ANZASW Response: Aotearoa New Zealand’s disappointing ranking in UNICEF child wellbeing rating

ANZASW is concerned to read the findings presented in the Innocenti Report Card 16 which was released yesterday (3 September 2020). The report ranks Aotearoa New Zealand 35th out of the 42 developed countries included in the report. The aim of the Innocenti Report Card series is to monitor and compare the performance of economically advanced countries in securing the rights of their children.

The report considers factors such as children’s chance of survival, growth and protection, whether children are learning and feel listened to and whether their parents have the support and resources to give children the best possible chance for a happy and healthy childhood.

The report highlights the experiences of children in the given country with consideration of the countries policies and social, educational, economic and environmental contexts.

New Zealand received a ‘failing’ grade in child welfare and scored poorly when compared to other developed nations in terms of youth suicide rates, physical health and the basic ability to read and write.

Speaking on RNZ this morning, UNICEF NZ chief executive Vivien Maidaborn explained that Aotearoa New Zealand’s low ranking is driven by inequality. Maidaborn elaborated that single measures, such as obesity or reading ability, cannot be addressed as isolated issues. That we need to address these issues from a collective and unified approach. Maidaborn worries that that inequality has become normalised within New Zealand society.

The measures that New Zealand scored particularly poorly on, such as learning outcomes, suicide rates and obesity levels can all be linked back to a lack of equality. Maidaborn explained that household income is the key to reducing such inequalities and that until benefit rates are addressed, we will continue to fail our tamariki.

Financial responses to Covid-19 such as wage subsidies and mortgage holidays essentially risk increasing inequality in Aotearoa. Such policies assist those already with wealth and fail to support the poorest and most vulnerable New Zealanders who are living off income benefits. It is well established that when people’s incomes are increased that they will invest in their children’s wellbeing.

Members of ANZASW are often on the frontline in working with those affected by inequalities present in society and often see the devastating impact that inadequate incomes have on children and their families. ANZASW supports the urgent call to address inequalities in Aotearoa and in particular the current inadequate levels of income support available to our nation’s most vulnerable.

One comment

  • Geoffrey Nauer

    It should be stated that this report covers a number of years in particular the previous years of the National Govt and the devastating impact and erosion of society through Neo liberalism, On the front line of SW this is the reality that is faced on a daily.basis. This pandemic has just laid bare and magnified the systemic inequality that has existed. While the present response from this Govt could’ve been better targeted as may be suggested, I shudder to think what the alternative would’ve been with a National Govt.