13 Sep 2020

Hungry kids at the top of Kiwis' list of concerns, survey shows

From Sunday Morning, 7:34 am on 13 September 2020

Following a UNICEF report that has ranked New Zealand poorly in terms of children's wellbeing, a Research NZ poll indicates that the most troubling issue for New Zealanders is children in homes with not enough food.

No caption

Photo: 123rf

A UNICEF report that came out last week showed that of the 41 OECD and European Union countries surveyed, New Zealand ranked 35th in overall child wellbeing outcomes.

The UNICEF report highlighted that New Zealand's youth suicide rates are the second highest in the developed world and only 64 percent of 15 year olds have basic reading and maths skills, while in terms of mental wellbeing New Zealand sits 38th on the list and it is ranked 33rd on physical health.

Research NZ's Emanuel Kalafatelis said they could not canvas all the areas covered in the UNICEF report, but instead questioned respondents on seven areas.

The Research NZ survey asked about: children not having access to technology and digital tools for learning, children living in cold homes, children in homes where there is not enough food, youth suicide rates, child obesity, bullying and mental health.

The largest concern by far was children in homes where there is not enough food with 83 percent of respondents worried about that.

"When we forced people, our respondents, to make a choice between all seven of these factors 'children in homes where there is not enough food' stood out ... like a country mile, 43 percent of our respondents, so that's almost one in every two of our respondents said that that was the factor that was concerning them the most."

Kalafatelis said its prevalence may be because putting food on the table is considered an easier fix than addressing youth suicide rates or mental health issues, for example.

"One of the things we did reflect on was something that somebody else said about children not having enough food, that without food in children's stomachs they struggle to do other things, they struggle for example to learn when they're at school - which helps to explain why that particular factor floated to the top."

He said the next highest areas of concern were youth suicide rates at 19 percent, followed by mental health at 17 percent.

The other four factors listed were rated by less than 10 percent of respondents as being the thing they were most concerned about - so that includes bullying, childhood obesity, children living in cold homes and children not having access to technology and digital tools for learning.

Kalafatelis said respondents aged 18 to 34 had a higher level of concern about mental health, where as those in the middle and older age groups were more concerned about children not having enough food.

"We're all concerned about our children and I think that concern was reflected in our reaction to the UNICEF report, you know it could easily just have been pushed under the table and forgotten about," he said.