The growing gap in educational achievement between poorer and more well-off communities, rising rates of offender recidivism, and social hazards relating to alcohol, drugs and gambling are all evidence that inequality is still ingrained in New Zealand’s social fabric.
These were some of the findings of The Salvation Army’s 2019 state-of-the-nation report, Are You Well? Are We Safe?, which was released today.
The release of the report is timely as New Zealanders await this year’s ‘wellbeing’ budget.
“The Government’s promise of a wellbeing budget in 2019 is overdue, but in taking this approach it is important that we do not gloss over the large and persistent inequalities which exist across our society,” says report author Alan Johnson.
The 82-page report takes a wellbeing approach to considering New Zealand’s social progress.
It looks at the differences between those of us who are doing okay and the most vulnerable New Zealanders, says Johnson.
The report shows a lack of tangible progress in key areas including record levels of household debt and a growing gap in educational achievement between poorer and more well off communities.
The report also shows rising rates of offender recidivism and evidence of increasing levels of activity related to social hazards such as alcohol, drugs and gambling.
There is some good news, however. The authors were encouraged by the small and recent reduction in the total number of people in prison. While most predictions were for further increases, the number fell by almost 600 people.
There is also a reduction in youth offending and teenage pregnancies. However, Kiwi children continue to experience unacceptably high levels of violence and neglect, according to the report.
This year’s report has incorporated analysis that shows significant persistent gaps between Māori and non-Māori across a wide range of wellbeing indicators that signify entrenched patterns of disadvantage and perhaps systemic racism.
“The wellbeing of Māori needs the attention of us all and it appears to us that these gaps will not be fully addressed if we continue to rely on generic policy responses to symptoms of poverty,” says Johnson.
But Johnson says the report is not about pointing the finger.
“We cannot blame Government for everything that has or hasn’t happened in terms of social progress. However, as yet there are few signs that government policies are beginning to address these seemingly entrenched aspects of poverty in New Zealand.”