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Survey Reveals Parent Struggles - Insights From Expert

28 Nov 2022

nib Survey Results Show ‘parents Have Never Done It So Hard’
  • 62% of Kiwi parents say rising cost of living affects their ability to raise children
  • 13% say they go without essentials, like petrol and meals
  • 1 in 8 say they need a secondary income
  • 41% say they struggle to balance work and parenting

We've released initial findings from our fourth annual State of the Nation Parenting Survey, revealing the impact of the rising cost of living on Kiwi parents.

The survey, which we conduct annually with global research company, One Picture, canvassed the views of 1,226 parents, step-parents and guardians of children under 18 nationally.[1]

Respondents answered questions across a range of themes, including the cost of living, health, wellbeing and the impact of technology on families. Respondents reported an overwhelming increase in societal and household pressures around rising prices, compared to results over the previous three years.

Parents state that the current economic climate has placed households under considerable strain. Financial pressures and daily stresses mean that family health and wellbeing is suffering. Some parents report going without essentials, like meals and petrol.

Financial pressures are high

Annual inflation has risen sharply to 7.2 % (September 2022 quarterly inflation was 2.2 %) and the shockwaves from steep rate hikes (up 7.1%) continue to affect many Kiwi families (Stats NZ).

The majority of respondents (62%) said the rising cost of living has affected their decision-making and ability to raise their children, with 43% of parents cutting back on activities that cost money, and 39% reducing non-essential spending, especially on items like toys and gifts. One in eight are experiencing more severe impacts, such as having to go without essentials or needing a secondary income.

Managing the family and household is the greatest source of stress (61%) for parents including navigating family relationships, the health of the household, behaviour issues and finding childcare.

More than half of parents surveyed (57%) worry about juggling work and family life or managing job security, while two in five (40%) are stressed about financial uncertainty (up from 35% in 2021) and 33% are worried about managing debt.

Our Chief Executive Officer, Rob Hennin, said Kiwis are recovering from several years of COVID-19 disruptions. Many now face economic hardship, as rates and prices rise.

“Parents were just beginning to adjust to a ‘new normal’ in the wake of COVID-19, when cash rates began to rise and house prices plummeted,2 it’s no wonder they are now feeling the pressure,” Mr Hennin said.

“In fact, a third of parents surveyed are worried about debt and mortgage repayments. This is on top of the existing home life pressures such as navigating relationships (29%), health (27%) and even separation from loved ones overseas (13%),” he said.

While 91% said they were able to keep up their regular childcare services, the rising cost of living meant they were concerned for their child’s future.

One anonymous respondent stated that their biggest concern for their child was “them not being able to buy their own home or survive comfortably even if they do make a good wage, because everything is so expensive nowadays”.

Nathan Wallis, nib’s resident parenting expert, says the difference year on year from the 2021 survey is marked.

“Parents have never done it so hard. In these circumstances, focusing on wellbeing and finding ways to access support becomes really important,” Mr Wallis said.

“Self-calming strategies are helpful tools to manage stress, along with spending quality time with family, doing things that don’t necessarily cost money. Parents can take advantage of the summer months by getting outside with their kids and can make the most of free activities like concerts and movies in the park,” he said.

“And of course, don’t go at it alone. There’s no such thing as being too proud to accept help when it’s offered. Lean on your networks of friends and family who can ease the daily burden,” Mr Wallis added.

Greater pressure on ethnic minorities

While six out of 10 parents say the rising cost of living has affected the way they raise their children, Asian (73%), Māori (72%) and Pasifika families (72%) report feeling the crunch to a greater degree.

For these groups, contributing factors include the number of adults living in a household and the age and gender of the parents – younger parents are finding it harder, as are women.

To make ends meet, many Māori, Pasifika and Asian families are having to make more sacrifices than their Pakeha counterparts. While around half of Māori and Pasifika families are reducing spending, parents from these groups are more often going without essentials like skipping meals and petrol (23% and 17% respectively) compared to Pakeha (11%). Meanwhile, more Pasifika (21%) and Asian (22%) parents report needing a secondary income compared to Pakeha (10%).

Mr Hennin said that this survey is a reminder for parents that they’re not doing it alone, and support is out there.

“Parents today are juggling a million things; the last thing they want is for their family’s health to be sacrificed. And with concerns about financial uncertainty and job security on the rise, this no doubt takes a toll on mental wellbeing. When you’re running on empty, you can’t be the best parent you can be.

“If COVID-19 has taught us anything, it’s that our health and wellbeing takes priority. So, it’s nice to see that two thirds of parents surveyed are still planning a holiday. However, as an employer, it’s also important to take note so that you can ensure the right supports are in place for your people.”

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[1] Survey conducted between 9 September – 7 October 2022 [2] House prices plummeting 11% (from November 2021) (RBNZ). Cash rates hit 3.0% in September 2022 (up from 0.25% in September 2021) (Stats NZ).