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New inquiry: A fair start for all

15 June 2021

The Government has asked the New Zealand Productivity Commission Te Kōmihana Whai Hua o Aotearoa to prepare the Terms of Reference for a new inquiry, aimed at finding ways to break the cycle of long-term disadvantage.

“The available evidence points to serious disadvantage in low-income families and whānau in New Zealand”, says Commission Chair, Ganesh Nana.

“Children growing up in these households begin their lives ‘behind the starting line’. They face the prospect of a lifetime of poverty and disadvantage that is difficult to escape.”

Persistent, inter-generational disadvantage represents lost opportunities (through economic and social exclusion) and significant loss of wellbeing for those involved and their communities. This lost potential flows through into substantial fiscal costs (such as welfare payments and health costs) and has implications for New Zealand’s productivity and economic potential.

“This inquiry will help us better understand the drivers and dynamics of long-term disadvantage, within people’s lifetimes and across generations. It will do this through significant research and analysis to generate new insights about people facing persistent disadvantage in New Zealand,” says Nana.

“Importantly, it will also make recommendations for effective interventions to mitigate and eventually break the cycle of disadvantage. This will help ensure that all Kiwis get a fair start in life.”

The inquiry also aims to boost public awareness and understanding of the trends in economic inclusion and social mobility in Aotearoa. This includes exploring how reducing persistent disadvantage translates into higher productivity, better economic performance and improvements in wellbeing.

Nana says the Commission will be engaging widely as it develops the Terms of Reference for this inquiry.

“We are keen to kōrero with a broad range of people, groups and communities to help shape this important mahi. The Commission looks forward to hearing the insights and advice from those who work across the range of social support services and education sectors, as well as iwi, Māori, and Pacific groups, and many others.”

Other major inquiries such as the Welfare Expert Advisory Group and the Tax Working Group have already looked at the structure of taxes and benefit payments. The Commission will not duplicate their efforts, but rather focus on additional and complementary ways to break the cycle of long-term and intergenerational disadvantage and exclusion.

The inquiry will look at the capabilities and resources of families and communities to support child wellbeing, such as health, education and housing, as well as structural features of the economy that particularly impact those capabilities and resources.

Anyone interested in the inquiry can subscribe to receive updates.

The Commission will report back to Government with a Terms of Reference for the inquiry by October 2021. The inquiry will then run for around 12 months, with a final report due in late 2022.

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