Poverty Watch 21

Written By: - Date published: 11:18 am, March 2nd, 2013 - 11 comments
Categories: national, poverty - Tags:

In recent posts in this series we’ve focused on the Children’s Social Health Monitor 2012 Update Report, see the the full report (pdf) here.  Today we look at the next Health and Wellbeing Indicators.


Poverty stories and statistics make grim reading, never more so than when dealing with this topic. The rate of infant deaths in New Zealand is typical by international standards. But this is an average figure, as with all of the other indicators that the report covers, Maori and Pacific families are the most affected.

Infant mortality is often used as a barometer of the social wellbeing of a country [34]. New Zealand’s infant mortality rates are middling by international standards2, being lower than those of the USA and some Eastern European countries, but higher than those of Central and Northern Europe [36]. However, mortality during the first year of life remains much higher than at any other point during childhood or adolescence, with 308 New Zealand infants dying prior to their first birthday during 2009 [37]. Further, ethnic and socioeconomic disparities, remain with infant mortality rates in 2008 (provisional data) being 6.9 per 1,000 live births for Māori babies, 5.9 for Pacific babies, and 3.8 for non- Māori non-Pacific babies [35].

In this part of the report we only have data up until 2009, so it’s not possible to examine changes arising from the financial crisis / change of government.

In New Zealand during the 1990s, neonatal and post neonatal mortality both declined, although rates were more static during the mid to late 2000s. An upswing in neonatal mortality was evident during 2007–2009. However it is too early to say whether this is a random fluctuation or the beginning of an upward trend.


A breakdown of the factors associated with mortality shows a near perfect correlation with the Deprivation Index, and once again the significance of ethnicity (note the best outcomes are for Asian/Indian). (See the report for an explanation of Rate Ratio (RR) and the associated confidence interval.)


An exploration of Sudden Unexpected Death in Infancy (SUDI) shows similar patterns and trends, but note the huge incidence of this tragedy in the Maori and Pacific populations.


These figures demand a response in Maori and Pacific health – something much more systematic and effective than Whānau Ora.

We’ll look at the final section of the report next week.

In current news, right-wing governments are all the same when it comes to poverty. Here’s what the British tories are up to:

Ministers accused of downplaying income in measure of child poverty

The government’s desire to alter the official definition of child poverty risks deliberately downplaying the importance of money just as a series of government policies will reduce the incomes of poor families, a group of senior academics warn in a letter to the Guardian.

A consultation on how to measure child poverty more accurately that was launched last November, seeking input from charities and experts into “better measures of child poverty”, comes to an end on Friday. The government believes that a wider definition of what constitutes poverty will give a better picture of what it means to “grow up experiencing deep disadvantage“.

The letter, signed by some of the country’s leading academics in this field, agrees that in addition to the current measures used to count the number of children living in poverty, it would be “helpful to track what is happening to the factors that lead to poverty and the barriers to children’s life chances”.

But they warn: “It does not make sense to combine all of these into a single measure. To do so would open up the government to the accusation that it aims to dilute the importance of income in monitoring the extent of ‘poverty’ at precisely the time that many of its policies will be reducing the real incomes of poor families.”

Professor Jonathan Bradshaw, the lead consultant on the UK’s contribution to Unicef’s Child Well-Being report, said he believed that the government was “trying to move the goalposts” at a time when child poverty was increasing rapidly.

He described the consultation document as the worst paper setting down government policy direction he had ever read, questioned whether it was written by civil servants and said it read more like it had been “plagiarised from a right-wing thinktank tract”. …

Shades of our own Nats’ decision to obfuscate a crucial environmental report. When they don’t want to solve a problem, they try to hide it instead.

Here’s the standard footnote. Poverty (and inequality) were falling (albeit too slowly) under the last Labour government.   Now they are on the rise again, in fact a Waikato University professor says that poverty is our biggest growth industry.

Before the last election Labour called for a cross party working group on poverty. Key turned the offer down.  Report after report after report has condemned the rate of poverty in this country, and called on the government to act. Meanwhile 40,000 kids are fed by charities and up to 80,000 are going to school hungry. National has responded with complete denial of the issues, saying that the government is already doing enough to help families feed their kids. Organisations working with the poor say that Key is in poverty ‘la la land’.

The Nats refuse to even measure the problem (though they certainly believe in measurement and goals when it suits them to bash beneficiaries). In a 2012 summary of the government’s targets and goals John Armstrong wrote: “Glaringly absent is a target for reducing child poverty”…

The costs of child poverty are in the range of $6-8 Billion per year, but the Nats refuse to spend the $2 Billion that would be needed to really make a difference. Even in purely economic terms National’s attitude makes no sense.

11 comments on “Poverty Watch 21”

  1. aerobubble 1

    Our grandfathers and great grandfather fought in two world wars and came back from those wars, having risked their lives, and many of their mates having died, and declared that a prosperous nation cannot have poverty in its ranks. That poverty means division, it means that in future wars the state has no right to call upon the poor to fight in war, for why should citizens who get no benefit from the state defend the state. National, and yes, Labour, lackluster stance on poverty is against the national interest. And then there’s all the gains and benefits from having a engaged healthy citizenry.
    NZ is not S.Africa under Apartheid where state laws are used to dictate terms for a few self chosen minorities (because they have the wealth, and the media, then the army…).

    When one child goes to school starving we cannot claim to be a prosperous nation.

  2. ak 2

    Some of my best friends are tories. That John Key has an honest smile and is really down to earth and funny. He’d be great company in a pub and I reckon he’d give you the shirt off his back if he knew you were in strife.

    Met Holyoake once. And Bolger. Good solid fellows, knew their stuff and seemed genuinely interested in ordinary folk. Good church-going blokes. Bill English is another one – a good catholic apparently, which means he’s supposed to be more interested in helping the poor than feathering his own and his mates’ nests.

    That’s why these columns of yours are so valuable, Ant. They remind us and show us without a shadow of doubt what tory policies actually do to people. Kill them. In this case babies. Every day.

    Worst part is, they know it full well. They’re not dumb. Funny thing is, they’re usually the first to quote the “experts” on every subject. Except the results of increasing poverty, of course. They know beyond doubt that their policies will kill more poor folk, but press on regardless.

    Every single Tory move has one aim: to transfer wealth from poor to rich: to increase the gap. A bright young thing could probably plot it over the years, and show how well they’ve done. And how many poor have died as a result.

    So in actual fact, these decent upright pillars of society with their suits and bulging wallets are nothing more than knowing, calculating murderers. Even worse, they devote every minute to it while posing as caring and loveable uncles and aunties.

    I can forgive some of their supporters. They only know what they’re told. But not the scum the fatcats employ to brainwash them for money.

    Thanks so much Anthony. It’s easy to forget the victims of Greed. Poor wee beggars.

    • Colonial Viper 2.1

      Every single Tory move has one aim: to transfer wealth from poor to rich: to increase the gap. A bright young thing could probably plot it over the years, and show how well they’ve done. And how many poor have died as a result.


      During Ruthanasia and the Tory Government that was in charge, total infant mortality declined by over 25% (from approx 850/100,000 to less than 600/100,000).

      Improvement in infant mortality during the Helen Clark years was much milder (from 1999 to 2008 it looks like no more than a 10% to 15% decline only)

      Going by the chart:
      Tory governments are better for reducing infant mortality

      Hard to accept, but there it is.

      • geoff 2.1.1

        Going by the chart:
        Tory governments are better for reducing infant mortality

        Hard to accept, but there it is.

        CV, I know you know this but…correlation does not imply causation.

        • Colonial Viper

          Sure. Just sayin’ that’s all. There was a marked reduction in the rate of infant mortality reduction when Labour was in charge.

          Notice that itchy feeling in the back of the head? Yes, that’s what cognitive dissonance feels like.

          • Murray Olsen

            It’s also entirely possible that the first 25% reduction was very easily achieved, but further reductions became progressively more difficult. Graphs without explanation often don’t mean much at all.

      • ak 2.1.2

        Thanks Colonel, but not really hard to accept. Yes the totals are heading in the right direction, but look at Anthony’s deprivation index chart again. As he notes, a near perfect correlation

        It’s the same old tory spin angle: hey look akshilly, gdp says we’re miles richer, and just look at Biafra. If we cancelled all benefits tomorrow, how many would starve? Bugger all.

  3. Lindsay 3

    An update:

    “The number of infant deaths and the infant mortality rate were at record lows in 2012, Statistics New Zealand said today. A total of 256 infant deaths (under one year of age) were registered in New Zealand during this period, down from 290 in 2011.

    The infant mortality rate was 4.2 infant deaths per 1,000 live births in 2012, down from 4.7 in 2011, and 5.6 in 2002.

    “The infant mortality rate in 2012 was the lowest ever recorded in New Zealand,” population statistics project manager Joel Watkins said.

    The lower infant mortality was due to a decrease in the number of Māori infants dying (82 in 2012, down from 123 the year before). The mortality rate for Māori infants dropped to 4.7 in 2012, down from 7.0 in 2011″.


  4. tsmithfield 4

    All that is being considered here is random fluctuations at the bottom of a much bigger trend.

    As can be seen, the major battles with infant mortality have already been won. No matter how well we do, there will always be some level of infant mortality. Looking at how the slope of the major trend is levelling out, it looks like that is pretty much where we are now. We may still make some gains in this area, but the size of the fluctuations may well be greater than the level of improvement, so we could well have periods where the rates seem to bounce up and down, no matter how well we do.

  5. Mike S 5

    Interesting video below

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