Dear Pakeha NZ – Child poverty isn’t a ‘Māori’ problem, it’s an ‘us’ problem

There is a real danger in NZ Politics that when you attack policy as racist to Māori we play the ‘is it racist’ game where everyone screams it is or isn’t, everyone goes back to their polarised corners, nothing progresses.

We’ve done it with Police shootings, we’ve done it with Police taking photos of kids and we did it with the vaccination rates.

Back in November 2021 when we were chasing vaccination rates, there were 159, 810 Māori unvaccinated, 42, 183 Pasifika unvaccinated and a staggering 317, 544 Pakeha who are unvaccinated!

By constantly screaming vaccine hesitancy is a Māori and Pasifica problem, we let 317, 544 Pakeha off the hook!

I fear we’ve done the same thing with child poverty.

Right now there are 156,700 children in poverty in households with less than 50% median equivalised disposable household income before deducting housing costs (BHC), 53,600 identify as Maori, 72,600 identify as pakeha.

There are more white children in poverty than Māori children and that might be difficult to visualise because the focus is almost exclusively on Māori children.

Yes, proportionately these stats hit Māori hardest, but by allowing that to decide the entire focus of the debate we ignore the far larger numerical problem of those issues impacting poor White families and that allows an escape to scrutinize what’s really happening.

By constantly blaming Māori we can’t see that this is a failure of neoliberalism that cascades across race. Look at the chart above, the poverty rate soared post-Rogernomics!

It’s not an identity issue, it’s a class issue exacerbated by a neoliberal economic hegemony that purposely rigs the system!

  • Martyn Bradbury
  • Statistics NZ
  • First published in the TheDailyBlog. Republished with permission.
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