When it comes to poverty, no one likes to discuss it or theorize on ways to solve it, as it’s quite a sensitive conversation topic. That being said, it’s still a very real problem in most countries around the world that needs to be addressed.

In certain countries, i.e. the USA and South Africa to name but a few, they have such a thing as poverty lines. There is, however, no official ‘poverty line’ in New Zealand and no exact way to go about how to measure the poverty in this country.

Household income in New Zealand

Taking a look at poverty indicators, the most applicable and prominent indicator is the income level per household. There is some consensus that an income level set at 60% of median household disposable income after housing costs are of an adequate level to protect people from the worst effects of poverty. NZCCSS believes that any poverty measure set lower than this would be far too low.

So, what would one deem to be the poverty line per household? Does it differ from household to household? The answer is that it is possible to calculate the poverty line, by taking a look at the number of people living under one roof and after deducting living costs. An example would be to say that a household comprising of two adults and two children would lie around $600 per week in 2016 dollars.

Could you even begin to imagine what it must be like to provide for your family and to live, taking home any figure less than that? I’ll bet you’re shifting in your chair or feeling rather sheepish for claiming poverty when you couldn’t afford to purchase the latest pair of sneakers the other day. Or perhaps you’re in utter shock due to just being completely oblivious to the struggle that people around you face? It really is a frightening reality for so many people, yet we can’t even comprehend the possibility and a massive part of New Zealanders face this lifestyle. Yet, it’s a pitfall that we still have not figured out how to alleviate.

Defining poverty in New Zealand

  • There are the Māori and Pacific people that seem to be predisposed to poverty more than other groups of people residing in New Zealand.
  • When we think of poverty, how would we go about defining it? In truth, it means to not know where your next meal is coming from, or severe levels of poor health, unmanageable levels of debt, inadequate shelter or living circumstances and in most cases, it determines a reduced life expectancy.

Lifestyle & poverty 

  • The benefits or welfare is nowhere near enough to sustain a healthy and dignified living.
  • There are organisations that are involved in aiding the people of New Zealand that are living below the poverty line. However, the unfortunate truth is that they are so thinly spread, that once again, it’s not substantial enough for households to have major lifestyle improvements.
  • You also get individuals who aren’t even aware of what they’re entitled to as far as benefits go.

A breakdown of budgeting & debt

  • Poor people are very au fait with the “B” word – budgeting. They know how to spread their money as far as it can go because making ends meet is essentially how they get by month to month.
  • Inadequate income is the real issue affecting the ability of people in poverty to manage their finances.
  • You might wonder, how would people who don’t earn a lot of money manage to get into huge debt, but debt can be a serious obstacle for low-income people. They will borrow on the premise that they will pay it back, but unless you’re in a position where you’re earning more, you’re never going to climb out of the hole you’ve created.
  • Money management is not only a problem for people with no money, in fact, some of the richest people by appearance are some of the biggest culprits on paper.

Understanding the benefits system

  • The benefits shouldn’t be seen as an acceptable way and means to live by
  • Although commonly assumed, only a few women that are receiving benefits are your typical unmarried teenage mum
  • When it comes to being a single parent and requiring the assistance of a benefit, the parents usually only stay on the benefits while the baby/child is in its early stages of life
  • There is such a thing as benefit fraud and there are people who are guilty of this

Getting a job doesn’t always get rid of poverty

  • Employment on its own doesn’t always eradicate poverty. There is a reason for the poverty and it may have nothing to do with the hurdle of not receiving an income.
  • There are many valid reasons why not all beneficiaries of the benefits system should get a job straight away. Among these reasons are disabilities, dependents that require full-time care and health issues to name a few. Going to work under any of these conditions would not be conducive to alleviating the poverty on any particular household.
  • It is of the general consensus that it’s a plausible notion that should children see their parents working, it would provide for positive outcomes at a later time in said child’s life. However, research has shown quite the opposite

Final word regarding poverty in New Zealand

New Zealand can afford to look after our own. From increasing employment and stimulating the economy to helping people who have a serious debt problem whether through debt counselling or other legal avenue, we can afford to look after our own.