The New Zealand government came under renewed criticism Tuesday over levels of inequality and child poverty after a government report showed debatable improvements in household incomes.
Social Development Minister Paula Bennett has welcomed the Household Incomes Report, claiming it showed child poverty had fallen 3 percent.
"Today's release shows we are making progress. From a survey conducted between July 2012 and June 2013, findings show that median household incomes rose 4 percent in real terms in the two years since July 2011," Bennett said in a statement.
"While the gains since 2011 were shared reasonably evenly across incomes, the global recession in the two years previous impacted slightly more on lower incomes. The report also shows that trend-line inequality has remained flat."
She acknowledged the government recognized more needed to be done to support the most vulnerable families, which was why it was investing almost 500 million NZ dollars (438.44 million U.S. dollars) over four years in services and support for families.
However, the United Nations Children's Fund New Zealand (UNICEF NZ) said the report clearly showed that children continued to experience poverty and hardship at much higher rates than most other New Zealanders.
Families reliant on welfare benefits had experienced a 17- percent reduction in income in real terms compared with the base year of 1983, said UNICEF NZ national advocacy manager Deborah Morris-Travers.
Child poverty rates were double what they were in the 1980s because housing costs were so much higher than income, Morris- Travers said in a statement.
"The data released by the government today confirms that current welfare and housing policies are leaving children in poverty and material hardship at much higher rates than older New Zealanders," she said.
"While the Incomes Report shows a slight drop in the numbers of children in poverty as a result of recovery from the recession, it is very concerning that 60 percent of the children in poverty are in chronic poverty, meaning there are likely to be longer-term impacts on their health and education."