did not pick up a prescription
- Put up with feeling cold to save on heating costs
- Went without or cut back on visits to family or friends
- Did not go to a funeral (tangi) you wanted to
Just for some balance, if the OECD measure of child poverty was used the percentage would immediately drop to around 12% of NZ children.
Then he says that, "More than half of Maori families are dependent on benefit incomes." Say what?
I'd be the first to agree that Maori are disproportionately dependent on welfare and it's not good for their children. But the percentage is not that high.
At December 2012 around 112,000 Maori received a main benefit. There were around 375,000 18-64 year-old Maori in 2012. So just on 30 percent of the Maori working age population receives a benefit.
The proportion for Maori single parents on a benefit is higher but even the highest age group - 20-29 - doesn't exceed half.
I have no idea where he got his statistic from.
Ironically later in the piece he writes:
Our statistics are not simply unacceptable, they are truly outrageous. They are beyond comprehension. And where, as business leaders, have we been, I wonder, as more and more reports are released showing more issues with children and youth health and welfare?Probably getting on with their first priority - running a business - and feeling suspicious about media reports exaggerating child poverty.