Over two thirds of New Zealanders want the government to increase income support rates

Polling out today shows seven out of ten (69%) of New Zealanders agree “the Government should increase income support for those on low incomes and not in paid work”.

The UMR poll was commissioned by a super-group of NGOs who are urging the government to include increases to income support in this year’s budget, in order to release families from the severe constraints of poverty.

The group includes unions, social service NGOs, kaupapa Māori groups, churches, child poverty experts and other organisations across Aotearoa.

“Across New Zealand we are united in recognising that the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic has not fallen evenly, and this poll confirms that as a nation we are no longer willing to tolerate growing inequalities,” says Jacqui Southey from Save the Children. “We all want to work together and do our bit to ensure all of our team of five million have liveable incomes. We’re in this together.”

The group says by keeping income support levels low the Government is choosing to lock more and more people into poverty, with the heaviest burden falling on Māori, Pacific peoples, women, disabled people and children.

“This poll shows that ensuring liveable incomes for all would be a popular move for the government, across the board, as well as the right thing to do,” says Janet McAllister from Child Poverty Action Group. “Even two-thirds (66%) of those with high household incomes - over $100,000 - agree the government should increase income support for those financially less fortunate than themselves.”

“Our compassionate and inclusive approach to caring for the most vulnerable during COVID-19 outbreaks served us well. We must take the same common sense approach to ensure everyone, whether they are working, caring for children, living with a disability or illness, learning, or have lost their jobs before or because of COVID-19, has a liveable income,” continues McAllister.

Figures released by Stats NZ earlier this month show annual inflation for beneficiaries was almost three times higher than for all households in 2020. The Salvation Army’s State of the Nation report 2021 released last week showed an additional 23,000 children living in households relying on income support, and outlined how the economic impact of Covid-19 looks set to further exacerbate unacceptable levels of poverty and inequity.

Dee-Ann Wolferston, CEO of Te Kāhui Mana Ririki says Māori are disproportionately represented in the unskilled and low-paid jobs in our communities and therefore Māori are more likely to be impacted by job losses as result of COVID-19 according to a BERL study.

“Family violence is one of those behaviours that will escalate as result of cost pressures, job losses and housing shortages. In the past 12 months family violence has increased in areas as much as 33%, within which Māori are disproportionately impacted. Raising income support rates will reduce financial pressures for whānau Maori who are already in crisis,” continues Wolferston.

“Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern promised to govern for all New Zealanders but right now many members of our communities are being locked into poverty by low income support rates,” says Ruby Powell from ActionStation.

“The time for excuses is up. This poll shows the Government has a clear social licence and mandate, on top of its moral obligation, to lift inadequate welfare payments to “liveable” levels, and it needs to be done now, in this budget round.”


Please note the embargo of 5am, Monday 22nd February 2021

For more information and interviews, please contact:

Ruby Powell, ActionStation | 022 102 7414
Janet McAllister, Child Poverty Action Group | 021 203 4254
Amie Richardson Save the Children NZ | 027 248 6478
Prudence Walker, Disabled Persons Assembly | 021 546 006
Agnes Magele, Auckland Action Against Poverty | 021 074 3734
Liz Robinson, The New Zealand Post Primary Teachers' Association | 027 215 8814
Kerry Dalton, Citizens Advice Bureau | 027 688 2790
Dr Claire Achmad, Barnardos | 027 544 7608
Natalie Vincent, Ngā Tāngata Microfinance | 022 400 8664
Tavia Moore, Beneficiary Advice Service | 022 176 6170 

Notes: Poll results are based upon questions asked in the UMR Research nation-wide omnibus survey.  This is an online survey of a nationally representative sample of 1,158 New Zealanders aged 18 years and over. Fieldwork was conducted from the 27th of January to the 1st of February 2021. The margin of error for sample size of 1,158 for a 50% figure at the 95% confidence level is ± 2.9%.


  •     Over two-thirds (69%) agreed that “the government should increase the amount of income support paid to those on low incomes and not in paid work”, while just over one-quarter (26%) disagreed.

  •     Among the sub-sample of 202 respondents residing in a rural area 78% agreed vs. 67% of those not residing in a rural area

  •     Among those renting (n=442) 80% agreed vs. 62% of non-renters (n=643).

  •     As age increased, agreement decreased – though the differences weren’t significant:

18-29 years: 73% agreed

30-44 years: 72% agreed

45-59 years: 69% agreed

60+ years: 63% agreed

  •     Likewise, as household income increased, agreement decreased – though the differences weren’t significant:

Less than $50k: 74% agreed

$50k-$100k: 69% agreed

Over $100k: 66% agreed

  •     Majority support was also found across all major parties:

National: 56%

ACT: 52%

Labour: 78%

Greens: 89%


This work has come out of the overwhelming response from the sector to an open letter sent to the Rt Hon. Jacinda Ardern, Hon. Grant Robertson and Hon. Carmel Sepuloni asking for urgent increases to income support levels.

The following groups are continuing to collaborate to work for welfare system change:

  1. ActionStation
  2. Auckland Action Against Poverty
  3. Anglican Action
  4. Citizens Advice Bureau
  5. Child Poverty Action Group
  6. Barnardos
  7. Te Kāhui Mana Ririki
  8. Five to Thrive
  9. Save the Children NZ
  10. Disabled Persons Assembly (DPA) NZ
  11. FIRST Union
  12. The Mental Health Foundation
  13. Lifewise
  14. Post Primary Teachers’ Association
  15. NZEI Te Riu Roa
  16. Anglican Action
  17. St Matthew in the City
  18. FinCap
  19. Kore Hiakai Zero Hunger Collective
  20. NZ Disability Advisory Trust Inc
  21. NZ Accessibility Advisory Trust
  22. Community Housing Aotearoa Inc
  23. United Community Action Network
  24. Monte Cecilia Housing Trust
  25. NZ Union of Students' Associations
  26. Beneficiary Advisory Service
  27. Manawatū Tenants' Union
  28. SociaLink
  29. Poverty Action Waikato
  30. ME Family Services
  31. Manaaki Rangatahi
  32. Te Kupenga Whakaoti Mahi Patunga National Network of Family Violence Services
  33. E. Awareness NZ
  34. The Methodist Alliance
  35. Public Issues, Methodist
  36. Equality Network
  37. CCS Disability Action
  38. Aotearoa New Zealand Association of Social Workers
  39. We Are Beneficiaries
  40. Te Ohu Whakawhanaunga
  41. Te Wāhi Wāhine o Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland Women’s Centre
  42. Te Kāhui Mana Ririki
  43. Ngā Tāngata Microfinance