The Salvation Army Social Policy and Parliamentary Unit
The Salvation Army fears a permanent and dangerous fracture in New Zealand society if policy makers continue along the path of concentrating the nation’s wealth and influence in the hands of a privileged few.
The Salvation Army’s fifth State of the Nation report The Growing Divide is being launched today, with five events to be held around the country to mark the report’s release. The Growing Divide indicates a growing proportion of the population is increasingly being sidelined from mainstream economic and social life.
Salvation Army Director of Social Policy Major Campbell Roberts says, if we as a country truly care about our children and grandchildren, then we will look beyond the narrow economic rationalism that bought us the global economic crisis, burgeoning private debt at home and an increasingly divided nation.
“Tragically, The Growing Divide signals that we have few aspirations for our children and young people and have all but given up on any serious efforts to relieve child poverty, youth marginalisation or address the causes of crime,” he says.
Salvation Army State of the Nation reports track social progress across five critical areas: New Zealand’s children, work and incomes, crime and punishment, social hazards, and housing.
The Growing Divide shows some gains, including falling rates of teenage pregnancy, closing gaps in educational achievement between low and high decile schools, falling infant mortality, declining rates of youth crime and overall crime rates, and more Kiwis paying down housing debt.
But it also underscores a lack of progress in reducing child poverty rates in the past five years, and it appears more children are being abused or neglected by their caregivers. Noticeable among the more recent changes is that while children living in one-parent families are historically more likely to live in poverty, more two-parent families are now living with dire material need. This trend has been sorely evident at Salvation Army welfare centres for the past two years.
Of particular concern is the high youth unemployment rate and declining industry-based training opportunities for them, Major Roberts says. The number of young people who are languishing at home or have stayed at school because of a lack of jobs or training opportunities is estimated to be up to 40,000.
“To have a large number of young people effectively shoved on the scrap heap defies logic when the social and economic costs long-term are enormous, and at a time when we need as many tax payers as we can muster as the retirement population starts to rapidly expand,” Major Roberts says.
Major Roberts suggests the country is now at a point where there are two options: “To carry on down the same policy track we’ve been on for the past three decades, or make a committed and concerted effort to ensure marginalised New Zealanders, particularly the poor and the unemployed young, are valued and given a stake in the nation’s future.”
Scoop copy of report: The_Growing_Divide.pdf