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New Zealand, a great place to be a mum

Written By: - Date published: 4:02 pm, May 12th, 2008 - 48 comments
Categories: election 2008, families - Tags: ,

We hear an awful lot from the Right about how much New Zealand sucks: ‘crime is up’ they cry (when it’s down), ‘taxes are too high’ (when they’re down), ‘too many dole bludgers’ (when benefit numbers are way, way down), ‘everyone’s leaving for Australia’ (when fewer than 0.7% of people went last year), ‘labour costs are too high’ (you mean wages are up? No wonder Key “would love to see wages drop“).  So, it’s nice to take a break from National’s ‘New Zealand Sucks’ campaign and be reminded of what a great little country we live in.

Save the Children has released its “State of the World’s Mothers” report. New Zealand was ranked the 4th best place in the world to be a mother, the 2nd best to be a woman, and the twentieth best for children. In each of those metrics, we are well ahead of Australia.

New Zealand ranked highly because it scored well in each of the areas that Save the Children looked at: Lifetime risk of maternal mortality, Percent of women using modern contraception, Female life expectancy at birth, Expected number of years of formal female schooling, Maternity leave benefits, Ratio of estimated female to male earned income, Participation of women in national government, Under-5 mortality rate, Gross pre-primary enrollment ratio, and Gross secondary enrollment ratio.

New Zealand doesn’t perform well in these areas by accident; the results arise from government policy. See how these following policies match with the measures Save the Children looked for: more money for health, subsidised GP visits, free morning-after pill, 20Free childhood education, interest-free student loans, Schools Plus, paid paternal leave, higher minimum wage, lower unemployment, Working for Families, modern apprenticeships, skills training, and gender balance in Labour’s List.

New Zealand is such a good place to be a mother and raise kids because the Government has made a concerted effort to make it so.

48 comments on “New Zealand, a great place to be a mum ”

  1. AndrewE 1

    It’s a pretty good place to be a dad as well. 😉

  2. Sam Dixon 2

    Not bad to be a single guy either. At least in Wellington – man drought, plus, I’m charming.

  3. Um, yeah, thanks for that Sam.

    On a side note, this is the ninth annual State of the World’s Mothers report by Save the Children. NZ was only ranked in the last two, and was fourth in both.

  4. lprent 4

    Sam – I’m unsure about the sites policy on advertising? Do you think we should have one?

  5. higherstandard 5

    As they say in the report “most industrialized countries cluster tightly at the top of the Index with the majority of these countries performing well on all indicators”

    To say we are well ahead of Australia is stretching things somewhat all that one can conclude is that it’s generally very preferable to live in a 1st World country compared to a 3rd world country.

  6. big bruv 6

    Violent crime up 42% under Labour….statement of fact!

    While I am here, what have you got to say about the latest Labour lie?, an extra $200 million for a train set.

    [read the post on topic “mythbusting: book value and over the odds“. SP]

  7. big bruv 7

    NZ might be a good place to be an unmarried single mum, they breed it and we end up feeding it.

    [you sure know how to bring things down Bruv. Speaking of which, DPB numbers are down from a peak of 113,000 in 1998 under National to 95,000 today. SP]

  8. Well, they do say that HS, but then you look at the actual measurements they’re basing the ratings on and there are some significant differences

    – years of schooling, pre-school enrollment, secondary enrollment, level of female political participation, maternity leave are all much better.

    – the rest of the measures are the same or virtually the same. the only place Aussie does much better than NZ is in maternal mortality.

    Australia had also slipped a place from this time last year.

  9. mike 9

    phew… thank god steve I was starting to believe all that bad stuff in the news about food prices up, petrol up, unemployment up, hungry kids, strikes, interest rates up, violent crime up, etc, etc but its obviously all a conspiracy.

  10. Phil 10

    Good point HS. I guess it would be a little like saying “A Ferrari is better than an Aston Martin, when they’re both compared to a Daewoo.”

    However, if Sam’s reduced to solicitation on The Standard for a date, even the Daewoo would probably help his cause…

  11. r0b 11

    Note one bit of genuinely bad news in this report (p 31): “Among the Maori of New Zealand,infant mortality rates are more than twice as high as the general population”. That’s something to think about in the long shadow of Orewa.

    Violent crime up 42% under Labour .statement of fact!

    No BB, the reporting of violent crime is up following a successful advertising campaign. We don’t know if the underlying rate of violent crime has changed.
    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/category/story.cfm?c_id=30&objectid=10501360

    “This is not surprising when we take into account that there has been a huge focus on family violence with publicity and media campaigns designed to reduce tolerance for such offending,” assistant commissioner Grant Nicholls said.

  12. You’re right Mike! I know – why don’t you start a blog and write about all that? Or perhaps address those issues on (the many) threads that are about them? You are a fu*kin bore Mike. No wonder your wife left you.

    [I think there’s all too much talk about people’s relationships on this thread. Please cool it, ‘sod. It’s not called for. SP]

  13. higherstandard 13

    r0b

    Yes Maori statistics are inferior as they probably for all indigenous peoples.

    Not sure what Don Brash’s Orewa speech has to do with that though ?

  14. HS. It hardly indicates Maori are getting privileged treatment, eh?

  15. higherstandard 15

    I think we do bend over backward for Maori in this country in many areas what is clear is that little flows through to positive effects on health or crime statistics.

  16. r0b 16

    That’s an interesting perspective HS. I imagine by “bend over backwards” you mean the treaty settlement process, or did you have something else in mind? And why do you think “little flows through” to health and crime stats? What’s the problem HS?

  17. higherstandard 17

    r0b

    I think we’ll continue to bend over backwards to celebrate the culture and feed the voracious treaty settlements business regardless of whether those activities have impacted health or crime stats to any great degree.

    I’m not sure what the answer is but it’s elsewhere.

  18. So if we are not paying more tax than before, why has the days to “Tax Freedom Day” gone from 140 to 160 under Labour: http://www.interest.co.nz/ratesblog/index.php/2008/01/06/chart-tax-burden/

  19. r0b 19

    mawg – because of the odd and complicated way it is calculated (seems to be tied up with growth):
    http://www.nzbr.org.nz/documents/releases/releases-2006/060424taxfreedom.htm

    Meanwhile NZ personal tax is third lowest in the OECD:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Income_tax

  20. Ben R 20

    “HS. It hardly indicates Maori are getting privileged treatment, eh?”

    Don’t you have to consider the actual treatment people are receiving, rather than their outcomes? If you begin your analysis with outcomes, then you’d say that Asian’s must be getting privileged treatment because they excel academically.

    “I think we do bend over backward for Maori in this country in many areas what is clear is that little flows through to positive effects on health or crime statistics.”

    I’m not sure about that. I think that in terms of treaty settlements those have had a positive effect. I think a major problem is the loss of jobs in areas like forestry & freezing works in the 80’s. That would have been devastating to many communities & the children growing up in those households. You’ve now got many growing up in households where welfare is the norm.

    There’s also the Alan Duff perspective:

    “It’s an educational issue, the commentators are failing to recognise. Since Maori have not opted in large numbers to get a higher education so do the outlooks and attitudes remain unchanged because enlightenment of self and the collective can only come from educated minds. Maori M.P. Dover Samuels had the courage to state publicly that Maoris accept violence. But not the educated. After all, you don’t see Maoris with university degrees beating up anyone. There is a disturbing anger common to far too many Maori that needs to be deeply investigated, like some permanently infected wound, as to its true cause. Groups of marauding teenage Maori girls attack innocent Pakehas for no reason. Maoris dominate in gang numbers and prison inmate numbers. We have the highest number of assaults, almost exclusively own the child murder statistics.” http://www.nzcpr.com/guest22.htm

  21. Ari 21

    I was working on a summary of this while I saw that you posted it. Thanks Steve. It’s nice to see good work like this getting attention, and it makes it clear you’re making good on what you said to Julie. 🙂 I’m especially pleased as a supporter of Save the Children, too- if I recall correctly, I started donating to fight child prostitution in Asia.

    Ben R- Outcomes are important because they’re a result of treatment. There are considerable insidiously invisible negative pressures on Maori and women in our society, and these effect the outcomes we see. Not all treatment of Maori is organised and funded by the government, remember.

  22. mike 22

    Sod – sorry I got you told off twice in one day.
    You might need some stronger pills buddy as you now have me confused with someone else.

  23. Uh huh. “Pills”? Shucks Mike you made a funny. ‘Cos, like, you’re implying I’m crazy but, like, not saying so so you like, leave the reader to make the connection. What a punchline mike, what a gem, with a sharp sense of humour like that I’m sure the ladies will be falling all over you mike, your missus really didn’t realise what kind of a man she was turning her back on, eh?

  24. mike 24

    You can do better RS, making stuff up about other people’s personal life is a little sad don’t you think?.

  25. Tane 25

    Sod, pull your head in. One more outburst and you’re off for a week.

  26. Ben R 26

    “Ben R- Outcomes are important because they’re a result of treatment. There are considerable insidiously invisible negative pressures on Maori and women in our society, and these effect the outcomes we see.”

    That may be the case. My understanding was that it’s a combination of innate abilities & the behavioural expectations of your family & friends:

    “Differences between black and white teen-agers in achievement have variously been attributed to genes or single mothers, but differences vanish when researchers control for the peer group: whether its members value achievement and expect to go to college, or regard academic success as a hopeless dream or sellout to ”white” values.” http://www.nytimes.com/books/98/09/13/reviews/980913.13tavrist.html

  27. Scribe 27

    Steve,

    New Zealand’s a great place to be a mum, and as supporting evidence you cite policies explicitly designed to stop women from becoming mums, eg free “morning-after” pill and access to contraception, and policies designed to stop women actually being mothers, like free childcare so that women get back to work, rather than raising kids.

  28. AncientGeek 28

    hs:

    I’m not sure what the answer is but it’s elsewhere.

    It does, but you’re talking about a generational level problem. It takes generations before you see significant effects. All previous approaches had failed dismally. Those approaches had caused massive wastage of money, both Maori and taxpayer, with ever worsening results. You only have to look at the stats for that.

    I’ll explain my take on the process and why I’ve supported it.

    The treaty settlement process was started in the mid-80’s. Apart from the historical basis, it was also intended as a way of building up Maori owned and operated enterprises. It did that by injecting capital in the form of assets and cash where it could only be used in a capital based organization. The latter is built into the legislation.

    The reason it had to be done that way was because of a market failure. It’d proved impossible (for various reasons) to get the lenders to lend against property held in group ownership, and where it was difficult to foreclose on property held as a guarantee.

    That provided a way for Maori Iwi organizations to build their capital base, while providing a training ground for Maori to train their young. Effectively a way for Maori to develop their own professional class in their own way. Merely having to fight to get the settlements would in itself induce a higher degree of professionalism.

    Generationally, this means that there has been a culturally based opportunity ladder. In essence it is the same structure that poor immigrant groups have been using forever via family leverage, but applied to a indigenous culture.

    At the time it was implemented, I expected that the failure rate would be about half of the resultant organizations. I’ve been pleasantly surprised as the failure rate has been pretty low. A few organizations have lost large assets – but retained enough to make it setbacks rather than failures.

    What has been fascinating from a business viewpoint is that most of these organizations show a distinctly different investment pattern to the usual companies we have here. They go for long-return assets, far beyond the usual 5-10 year time horizions. Similarly they use part of the returns to promote their own survival – providing better housing, community based health care, early childhood education, and training for their people.

    It has a long way to go yet. It is just coming up on a single generation. But to my eye it looks like it is going to work, and should show significant results over the next generation. Then I’m expecting a interesting quiet revolution.

    The inherent corporate structure looks uncanningly like the financial structure of the catholic church. Those are bodies that live on capital leverage. It would not surprise me if the Iwi organizations wind up as major investment machines for the rest of the economy over time.

    Now for the usual daft naysayers.

    Remember that the reason this process was required was the deficiencies in our legal and business structures. Maori had and still have sufficient assets in their land to have done this on their own. But it was impossible to realize that asset as collateral to invest in other business, or even to invest in their own land.

    To do so would have required a large scale re jigging of the legal structures. Effectively Maori were deprived of the right to use their private assets in a collective mode, because it would interfere with a different legal mode used by everyone else.

    The settlement process is a cheaper way of achieving the same thing.

  29. AncientGeek 29

    Anyway why did this come up in a discussion on thsi post?

  30. Ari 30

    Ben R- yes, controlling for peer-group isolates individuals who take up education or not because you’re essentially controlling for the largest external influence on their life, which will leave most of their success up to genetic, hormonal, and other largely biological influences on their life. If we give said family and friends a boost up, it increases the quality of life for the next generation. If we give that generation a boost up too, their kids will do even better. “Positive discrimination” is a very powerful tool to provide urgent relief to those who are not socially privileged.

    Scribe- don’t be so obtuse. Contraception doesn’t STOP someone from being a mother. (unless they’re somehow forced to use it) It puts the choice of whether to conceive in the hands of women, rather than leaving it to chance. (and in one case, in the hands of men, too) Many women want motherhood, but also want to delay it so that they can be financially secure first, ensuring that they get a chance at at least a partial career, and that they can deal with any nasty surprises parenthood might pop up.

    I’d say that there should be relatively few cases of straight women who would never need to use some form of contraception or birth control- and the only good one I can think of is women who stay single for a long time.

  31. AncientGeek 31

    Been scratching my head and accentuating the bald patch.

    With all of the stuff Steve stuck in his post, why do I feel it isn’t enough.

    Most of the female friends I have are getting more into the grandmother phase rather than the mother phase. They did have it a lot easier balancing a career with being a mother than my mother did. They still hit glass ceilings, but the ceilings were a lot higher than they used to be.

    So why do they seem to spend so much time talking to their well-trained, bright, talented daughters so much about how to balance all of their opportunities with having a family, and having a career afterwards and during motherhood?

    The risk factors are so high. Fathers do have a tendency to do the shoot and leave trick, typically when the kids are extremely young (they then seem to obsess about access). That causes disruption in any career because even with all of the childcare and school time, it is a struggle for two parents to bring up kids.

    Amongst my professional female friends, almost all of them have shifted their whole professions after having kids. The break was just too long, and if you’re going to have to educate to make yourslf employable anyway, then why not move to a more lucrative career path.

    At least the state has been making an effort to make sure that having kids isn’t a bankrupting experience. Thereby helping to guarantee that there is someone to pay taxes for super in 40 years. You can see that in the slow increase in birth stats recently.

    But mothers still manage to have very long chats with their daughters.

  32. Lyn 32

    AncientGeek – this is SO a problem that women are still facing and I’m thanking you for an intergenerational perspective. I’m not sure what the solution would be – there are so many difficulties inherent in balancing public and private commitments. My mum had her entire working life after having two kids and at the rate I’m going I’ll have my entire working life before, if they ever arrive. Those big gaps in the middle of a career are real earnings killers – as an example, a lawyer friend (male) has zero flexibility to leave work for a time now that he’s a partner in his firm unless he wants to kill his salary and the situation would be no different if he was a woman. Maybe mondo childcare a la Sweden is the best overall solution, but that isn’t going to work for everyone. I’d love to know how bad NZ is compared to other countries in supporting women to do paid work and parent at the same time?

  33. r0b 33

    I’d love to know how bad NZ is compared to other countries in supporting women to do paid work and parent at the same time?

    I only had time for a quick look and didn’t find anything, but this site might be of general interest:
    http://userpages.umbc.edu/~korenman/wmst/links_intl.html

  34. Lyn 34

    Thanks for the leg-work. I really should have made my own fingers do the googling. Too sleepy..

  35. r0b 35

    This looks good, though it focuses on work at the “low end” and the alleviation of poverty:
    http://www.unifem.org/resources/item_detail.php?ProductID=48
    It’s likely that there is some other Unifem publication that will have what you’re looking for. But I’m off, ‘night.

  36. Ari 36

    Lyn- well, if you’re feeling radical, there’s the option of picking a guy who wants to do the daddying full-time, which in most fields means maternity leave to actually physically give birth and recover is a managable obstacle. I can’t think of any good way to address the problem of one parent having to hurt their career permanently in some fashion, but I do strongly reject the assumption that women should be obliged to do so ahead of men.

    Making organised childcare more efficient, accessible, accountable, etc… is another option, too, although not everyone will take it.

  37. vto 37

    Steve said “New Zealand is such a good place to be a mother and raise kids because the Government has made a concerted effort to make it so.”

    Ridiculous. That is a very hollow statement that gives away much of your personal ideology.

    I would have thought New Zealand has got where it has today as a result of many many factors, the main ones being the attitude and philosophies of the settler and following generations, the ‘tyranny’ they were living and had no intention of repeating here, similarly the attitudes and philosophies of the Maori people, our geographically protected and hidden location, etc, etc. These historical factors imho have had a greater effect on the landscape of NZ today than any govt act, or ommission(!), by a factor of about a million.

    Government actions and their contributions follow these other factors. The govt flows from the people.

    You have it all backwards. It is not surprising however – this attitude to govt versus people reflects itself also in this govts approach to taxation. Namely, the health of the govt is of primary importance and the subjects come second. It seems to be a prevailing attitude of the left. It’s backwards.

  38. r0b 38

    So vto, did you actually read the study and the dimensions that it is based on? Or can you tell all this just, you know, instinctively?

  39. vto 39

    Of course I didn’t read it, too busy working. My comment was on Steve’s last statement only. Bit of a silly, excessively broad and hollow statement don’t you agree? I think the vast majority of NZers would agree.

  40. r0b 40

    Not at all. While obviously NZ does so well primarily because it is a “first world country”, the policies of the Labour government over the last 9 years will also have had an impact. Take a look at the dimensions actually used, and compare now with the 1990s.

  41. According to Stats NZ numbers just released mothers are going to have a tough time feeding their kids: http://www.interest.co.nz/ratesblog/index.php/2008/02/13/766/

  42. Ari 42

    Vto, if you’re going to critique the findings of the study, which is rather comprehensive, then you ought to at least read the highlights. I agree with you that social attitude is really important to some of these changes, but I disagree that New Zealanders have a perfect attitude. We have plenty of room to improve.

    Rob- actually, New Zealand is among the top 50% of the first world countries in all the metrics used in the study except the ones for children. While we’re advantaged because we’re part of the more developed top-tier, we’re not exactly America or Great Britain, so we’ve put in a lot of the work.

  43. vto 43

    Ari, I didn’t critique the findings of the report, just Mr Pierson’s vacuous last sentence.

    I’m sure the report is worthwhile and probably all fine. Don’t know. Simply not enough time for everything. Bloody information age – there’s just too much!! Oh for the old saying “ignorance is bliss” (there you go rOb, there’s another for you to fire back at me sometime ;.) )

  44. r0b 44

    While we’re advantaged because we’re part of the more developed top-tier, we’re not exactly America or Great Britain, so we’ve put in a lot of the work.

    Ari – good point!

    (there you go rOb, there’s another for you to fire back at me sometime ;.)

    Stay back, I’ve got a quote, and I’m not afraid to use it!

  45. Lyn 45

    Ari – I think what I object to is that parenting results in a loss of wages and career track. Most women would prefer to be the primary caregiver I think – that’s why we end up doing it so often and are then disadvantaged as a group (the whys of that choice are a whole other topic). However this accrued disadvantage doesn’t change if you get the dad to do it, it’s just marginally less sexist at a local level. And childcare is also not a full solution for similar reasons. It’s a toughie.

  46. mum 46

    U know all this talk about moaris what would Nz be wit out them,our culture has stood out to the country and that is what attracts foreigners,to come here ,and about crime and violene there are alot of caucasions,*(excuse my spelling,my bad,lol)*here are also just as bad as maoris, it is just that maoris are mentioned more about abuse and violence as for working iv seen alot of maori working hard ,but alot lack in education ,as for the economy it really sucks.
    In alot of ways we should be lucky for what we have here in NZ gee look at africa, and America etc.
    But then i think gee i wana work in aussy u get payed more for working and can live better but also you have alot of chances of dieing easier just because your going to work,an even worse youl never be found.
    but owell thats all i have to say for now as a single mummy of three and on my own.boohoo nh lol:)

  47. As they say in the report “most industrialized countries cluster tightly at the top of the Index with the majority of these countries performing well on all indicators’

    To say we are well ahead of Australia is stretching things somewhat all that one can conclude is that it’s generally very preferable to live in a 1st World country compared to a 3rd world country.
    Quite an interesting read
    Nice blog

    Susan Jaye
    http://www.gppositionsaustralia.com/

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