September 7, 2022
5 mins

Child and Elder Poverty in New Zealand


Child Poverty is a significant, and more prominent, issue in New Zealand than in many other OECD countries including Australia, the UK, Ireland and Canada. However, for Kiwis aged over 65, New Zealand provides one of the most generous benefits, and as a result, our Elderly Poverty rates are among the lowest in the OECD. 

In New Zealand, and across much of the OECD, analysis shows a “most striking trend” in government spending - a gradual redirection of social spending to favour over 65s. OECD experts call it “a long drift from public investments in the young towards public subsidies to the elderly.” 1

But this wasn’t always the case. In the 1950s and 1960s, social spending targeted young people and growth i.e. funding education and housing. As baby boomers matured, social spending followed. 

Today, as the population ages, the proportion of social spending for elderly in New Zealand is increasing. Between 2022 and 2026 Core Crown Expenses are budgeted to increase by $10 billion to $138 billion. New Zealand Superannuation will soak up 68% or $6.8 billion of this increase. 2

Superannuation, public transport discounts and health services dominate New Zealand’s social spending. This serves the elderly more than ever before. The cost of New Zealand Super is increasing by more than $1b each year. By 2024 it's predicted to cost the country nearly $20b a year. 3

The elderly benefit from government spending

The good news is that New Zealanders are living longer and spending more years in good health. 

The OECD’s most recent income and poverty statistics show that poverty among those over 65 years of age is often lower than among the rest of the population. This is certainly the case here in New Zealand against a backdrop of higher child poverty rates. 

Since 2000, the wealth gap between the over-65s and the under-65s has more than doubled in New Zealand. 4 Treasury has estimated that about half of that change is due to rising house prices.

Child Poverty a focus in the OECD

Throughout the OECD, policies aim to tackle child poverty. Despite this, relative child poverty has grown in some OECD countries 5 - including New Zealand. 

Child Poverty Action Group, one of Share My Super’s charity partners, notes key points from Statistic New Zealand’s 2021 data on poverty.

Those under 17 are almost 50% more likely to be living in poverty than the general population or the elderly.

  • Approx. 322,900 children (28.1%) were living in after-housing-costs income poverty, on the 60% of equivalised household median, moving-line measure.
  • Approx. 236,900 children (20.6%) were living in income poverty, on the related 50% measure.
  • Approx. 150,400 children (13.1%) were living in severe income poverty, on the 40% or less measure.

Share My Super's Response

We believe that it’s only by working together, at systemic and community levels, that we can solve child poverty in New Zealand. 

Child poverty reduction has been a cornerstone of the Labour-led Government’s social welfare agenda since coming into power in 2017 6.  But change takes time, and children in poverty simply can’t wait. 

And, that’s why Share My Super was formed. We’ve partnered with leading New Zealand charities who have a track record of making an impact in the communities they serve. 

Our charity partners have the expertise, people on the ground and networks to make a big difference right now. At a time of increased hardship, with inflation at the highest level in 32 years, our partners are desperate for extra support so they can extend their services to meet the growing need. 

Every dollar donated through Share My Super goes directly to the charities donors choose. This is possible because Share My Super’s operating expenses are privately funded. 

We hope you’ll join us to help end child poverty in New Zealand. 

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