The Herald editorial says:
Dr Boston’s mistake was to suggest that the poorest New Zealand children were now no better off than some children in the slums of India. This statement, he said, was based on observations made when he spent a month late last year in Delhi where his wife worked as a volunteer doctor.
“India has about half of the world’s poorest children, but there are children in New Zealand living in circumstances that are not that much different from those in the slums of Delhi,” he said. “They are in houses that don’t have heating, in caravans that don’t have running water, and in families that simply don’t have enough food of the right kind every day.”
It is undeniable that some New Zealand children are living in the circumstances outlined by Dr Boston. But, equally, it is drawing the longest of bows to equate their plight to that of the many, many children living in the sort of slums associated with India. Child mortality statistics from agencies like the World Bank underline this.
Then there is the matter of the social welfare net in New Zealand. Dr Boston talks of a continuum in which some New Zealand children overlap with the circumstances of children in developing countries, but few will be convinced that the comparison he is making is valid.
Here’s what taxpayers currently fund to help families with children:
- $1.15 billion in accommodation assistance
- $182 million in childcare assistance
- $260 million in hardship support
- $1.25 billion for the DPB
- $16.9 million for out of school care
- $267 million in child support
- $1.93 billion in family support
- $494 million for in work tax credits
- $176 million for paid parental leave
- $32 million for parental and family tax credits
- $1.58 billion in early childhood education subsidies
We have an extremely generous welfare state.
It would be a shame if the comparison with the slums of India undermined the book’s impact. But this, unfortunately, is not an isolated example of attempted emotional manipulation by child poverty campaigners. They have also not done their cause any good by insisting that as many as one in four New Zealand children live in poverty. Such statements devalue their case and cast them as extremists. The children they aim to help would gain more from advocacy that is as sober as it is sound.
Comparisons to India help no-one, especially the authors.