New Zealand’s Jacinda Ardern can lay strong claim to being the most celebrated world leader of the pandemic. While much of the world is dealing with resurgent infection rates, life for New Zealanders has mostly returned to normal.
The phrase “be strong, be kind” has become a government motto and her speeches and social media posts travel far beyond New Zealand, often going viral across the world. In an election last month, she easily secured a second term.
She does, though, have critics and some say that she is failing the young and impoverished.
This year, the UN children’s agency annual report on child wellbeing placed New Zealand 35th out of 41 countries surveyed. The report found that 13 percent of the country’s children were living in “material hardship” – defined as unable to eat fresh food, visit doctors or pay bills on time. Worst affected were Indigenous Maori and Pacifica households with nearly one in four Maori children and one in three Pacifics children living in poverty. And New Zealand has the second worst youth suicide rate in the developed world.
Adern responded to the report by pointing out it had not taken into consideration the NZ$5.5bn “Families Package” which her government says has lifted 18,400 children out of poverty.
So what is really going on in New Zealand and why are so many children being left behind? In this episode of The Stream, we will ask those questions to a panel of experts and find out how they think the issue should be tackled.
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