13 July 2006

Living Standards

Well, if you ask me, the big news in public policy in NZ this week was the release of the latest NZ Living Standards Report (2004). This is a study of economic hardship based on a survey of household consumption, as distinct from the usual income-based surveys. The first one was in 2001. It applies an economic living standards index, and classifies households into 7 categories of ‘restricted’ or ‘comfortable’ living standards (1 being the most severely restricted). The full report gives breakdowns into relevant social variables. Now, the Ministry has, in its press release, chosen to focus on the relationship between ‘life shocks’ (such as divorce, personal injury, etc.) and economic hardship, and the NZ Herald dutifully reproduced this particular party line without any critical analysis. Meanwhile, TV One focused on the percentages of Maori and Pacific Islands peoples in the most restricted categories (as if that were news). But, the most scandalous revelation to be found in this survey is the rate at which dependent children under 18 (who have no, or little, control over household income and expenditure) live in ‘restricted’ households, especially when one compares this with the living standards of the elderly in New Zealand. Check it out and judge for yourself. If you have a special interest in child poverty and the Working for Families policy, I have an article on that subject – in hard copy only, sorry – that I can post to you.


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