Metiria Turei

What we’re wishing for this Christmas

by Metiria Turei

On the first day of Christmas… let’s guarantee our kids the essentials.

Today, we’re launching a ‘Twelve Days of Christmas’ campaign urging New Zealanders to guarantee the essentials for every kiwi kid this Christmas.

Our Christmas wishlist for every child includes a warm, dry, secure home, safe food to grow healthy and strong, a quality public education, and a safe environment. Simple things, yes, but too many of our kids don’t have them, when they should be non-negotiable.

The way we see it, when we guarantee these things, we guarantee our kids the best possible opportunity for a great start in life.

Each working day between now and Christmas (“the 12 days of Christmas”), we’ll be highlighting an issue related to inequality, and presenting Green solutions to those issues – solutions like building 6,000 new state houses, extending Working for Families tax credits to the children of beneficiaries, making the first $10,000 of income tax-free, and introducing a progressive pricing system for electricity, all of which are outlined in our ‘Mind the Gap‘ package to reduce inequality.

It’s a good time to reflect on inequality, and its impact on children. Not only is Christmas a great time to look around and reach out to each other, but today, December 6, is St Nicholas’ day, the traditional day for gift-giving to children in many parts of the world. What better day to reflect on how well we’re providing for all our kids?

It’s also timely because an important report was released last week by Unicef examining the impact of inequality on children in so-called wealthy countries.

The report by the Innocenti research centre entitled The Children Left Behind looks at “bottom end inequality” – the gap between children at the median, and those with the worst outcomes – in 24 OECD countries, to test how well wealthy countries are doing at having “no child left behind”. The answer is not very well. The countries with the worse outcomes are the United States, Greece, and Italy.

New Zealand wasn’t included in the study, but Unicef New Zealand has looked at other studies and concludes that we rank poorly for child material wellbeing and health, and about average for education. Clearly we could be doing a whole lot better for our kids.

As this report points our, children are not in control of their circumstances, but these circumstances have a profound impact on their health, wellbeing, and future prospects. Starting life in poverty, without secure housing, healthy food, quality education and a safe environment puts kids at a significant risk of poor health, underachievement, low skills, and intergenerational disadvantage.

Kids can’t choose these things, but our Government can choose to help guarantee them.

That’s what we’re asking for on the first day of Christmas.

Meyt says