A new report by the Human Rights Commission offers a framework for a human rights approach to alleviating poverty in working households across Aotearoa New Zealand.
“Human Rights Responses to Poverty in Working Households” builds on research conducted by the AUT’s New Zealand Work and Research Institute which found "more than 50,000 working households live in poverty” before COVID-19.
“The experience of poverty in working households is avoidable. A human rights approach can help identify the systemic changes needed to reduce poverty, prioritise lives and livelihoods, and realise human rights for our whānau,” said Equal Employment Opportunities Commissioner Saunoamaali’i Karanina Sumeo.
The report stresses the economic impacts of COVID-19 are further pushing working families into poverty, especially our most vulnerable – single parents, children, Māori and Pacific peoples, ethnic minorities, households with low educational attainment, disabled people, and renters.
“Working households already experiencing poverty are among those disproportionately affected by the economic realities of COVID-19. Almost 90 percent of workers who have lost their jobs since March are women. This pandemic is entrenching the poverty cycle for many ordinary families.”
“It’s no secret that our current systems are failing our people. Unless there are significant and targeted structural and policy changes in our economic recovery post-pandemic, we will continue to leave our most vulnerable people behind,” she added.
Chief Human Rights Commissioner Paul Hunt said human rights, when applied with Te Tiriti o Waitangi, provide us with an effective tool to help alleviate poverty as the country responds to the economic crisis.
“Poverty is a human rights issue. Human rights do not provide magic solutions to complex problems. But they can help. They help to keep people and communities at the centre of everything.”
“Of course, priorities have to be set and tough choices have to be made. But not at the expense of those living in poverty.”
“Human rights are made for crises like this. They are designed to help us chart a way forward that is fair, good and right for everyone in New Zealand – from our neglected rural areas to our urban centres,” said Hunt.
The report recommends greater collaboration between tangata whenua and the government, within our communities, with civil society, and between employers and employees to develop a plan to eradicate poverty and ensure human rights are realised for New Zealanders.
“Breaking the cycle of poverty involves the full enjoyment of all human rights. Decent work, fair pay, higher levels of educational attainment, and freedom from discrimination are among the necessary responses to avoid exacerbating poverty in working households. Our decision makers must work together to ensure our response to poverty is purposeful and targeted,” said Sumeo.