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More than 50,000 working households live in poverty

Graphic: EEO Commissioner Saunoamaali’i Karanina Sumeo

The findings of the Commission's study will be used to engage with public policy makers and advocate for improved support for working households.

Research conducted by the New Zealand Work Research Institute and commissioned by the Human Rights Commission has found more than 50,000 working households live in poverty across the country.

The report – In-work Poverty in New Zealand – examines the extent and characteristics of in-work poor households.

The research found that the overall in-work poverty rate was 7 percent before housing costs. This rate varies greatly across several demographic dimensions – for example, it rises to 12.3 percent for single-parent households and 19.9 percent for two or more family households where only one adult is working.

"Poverty is a human rights issue. A family's well-being, especially their economic and material well-being, lies at the heart of ensuring their human rights and dignity are protected," Equal Employment Opportunities Commissioner Saunoamaali'i Karanina Sumeo said.

"The study's findings can help public policy makers better assess the characteristics of working households that are struggling to make ends meet," she added.

The findings show that without Working for Families tax credits and the Accommodation Supplement, the in-work poverty rate rises by 31 percent (up 2.2 percentage points). The biggest impact is for single-parent households where this rate rises to 21.6 percent without these two income sources.

"At first glance, the answer to the question 'Is work the best antidote to poverty?' would seem to be a simple 'Yes'. But our study reveals the complex and pervasive nature of in-work poverty for more than 50,000 working households," says Professor Gail Pacheco, Director, New Zealand Work Research Institute.

"Not surprisingly, the prevalence is greatest for our most vulnerable – single parents, children, Māori and Pacific peoples, ethnic minorities, households with low educational attainment, disabled people, and renters."

The Human Rights Commission will be analysing the human rights implications of these findings to inform their advocacy work focussing on poverty, equality and non-discrimination.

"We hope the research can inform the development of targeted policies and investment to improve the wellbeing of working households living in poverty and to prevent others from falling into hardship," Ms Saunoamaali'i said.

In-work Poverty in New Zealand is available on the Commission's website.

Date: 25 November 2019

Source: New Zealand Human Rights Commission

Image credits

  1. EEO Commissioner Saunoamaali’i Karanina Sumeo - New Zealand Human Rights Commission