Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has made it her personal mission in politics to reduce child poverty. In one sense that should not be too hard.

Child poverty can be defined simply as all children living in households earning less than 50 per cent of the median household income.

Nearly half the children in single-parent households are in this category, so simply increasing benefit payments or lowering income tax can lift children above that "poverty line".

Indeed, Bill English boasted in the recent election that National's Budget this year would reduce child poverty by nearly 50,000 when its higher income thresholds for low tax rates and increased family tax credits took effect in April.

Advertisement

He reckoned another 50,000 could be lifted above the line if the economy stayed strong and generated Budget surpluses for another three years.

Labour is going to replace those income boosts with a package that will increase the family tax credit by more than National planned, raise the income threshold at which benefits start to abate, stop cutting the benefits of solo mothers who will not name a child's father and give all newborn babies $60 a week for a year.

And she has said she will have more than one target for child poverty reduction. In other words, she might not measure child poverty simply by income statistics.

For social problems are more complex than statistics can show.

Housing costs vary across the country and rent is taking a much larger chunk of household incomes.

As Simon Collins reports in this paper today, National's last Budget will also lift the accommodation supplement by up to $140 a week for beneficiaries in West and South Auckland, Tauranga and Queenstown. Labour will retain that.

Labour also plans to increase subsidies for doctor's visits, lift the minimum wage to $16.50 an hour in April and impose higher standards of heating and insulation on private landlords while limiting rent increases.

All these should help, but everything governments do depends on the economy generating their revenue. Keeping the economy strong comes first.