Child poverty rates in New Zealand are "stagnating", having barely changed since 2008, an international report by UNICEF says.

This is despite other countries of a similar size reducing their child poverty rates since the global financial crisis, the Children of the Recession report, released today, said.

The UNICEF figures also showed youth unemployment has increased and more New Zealanders admit they do not have enough money to buy food.

The Children of the Recession report studied the impact of the global economic crisis on child wellbeing in 41 Organisation for Economic co-operation and Development (OECD) and European Union countries.


New Zealand ranked 16th in terms of its progress in reducing child poverty. The top three countries were Chile, Poland and Australia.

"The report shows that child poverty rates in New Zealand have stagnated, reducing by just 0.40 per cent since 2008. At the same time, Finland and Norway, states of a similar size to New Zealand, have reduced their child poverty rates by 4.30 and 3.20 per cent respectively," Deborah Morris-Travers, national advocacy manager for UNICEF New Zealand, said.

She criticised the Government's "policy of tax cuts, which have done nothing to improve the situation for children in poverty".

"Recent comments from the Prime Minister have acknowledged that children in New Zealand are missing out and that more must be done to address this," Ms Morris-Travers said.

"These encouraging comments are welcomed but need to be reinforced with real and meaningful action, sooner rather than later. These new league tables confirm that current policies are doing little to protect our most vulnerable citizens from poverty and failure to respond boldly may have long-term negative implications."

Ms Morris-Travers urged governments to "place the wellbeing of children at the top of their responses to the recession", calling it "not only a moral obligation but in the self-interest of societies".

"UNICEF says it would like to see all developed countries make an explicit commitment to end child poverty. Child poverty and social exclusion should be addressed from a child rights approach, in accordance with the commitments made in the Convention on the Rights of the Child."

The child poverty report showed that New Zealanders placed food insecurity, overall satisfaction with life and opinions on whether children have the opportunity to learn and grow as factors which had worsened since 2007.


However, the study also found that New Zealanders reported the lowest levels of stress.

New Zealand's NEET rate, which measures youth aged 15-24 not in education, employment or training, had increased, by 0.8 per cent, from 12.9 per cent in 2008 to 13.7 per cent in 2013. However, both Finland and Norway recorded higher increases of 1.5 per cent. Australia also experienced an increase in NEETS.

Labour's acting deputy leader Annette King said the report should "do more than just set alarm bells ringing".

"It cannot be considered another wakeup call. It must be the impetus for addressing the problem once and for all," she said.

"That means putting the well-being of our kids at the top of the to-do list and coming up with some real policies that help in the short and long term.

"Poverty is not just about kids going to school hungry or going without other basic necessities, it's about not being able to fully participate in society."

Child poverty rates can be reduced when policies to improve income equity are in place, Ms King said. She highlighted some "practical steps" the Government could take to tackle the issue, including establishing a national child poverty reduction strategy, adopting an official definition and measure of child poverty, and ensuring policies address poor housing conditions and access to health care.