Government lifts 66,500 children out of poverty

Child Poverty Reduction
  • Child poverty reduced across all nine measure despite impact of COVID-19
  • 66,500 fewer children in low income households on after-housing costs primary measure
  • 21,900 fewer children experiencing material hardship

Figures released today by Stats NZ show all nine child poverty measures continuing to trend downwards resulting in 66,500 children being lifted out of poverty and the Government meeting the first round of child poverty targets on two of the three primary measures.

“Despite COVID-19 causing the greatest global economic downturn since the Great Depression the Government has delivered reductions in child poverty across all nine measures,” Minister for Child Poverty Reduction Jacinda Ardern said.

“These results continue our record of delivering one of the most significant drops in measured child poverty in decades.

“Policies like the wage subsidy helped keep people in work, our benefit increases have supported those who are out of work and our investment in various job programmes to support people back into work have all made a difference.

“The reductions in child poverty we’ve delivered are down to a wide range of policies and measures including the $5.5 billion Families Package, ongoing minimum wage increases, and the implementation of our Free and Healthy School Lunches programme across the country.

“I’m proud that we’ve achieved two out of the three challenging targets we set ourselves when we first took office despite the difficult environment of recent years. It means there are tens of thousands fewer children living in poverty, but it also means there is more work to do, and we are committed to doing it.

“We’re absolutely committed to achieving our ten-year targets. Our new three-year targets maintain our bold ambition and continue our progress towards more than halving child poverty within 10 years.

“Our plan for achieving our intermediate and long-term targets is based around making progress in three key areas: increasing incomes for families, reducing housing costs and other pressures on low-income households, and changes to support the wider wellbeing of families.

“Work to address the recommendations of WEAG is ongoing and includes a full review of the Working for Families system and exploring how we can better support families and whanau on the lowest incomes through these payments.

“Achieving our longer term 10-year targets will place New Zealand alongside those countries with the lowest rates of poverty and hardship in the world and contribute to our goal of making New Zealand the best place in the world for children and young people,” Jacinda Ardern said.

Notes to editor:

The full release by Stats NZ today is available at

Stats NZ has released guidance for interpreting whether the child poverty targets have been met here.

The child poverty data released today is drawn from the 2020/21 Household Economic Survey and covers annual incomes across a reference period from mid-2019 to mid-2021. This means that the reporting includes the initial impact of COVID-19, and the Government’s preliminary policies in response.

The reporting does not yet include the impact from:

  • The benefit increases announced in Budget 2021, which will lift weekly rates by between $32 and $55 per adult, with an additional $15 a week for families with children. These occur in two stages across 1 July 2021 and 1 April 2022.
  • The Working for Families changes announced in November 2021, which included increases to the Family Tax Credit and Best Start payment, and increased the incomes of 346,000 families by an average of $20 a week from April 2022. 

Actions the Government has taken to help reduce child poverty:

As a result of income support changes made by the Government since late 2017, including Budget 2021 initiatives, around 110,000 families and whānau with children will be, on average, $175 a week better off, increasing to $207 per week during the 2022 winter period.

Since taking office in 2017, we have delivered policies and programmes designed to turn around New Zealand’s record on child poverty. These include:

  1. $5.5 billion Families Package increased financial support for low income families, including increases to the Family Tax credit, Accommodation Supplement changes, Winter Energy Payment, and Best Start Payment
  2. Indexation of main benefits to average wage growth for the first time in New Zealand’s history
  3. Increased weekly benefit rates three years in a row. Most recently, Budget 21 lifted rates by between $32 and $55 per adult by April 2022, in line with a key recommendation from the Welfare Expert Advisory Group (WEAG)
  4. The largest increase in abatement levels in over two decades, increasing the amount beneficiaries can earn before their benefit reduces
  5. Further Working for Families increases in April 2022, which will lift Family Tax Credit and Best Start payment rates, and increase the incomes of 346,000 families by an average of $20 a week. 
  6. Lifts to the minimum wage by a third, from $15.75 in 2017 to $20 as of April 2021, with a further lift to $21.20 from 1 April 2022
  7. $2.8 billion COVID income support package, which permanently increased benefits by $25 per week, doubled the Winter Energy Payment for 2020, and broadened eligibility for the In-Work Tax
  8. Introduced a suite of improvements to family support that will increase the incomes of 346,000 families by an average of $20 a week from April 2022.
  9. Introduced measures to stop predatory lending that often impact low income families
  10. Expanded school-based health services and making doctors’ visits free for children under 14
  11. Reduced education costs, by removal of NCEA fees, and increased funding so parents of Decile 1-7 schools don’t have to pay school donations
  12. Improved the quality of housing and conditions for renters by implementing the Healthy Homes Guarantee Act 2017 and through changes to the Residential Tenancies Act 1986
  13. Expanded free healthy lunches in schools. 45 million lunches have been served to 211,304 learners in 921 schools and kura
  14. Rolled out free period products for all student across New Zealand. 1,996 schools and kura have provided 343,472 learners with access to products.
  15. Delivered more public, transitional and emergency housing, with over 18,000 places due by 2024 through the public housing build programme.