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PQ 7. Child Poverty—Government Initiatives to Address

7. Child Poverty—Government Initiatives to Address

[Sitting date: 29 July 2014. Volume:700;Page:6. Text is subject to correction.]

7. JACINDA ARDERN (Labour) to the Minister for Social Development : Does she agree with the Prime Minister’s statement that “the fastest way to get children and grown up New Zealanders out of poverty is through work”, when the latest report on household incomes states that two out of five children living in poverty are in households where at least one adult is in full time work or self-employed?

Hon PAULA BENNETT (Minister for Social Development): Yes, there are some people in work who are struggling but they have access to a range of support including in-work tax credits, the accommodation supplement, and childcare assistance, and I certainly encourage people to check their entitlement, as often people do not know that they can get that. Being in work is also the best way to gain skills and experience that could lead to a wage increase, more hours, or even a higher paying job.

Jacinda Ardern : If work alone is the answer and the Government has in place all of those additional entitlements she has listed, why are working families still living in poverty?

Hon PAULA BENNETT : It is because their income is not sufficient, which is why we give them extra assistance. We also believe that work is the way out of poverty. The percentage of those who are working and are in poverty is far fewer than those who are in benefit-dependent households. It is also a fact that they can gain skills and experience, which means that they are more likely to get wage increases and are more likely to get higher paying jobs. The best thing that we can do is keep on our track of improving the economy.

Jacinda Ardern : Given that she has acknowledged that for some families their wages are insufficient, has she advocated for a greater increase in the minimum wage to ease the pressure on working families; if not, why not?

Hon PAULA BENNETT : Because I want jobs to be available for New Zealanders, and we have evidence that says that increasing the minimum wage beyond what businesses can afford to pay means that jobs will be cut from the economy. That is the last thing we want to see, because people are far more likely to be in poverty if they are on a benefit. There is also plenty of evidence that says that our minimum wage is the seventh highest in dollar terms in the OECD and on a percentage basis it is actually the highest.

Jacinda Ardern : Are the additional entitlements the Minister has listed as coming from the Government supplementing the fact that we have a low-wage economy and employers who are not paying working families sufficiently?

Hon PAULA BENNETT : Well, considering that certainly the in-work tax credits and the Working for Families were brought in under the previous Labour Government, I acknowledge that that was to supplement those people who are working and struggling to get by. It may be because of the hours that they are working and a range of other factors like the number of children they have got. So, yes, we acknowledge that some people need a boost and we are prepared to give them that, but actually being in work is the best way to get ahead.

Jacinda Ardern : Does she stand by her statement that “another target that I can well and truly point to is making sure that we have more jobs and better paying jobs in New Zealand.”; if so, what evidence does she have that she has achieved her target of better paying jobs?

Hon PAULA BENNETT : Speaking to the first part of that statement, the fact that we have 22,000 new jobs in the economy in the quarter just to March actually shows that we are making a difference for those people—that is a fact.

Jacinda Ardern : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I gave a quote that the Minister had previously given, but I asked her to reference the evidence around better paying jobs.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER : The difficulty is that the member asked a supplementary question to which there were two legs, and the Minister has addressed the first leg of that question.

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