The latest Unicef report has us languishing at the bottom of the developed world in relation to the health and welfare our children and youth. This report was based on the data our government collects and concerningly, with regards to child poverty, a ranking wasn’t provided because of a refusal to follow standard practice (an admission of failure?). In many documented areas we are seriously neglecting our young people (ranking numbers are determined by the data provided from a maximum of 41 developed countries):
- Child Poverty (41/41?) I consider that we must be by far the worst in the developed world for child poverty when the Government refuses to use the same measures as other countries so that we can be ranked. Our Children’s Commissioner and the Child Poverty Monitor currently state that 14% of our children suffer from material hardship. We have a much higher threshold to determine this and require 7 elements to recognise hardship, while most other countries use only two. The US is ranked 33 out of 37 for child poverty and they have 21% of their children in households living below the poverty threshold. 28% of our children live below the poverty line and 16% live in jobless households, so I would surmise that we could be the worst. We also have the most expensive housing in the world and a homelessness problem that has exploded in recent years. Between 2006 and 2013 homelessness grew by 25% and involved 1% of the population and 53% of our homeless were families with children. Now that shortages have become increasingly pronounced over the four years since then, I would suggest around 2% of the population is now homeless and many more are living in substandard housing. Third world diseases like rheumatic fever are now common place here, and are directly related to housing poverty. New Zealand is clearly too afraid to provide relevant statistics to enable us to be ranked.
- Teen Suicide (34/34) We are the worst by a great margin. The median number of teen suicides per 1,000 for developed nations is around 7.5, while 15.5 of our 15-19 year olds take their own lives. This is a shocking indictment on the ability of families to support their teens and our severely under-resourced mental health system. I can imagine few developed countries that would lock struggling youth in adult prisons because of a shortage of youth facilities. Those specialised youth facilities that do exist are run like prisons for hardened criminals. Youth prisoners can be locked in their cells for 19 hours a day, which is classified as torture, is emotionally damaging and unlikely to support rehabilitation.