Tuesday, February 23, 2021

PM stretching it on child poverty improvements

The Prime Minister announced today, "Government action has seen child poverty reduce against all nine official measures compared to the baseline year." 

The survey from which the statistics are sourced stopped at March 2020. The June 2020 results reported have therefore been calculated on an incomplete annual survey - a smaller sample size.  

Statistics NZ  says, “We are confident in the data’s ability to report on child poverty in New Zealand before the COVID lockdown in March 2020.” (My emphasis). Yet they report up to June 2020 to make trend observations. Implied is that they do not have confidence in the June data. The very data the Prime Minister is talking about.

Just days ago the Salvation Army's annual State of the Nation report was released with data compiled from OIA requests:


The number of children in households relying on government income support, as reported by the Ministry of Social Development (MSD), has been rising over the past four years, and the Covid-19 crisis has seen the number leap by more than 23,000 (13%) to over 211,000 in December 2020, a similar level to 2013.

Children living in benefit-dependent households are more likely to live in households with incomes below the official poverty lines, and the large increase in numbers this year will mean more children living in poverty unless there is significant increase to main welfare benefits and other income support. (again my emphasis)

Since Labour became government the number of children living on benefits had risen steadily.

The PM never addresses this issue, because she has staked everything on measuring incomes despite knowing (surely) that the source of income matters more than the level.

She can continue to redistribute income through the Families Package and Best Start but if this leads to more children on benefits then poorer social outcomes will follow - as sure as night follows day.


alloytoo said...

If child poverty is nominally a function of wealth averages or median, and many people saw a sizable income drop in April May & June of last year, wouldn't that massage the "official" poverty stats downward in that period?

Lindsay Mitchell said...

Quite. From an MSD document, the circumstance you describe:"It was observed in the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland in the early 1990s when each of these nations experienced large falls in national income. Real incomes fell, but poverty was reported as declining as measured by a REL approach as a result of the falling median and therefore the lowering poverty thresholds. In New Zealand, real incomes for many fell in the period from 1988 to 1994. Using a threshold held fixed in real terms, the CV approach clearly showed the worsening situation for many of the poor. Using a REL approach, poverty rates stayed reasonably constant in the period as both household incomes and the thresholds set as a proportion of the median were falling." https://www.msd.govt.nz/documents/about-msd-and-our-work/publications-resources/monitoring/household-income-report/2019/household-incomes-report-2019.doc

Zoe Black said...

Until MSD fully understands the predicament disabled people are in we are still going to have statistics like these:


There is a hikoi (protest?) organised for Tuesday 23 of March, 10:30 am @Parliment. It will be interesting to see what kind of messages these people have for the govt. I'm picking they will undermine the success story being spouted by the PM and Labour.