Source: NZ Herald
Mistake means 20,000 children and 32,500 people over 65
left off NZ figures.
Statisticians have discovered thousands more children and the
elderly living in poverty than have been reported previously.
Revised figures have found an extra 20,000 children, and about
32,500 more people 65 and over who rent their homes, who are
classed as in poverty because they live in households earning below
60 per cent of the national median income after housing costs. The
revisions lift the number of children in poverty from 265,000 to
285,000, or from 25 per cent to 27 per cent of all children.
The changes are even more dramatic for the country's 147,000
elderly who did not own their own homes in last year's census. Last
year only 28 per cent of them, or about 41,000 people, were counted
as being in poverty - a figure now revised to 50 per cent, or
The revisions are mainly because the accommodation supplement
was double-counted in all estimates of after-tax income reported by
Statistics NZ, Treasury and the Social Development Ministry since
Treasury and Statistics NZ said the figures were produced
jointly by the two agencies and "neither agency had an overview of
the complete process to ensure the anomalies, once identified, were
"Statistics NZ and the Treasury have changed their quality
assurance and communications processes to ensure this problem
doesn't happen again," they said.
Labour Party deputy leader David Parker said the mistake, picked
up by the Paris-based OECD, was "a billion-dollar bungle" because
the Government spends $1.2 billion a year paying the accommodation
supplement to 308,000 people.
"Most Kiwis knew they weren't getting ahead but now it turns out
many more were falling behind," he said.
Finance Minister Bill English said the revisions reinforced "our
strong focus on helping get people off welfare benefits and into
work, and our policies of practical assistance to improve people's
lives such as home insulation, increased immunisations, reducing
the incidence of rheumatic fever, and implementation of the
Children's Action Plan".
Children's Commissioner Dr Russell Wills said the revised child
poverty rate was significant.
"With 25 per cent it was already pretty important. At 27 per
cent it's still important. Really, the message is the same, and
it's that child poverty is too common and we need to plan for it,"
He said there were signs that child poverty had dropped since
the revised figures, which relate to 2012.
"I have been pleased to see that the number of children in
benefit-dependent households has fallen. There are more parents in
work," he said.
Child Poverty Action Group economist Dr Susan St John said the
previous figures were "a puzzle". They pointed to only a small
effect from the recession on child poverty, and actually showed a
drop in poverty for elderly renters from 47 per cent in 2009 to 24
per cent in 2010 and 28 per cent since then.
The poverty line is 60 per cent of an "equivalised" median
income after housing costs of $26,300 per adult in 2012, making the
poverty line $15,780 or $303 a week after tax and housing costs.
Equivalising allows for economies of scale so the poverty line is
about one-and-a-half times this for two adults, or $24,300, and is
$34,240 for two adults and two children.