Child poverty sounds much worse than poverty by itself.
Children are rarely in a position to help themselves, therefore alleviating their poverty requires the help of others. Most of those focussing on child poverty think that means the government in general and publicly funded welfare in particular.
However, there is little if any real child poverty in New Zealand.
This isn’t a third world country where large numbers of children have lost or been abandoned by their parents.
Most if not all children living in poverty in New Zealand are under the care, however adequate or not that might be, of adults. Most, if not all, of those adults are receiving benefits or tax relief which takes into account they have children.
The term child poverty is being used more in New Zealand but it is a slogan that identifies a symptom not the problem.
The problem is poverty in general and it has more than one definition and many causes.
One definitionn of poverty, particularly popular among the political left, is receivving less than 60% of the median income. That is a measure of inequality rather than poverty
Dragging the wealthy down would reduce inequality but would not address the problems of real poverty.
A more useful definition is the World Bank’s which is whether households or individuals have enough resources or abilities today to meet their needs.
That some – and any is too many – children in New Zealand are ill-nourished, poorly clothed and housed, have inadequate hygiene and ill-health is not always because their parents have low incomes.
Other causes include poor management of the money they do have, poor literacy and numeracy, drug, alcohol and gambling addictions, other physical and mental health problems and debt.
Many of these problems are inter-generational and they won’t be solved by focussing on child poverty.
This is not the children’s fault and they almost certainly suffer most from it.
The challenge is to find a way to ensure children have what they need without enabling those charged with caring for them to abdicate further from their responsibility to do so.
Another challenge is to increase economic growth because lack of national wealth is also part of the problem.