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The Uncountables: NZ can’t set a target on child poverty, unlike just about everything else

The government has formal yardsticks and ‘ambitious targets’ coming out its ears. But not on child poverty.

“It sounds airy-fairy but it’s the advice we get.”

That was the prime minister this morning on RNZ Morning Report, in response to questions from Guyon Espiner over the government refusal to set a target for reducing child poverty. Unlike the predator-free New Zealand or smoke-free targets, said John Key, the issue of child poverty was not so “binary” and therefore not so objectively measurable, something-something, advice they get, something-something.

The latest government rebuff of calls to nominate an official measure and set a target for reduction came following an appearance by the Children’s Commissioner, Judge Andrew Becroft, on the Nation over the weekend, where he said:

I think the measure should be the material-deprivation rate. There are 17 criteria. If children are in families with more than six of those, they’re said to be materially deprived – that’s 149,000. I’d like to see a 5% to 10% reduction by the end of next year. Both parties prior to the election could agree to do that.

But that’s not a runner, according to the prime minister, for reasons which might sound airy-fairy, or bloody ridiculous even, but hey that’s the advice they get, irrespective of the fact that New Zealand is a signatory to the UN Sustainable Development Goals, which include this: “By 2030, reduce at least by half the proportion of men, women and children of all ages living in poverty in all its dimensions according to national definitions.”

And irrespective of the fact that senior minister Paula Bennett in a recent media release trumpeted: “This has always been an aspirational Government, which is why we set challenging targets in areas that matter to New Zealanders.”

So, further to the RNZ line of inquiry, which areas that matter to New Zealanders are target-settable and have national definitions, and which not? An incomplete list:

Government has set targets

Pest-free NZ

Smoke-free NZ

Prisoner reoffending

Workplace injuries

Long-term welfare dependency

Primary industry exports

Children in early education

Educational under-achievement

Public interaction with government

Carbon emissions

Assaults on children

Debt reduction

The overseas student industry

Family violence

Violence in public places

Electric vehicles

Housing supply

Workforce skills

Emergency department performance

Elective surgery

Home insulation

Cancer treatment

Treaty settlements

Immunisation

Dwelling consents

Heart and diabetes examinations

Children’s health

Childhood obesity

Broadband speeds

Noisy vehicles

Youth crime

Renewable energy provision

Government can’t set targets

Children in poverty


 

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