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A profile of children and young people in Auckland: 2022 update

Ashleigh Prakash
Auckland Council Research and Evaluation Unit, RIMU
Publication date:  

Executive summary

Auckland’s children and young people are its future, and Auckland Council has a clear directive to ensure that future is a bright one. The I Am Auckland strategy outlines a commitment to putting children and young people first and identifies a series of relevant actions and targets to promote their wellbeing and success. The wellbeing and success of children and young people in the Southern Initiative area is of especial importance, as this area contains almost one-quarter of Auckland’s children and young people and is an area with significant opportunity yet high levels of socioeconomic disadvantage.

This report presents key trends in demography, education, and employment, and aims to give a detailed accounting on other areas of wellbeing, such as health (particularly mental health), housing, safety, and child poverty. The report also seeks to contextualise how children and young people are faring in Auckland throughout the global COVID-19 pandemic. Key findings identified throughout the report include:

  • Auckland’s population of children and young people continues to grow numerically, which is driven by the city’s generally youthful age structure, high fertility rates of some populations, and migration from overseas and other parts of New Zealand. However, Auckland is undergoing population ageing, meaning that there are declining proportions of our child and youth population relative to older people.
  • Children and young people are increasingly ethnically diverse. The proportion of those identifying as (or being identified as) New Zealand European has declined relative to increasing proportions of Māori, Pacific, and Asian children and young people. There is also an increase in those identifying with multiple ethnicities.
  • One in five families with dependent children are sole-parent households. This is critical because sole-parent families typically experience more disadvantages (like housing conditions and socioeconomic disadvantage) than those with two parents, which can affect children’s overall wellbeing. However, the number of one-parent families in Auckland has decreased over time. Teenage birth rates are also declining over time.
  • Formal educational attainment improved in 2020, despite the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic on young people’s learning. However, rates of formal achievement alone may be misleading, as they reflect a cohort of young people (more likely to be attending school in higher-decile neighbourhoods) who remained in school. There is a cohort of young people who disengaged from school due to various pressures exacerbated by the pandemic, and who are not captured in formal achievement data.
  • In the Southern Initiative area, higher proportions of Māori and European young people are leaving school with little to no qualifications, compared to those of their ethnic group in the rest of Auckland. Attainment of NCEA Level 2 or higher has improved over time for South Auckland students, especially those in Māngere-Ōtāhuhu and Ōtara-Papatoetoe. University Entrance for South Auckland students has remained static and student attainment of NCEA is being driven partially by unit achievement in non-academic subjects.
  • COVID-19 has had ongoing impacts for students in Auckland. Secondary students have experienced greater disruption to their learning and the proportion of chronic absences has increased, especially for those attending low-decile schools. This has impacted their retention in school and formal educational attainment. The impact of existing inequities for Māori and Pacific youth has deepened as a result, especially in digital access. The pandemic has had impacts on students’ wellbeing, motivation, workload, and productivity.
  • The pandemic has also negatively impacted Auckland young people’s employment opportunities. Young people have been affected by higher unemployment and increased casualisation, highlighting the greater burden that they have borne throughout the pandemic. More than one in ten Auckland youth are not in any form of employment, education, or training, suggesting greater youth disengagement in the labour market.
  • Children and young people in Auckland are especially affected by the negative consequences resulting from an unaffordable housing market, like issues of housing quality and habitability. Low-quality housing stock more often affects Auckland children, with higher proportions living in damp and mouldy housing compared to Auckland adults. Auckland children, especially those who are Māori and Pacific, are more affected by household crowding. One in three young people reported experiencing some form of housing deprivation.
  • The health and wellbeing of children and young people is particularly concerning. There is evidence showing that mental health is deteriorating, driven by a complex set of factors like poverty, stress, childhood trauma, socioeconomic deprivation, and lack of access to appropriate healthcare services. New Zealand also continues to have a high rate of youth suicide. However, other elements of young people’s health are promising – for instance, reported substance use is declining, such as tobacco use, binge drinking, and cannabis use. However, an increase in vaping is a new concern.
  • New Zealand has one of the highest rates of child poverty among rich and developed nations. However, national data pre-COVID-19 indicated that child poverty appeared to have declined since 2018 on all measures. Tamariki Māori and Pacific children are more likely to live in households with low income or material hardship, compared to other ethnic groups. Additionally, disabled children, as well as children living in a household with at least one disabled person, are more likely to live in a household with low income and material hardship.
  • It is challenging to identify the level of physical harm that children and young people experience in New Zealand, due to the suspected high level of unreported harm. However, reported data shows that the rate of child injuries in New Zealand has remained stable over time, while the rate of fatal injuries has declined over the last two decades. Similarly, the number of reported victimisations of Auckland children and young people has declined over time, as have young people’s experiences of violence at home.

Despite the prevailing challenges in our social and economic landscape (especially with COVID-19), our children and young people continue to persevere. However, they are not completely healthy and thriving in all dimensions and there are heightened disparities for Māori and Pacific children and young people, as well as for Rainbow youth and disabled children. There is more to be done to improve the health, wellbeing and life outcomes for children and young people in Auckland, of all ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds, if we are to foster a strong, inclusive, and equitable society in the future.

Auckland Council technical report, TR2022/7Two young boys on the beach

May 2022

See also

A profile of children and young people in Auckland: 2022 update. Summary