The NZ Living Standards 2004 report reveals that under Labour from 2000 to 2004 the numbers of Maori and Pacific people in severe economic and social hardship has roughly doubled.
Over the four years 57% of Pacific people remained in a degree of hardship, but the numbers in severe hardship jumped from 15% to 27%.
The comparable figures for Maori were 40% in hardship, with 17% in severe hardship, up from 7%.
Overall in New Zealand, 24% of people are living in hardship. Those in severe hardship have jumped from 5% to 8% (that is a 60% increase). It is beneficiary families with children that make up the highest proportion of this group.
Housing costs and overcrowding
According to The Social Report 2006, the number of people living in households paying more than 30% of their income on housing costs has doubled in sixteen years. In 2003/04, 21.4% of people were in this category, up from 10.6% in 1988. For Maori and Pacific people the figure had been as high as 36% and 48% respectively in the late 1990s, and in 2001(the latest figures):
- 21% of Maori households spent roughly a third or more of their income on housing needs.
- 23% of Pacific households were in the same situation.
- 42% of other non-Pakeha households, many of whom are new immigrants, were paying in excess of 30% of their income on housing.
The report also says Pacific people are most likely to be living in overcrowded conditions. In 2001:
- 43% of Pacific people lived in homes requiring extra bedrooms.
- 5% of the total population were living in severely overcrowded accommodation. Pacific people and Maori made up 79% of that group (41% and 38% respectively).
The report said there is a clear correlation between poverty and levels of overcrowding, with those unemployed, those locked out of gaining educational qualifications and those in rental accommodation being more likely to live in these adverse and unhealthy conditions.
Little change under Labour
Working class Pacific and Maori voters gave Labour the support it needed for the last General Election. The electorates where these votes came from, like Mangere where 72% voted Labour, remain the poorest in New Zealand and the MSD reports reveal there has been little change since a Labour-led government came to office in 1999. The future for these voters looks just as bleak under the Labour-led Government’s programme.
Some improvements came in the first three years when the Alliance was a junior coalition party to Labour. It was then, for example, that income related rents (no more than 25% of income) were introduced for Housing NZ state houses.
Under the recently introduced "Working for Families" policy the poorest people have lost ground. Beneficiary incomes have never been restored to the levels that existed before the 1991 National Government cuts.
The MSD shows that inequality continues to increase. The gap between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have-nots’ has continued to widen from 1988, including during the years from 2001 to 2004 under Labour-led governments.