The first report looking at child poverty statistics in New Zealand showed a slight decline from the previous year, with hardship rates showing no change.
Statistics on child poverty are required to be reported under the Child Poverty Reduction Act.
It looks at how many children live in homes with low income, before and after housing costs.
Different levels of severity of children living in homes experiencing material hardship is also included.
Senior manager Sean Broughton used examples of material hardship as “the respondent reporting not eating fresh fruit or vegetables, putting off a visit to the doctor, or not being able to pay the gas or electricity on time”.
About one in eight (13.4 per cent) children lived in homes that reported material hardship for year ended 2019. This was a 0.2 per cent point rise since the previous year.
Almost one in four (23.3 per cent) Māori children were living in homes that experienced material hardship. For Pacific children the rate rose to 28.6 per cent – this sat at 9.8 per cent for European children.
The number of children living in homes that experienced severe material hardship was 66,100 (5.8 per cent). The rate was highest in the Taranaki region at 10.6 per cent, followed by Manawatū-Whanganui at 8.6 per cent.
Pacific children had the highest rate of 14.3 per cent living in severe material hardship, 11.5 per cent for Māori – compared to 4.3 per cent for European children.
Children’s Commissioner Judge Andrew Becroft called the level of those living in severe material hardship “deeply disturbing”.
He labelled the disparity with the level of Māori and Pacific children’s severe hardship level as “severe and profoundly disproportionately in equality”.
One in seven children (168,500) lived in homes with less than 50 per cent of the median disposable household income, before housing costs for the year ended June 2019. This was a 1.6 per cent point drop since the year before.
This was one in five for Māori children (55,000) and 30,200 for Pacific children – compared with one in eight with European children.
After housing costs are deducted, the number of children rises to one in five (235,400). This was one in four for Māori children and Pacific children. It was a decrease of two per cent points since the year earlier.
Judge Becroft was also critical about the timing of the data release, asking why it could not be reported earlier.
Twenty thousand homes were surveyed in 2018/19 via the Household Economic Survey. The income of some households interviewed in 2018 also includes some earned in 2017.
Principal statistician Diane Ramsay Ramsay said as the pool of households sat at 20,000 there was “only so much we can do” in terms of report releases.
“We are hopeful we can bring it forward a few months.
“If a member of a household had a wage rise or benefit just after they were surveyed mid-2018, that would not be recorded in our results, even though the children in that may have benefited from that rise in income for the subsequent 18 months,” Mr Broughton said.