New Zealand cannot separate out its poorest people and pretend they don’t matter, says The Salvation Army in its annual State of the Nation Report.
This year’s report Kei a Tātou - It Is Us shows that for many New Zealanders incomes have hardly moved, welfare needs have increased and rents are rising faster than incomes. This comes despite more jobs being created and GDP rising, report author Alan Johnson says.
“New Zealand cannot separate out its poorest people and pretend they don’t matter. New Zealand is us – all of us who see ourselves as Kiwi. So when some of us miss out, the responsibility for correcting it belong to us all.”
The full impact is seen in a “frightening” rise in the number of families falling into food poverty. After five years of almost unchanged demand the number of families seeking food parcels from The Salvation Army’s 65 foodbanks jumped 12 per cent— the biggest increase in since the recession.
“That’s the true cost of rent rises and slow wage growth on our most vulnerable families.” Mr Johnson says.
This year marks 10 years since the first Salvation Army State of the Nation report.
As well as the usual five year analysis, this year’s report includes a snapshot of how the country has progressed of the past decade.
On the plus side the report shows New Zealand is achieving well in closing educational achievement gaps, increasing participation in early childhood education, creating jobs, and reducing infant mortality, teenage pregnancy and youth suicide.
Credible job growth means more New Zealanders have the opportunity to work, but the reward for that work in salaries and wages has fallen behind growth in Gross Domestic Product.
Extra buoyancy in the economy has not led to fewer children in poverty, or a reduction in the number of young people without meaningful work. The community cost in dealing with the epidemic growth in methamphetamine has increased, with an 80% growth in methamphetamine related offences in the past 3 years. While, poor public policy decisions by governments has seen the prison population surge to record levels, despite a consistent drop in crime.
Areas requiring more effort include; providing more affordable and social housing, addressing our methamphetamine problems, lowering living costs for low income people, providing young people with jobs and lowering the number of people going and returning to prison.