6 December 2021  Media Releases

More effort needed to reduce child poverty for Māori, Pacific and disabled children

Poverty targets are mostly on track at a national level and for Pākehā children, but much more focused efforts will be needed if they are to be met for Māori, Pacific and disabled children, this year’s Child Poverty Monitor shows.

The Child Poverty Monitor is a joint project of the Children’s Commissioner, Otago University and the JR McKenzie Trust and is released today.

It shows that while child poverty at a national level is reducing and is mostly on track to meet government targets, structural barriers like racism and ableism mean some groups of children are in danger of being left behind.

“Most of us want the same thing for the tamariki mokopuna of Aotearoa – that they grow up in a family that has what they need to thrive,” Children’s Commissioner Frances Eivers says. “We include every child in that vision, but the reality is too many are being excluded.

“On all main measures we track, Māori, Pacific and disabled children are bearing a much greater burden from poverty and hardship. Unless something dramatic changes poverty rates for these children will not reach the target level. For example, the Government is aiming to reduce material hardship to 6 % of children by 2028. Material hardship is defined as living in a household that can’t afford six or more essentials including having enough to eat, fresh vegetables, and warm clothes.

“Just over 11 % of all children are experiencing material hardship on current data, but for Pacific children this is just over 25 %, and about 20 % for both mokopuna Māori and disabled children. This compares with just under 9 % for Pākehā children. While rates across the board were lower than the previous year, the proportion of Māori, Pacific and disabled children in hardship is so high that a much more targeted effort will be needed to get anywhere near the goal.

“This is not to deny there has been progress. After decades of tolerating high rates of child poverty, Aotearoa now has strong foundations for making progress for children. Benefit and wage increases are making a difference, the school lunch programme is reaching more than 200,000 children, and it is fantastic that progress is being made on meeting some of the targets in the Child Poverty Reduction Act.  We want to see Māori, Pacific and disabled children experiencing these lower rates of poverty too.

“Māori, Pacific and disabled children face a history of barriers caused by racism, colonisation and ableism that get in the way of them living their best lives. We want to see a greater effort to understand their real lives and needs and speed up progress for these children,” Commissioner Eivers says.

Otago University’s Mavis Duncanson says the disparities between groups of children are stark and impact on every aspect of their lives.

“It is hugely concerning that immunisation rates for all vaccine preventable diseases have fallen so low for mokopuna Māori. While 88% of all babies at 8 months are fully immunised, for pēpi Māori that has dropped to only 77%. We need child and whānau vaccination programmes with ‘one stop for all your whānau shots’”, Dr Duncanson says.

JR McKenzie Trust CE Robyn Scott urges New Zealand to be ambitious for all children.

“Government targets are necessary to keep us on track, but we all have a role to play. Businesses need to ensure they are paying people fairly and creating the kind of conditions where parents and caregivers can manage the pressures of work and family,” Ms Scott says.

Commissioner Eivers says solutions to tackle these inequities include such measures as raising income and much greater protections for renters as most whānau in poverty do not own their own home. 

“We urge the Government to significantly raise the Family Tax Credit, in line with the recommendations of the Welfare Expert Advisory Group, and introduce rules to prevent unfair rental increases, give families security of tenure and  ensure all rental homes are warm, dry and healthy. Financial support for families with a disabled caregiver or child should be reviewed to ensure the levels of assistance meet people’s actual needs.” 

Key results on main measures:

Year Ended

30 June 2020.

low income <50% (BHC) moving line (a)

low income <50% (AHC) fixed line (b)

Material Hardship (c)

TOTAL children

13.8% (157,800 children)

18.4% (210,500 children)

11.3% (129,600 children)


17.1% (49,500 children)

21.1% (61,000 children)

19.5% (56,300 children)

Pacific peoples

19.1% (28,000 children)

21.0% (30,700 children)

26.1% (38,000 children)


10.6% (81,500 children)

14.8% (114,300 children)

8.9% (68,600 children)









3 year target




6 year target




10 year target




(a) Low income <50% median equivalised disposable household income (without deducting housing costs) for the median in the contemporary financial year

(b) Low income <50% of median equivalised disposable household income (after housing costs are deducted), for the base financial year (2017-18)

(c) Material hardship missing out on 6 or more of 17 essential items