This section summarises the indicators we
have updated in this year’s Social Report. It also compares outcomes
from the mid-1980s with recent outcomes and highlights changes within
those periods for the population as a whole and for different
Changes in social wellbeing over time
We have new data for 25 of the 42 indicators used in this
year’s report. The patterns of change shown by the updated indicators
broadly reflect the trends shown in The Social Report 2005.
The Health indicators, with the exception of suicide, have improved.
Despite a small drop in participation in tertiary education (largely
due to a decline in participation in certificate level courses), the
Knowledge and Skills outcomes were generally better. The Paid Work
indicators have all improved. In the Economic Standard of Living
domain, market income per person has gone up. While there was little
change in the proportion of the population with low living standards,
there was an increase in the prevalence of severe hardship.
In the Civil and Political Rights domain, changes were mixed.
Voter turnout in the 2005 general election increased against a
long-term downward trend, and more women were elected to Parliament.
Turnout in the 2004 local authority elections declined, and a similar
proportion of women as previously were elected to local authorities.
People perceived there was less discrimination against most groups. New
Zealand continues to be a world leader in terms of perceived
corruption. In the Cultural Identity domain, we added Prime Television
and Māori Television to the local content programming on New
Zealand television indicator. As Prime screens low levels of local
content, the proportion of local content dropped between 2004 and 2005.
In the Physical Environment domain, both the air and drinking water
quality indicators have improved. In the Safety domain, intentional
injury child mortality improved, road deaths declined but road injuries
went up. The telephone access and the contact with family/friends
indicators in the Social Connectedness domain remained similar to
previous measures, but internet access increased substantially.
In previous reports we have compared recent outcomes with
those of the mid-1990s. This year we are looking back over 20 years to
compare recent outcomes with those from before most of the
restructuring and reforms of the 1980s and early-1990s took place.
Outcomes stagnated or even declined across a number of domains
in the late-1980s and early-1990s. Since then, outcomes have overtaken
the mid-1980s levels in most of the domains we monitor, including
Health, Knowledge and Skills, Paid Work and Safety. However, three of
the five outcomes for which we have data in the Economic Standard of
Living domain have not recovered to mid-1980s levels. Outcomes in the
Civil and Political Rights domain are mixed.
Figure CO1 Changes in social wellbeing,
1985–1987 to 2003–2005
Interpreting "Changes in social wellbeing, 1985–1987 to
The circle represents
average performance against each indicator between 1985 and 1987, and
the spokes represent the
most recent performance, where possible averaged over the most recent
three years (to smooth fluctuations). Where a spoke falls outside the
circle, this means outcomes have improved since the mid-1980s; the
further from the circle, the greater the improvement. Where a spoke
falls inside the circle, outcomes in this area have deteriorated since
the mid-1980s; the further the spoke is from the circle the more
pronounced this effect. There are, however, some important limitations
on this style of presentation. In particular, we cannot directly
compare the size of changes for different indicators. The absence of
trend data for some indicators also means we can show only 18 of the 42
indicators used in The Social Report 2006.
From 1985–1987 to 2003–2005, life expectancy at birth
increased by 6.4 years for males and 4.6 years for females. Suicide
rates worsened in the late-1980s but began to improve towards the end
of the 1990s. The 2003 suicide rate was the same as the 1986 rate of
11.5 per 100,000 population. Cigarette smoking has dropped by 7
percentage points from 30 percent in 1986. Only the obesity outcomes
have deteriorated. Reflecting changes in diet and physical activity,
obesity doubled from 10 to 20 percent between 1989 and 2003 for adult
men. Obesity almost doubled for adult women, increasing from 13 to 22
percent over the same period.
Since the mid-1980s there have been substantial increases in
participation in early childhood and tertiary education and more school
leavers have higher qualifications. The "apparent" early childhood
education participation rate was 98 percent for 3 year olds and 103
percent for 4 year olds in 2005 compared with 43 percent and 73 percent
respectively in 1986. Much of this growth was in the five years between
1986 and 1991, with slower growth in the subsequent years. In 1986, 4
percent of the population aged 15 years and over was enrolled in public
tertiary education institutions, compared to 10 percent in July 2004
and 9 percent in July 2005.
The proportion of school leavers with higher qualifications
has increased substantially from 47 percent in 1986 to 69 percent in
2004. Most of this increase occurred in the late-1980s, with the level
fluctuating between 63 percent and 69 percent since 1990. The greater
availability of employment and training opportunities for young people
without higher qualifications may explain some of the lack of continued
growth in this area.
The unemployment rate increased between the late-1980s and
early-1990s, peaking at 10.4 percent in 1992. It has declined steadily
since 1998. In 2005, 3.7 percent of the labour force was unemployed
compared with 4.1 percent in 1986. In 2005, the proportion of
unemployed people who had been unemployed for more than six months was
just under that recorded in 1986 (23 percent) and substantially lower
than the peak of 53 percent in 1992.
Employment rates fell sharply between 1986 and 1992. Apart
from declines during the economic downturn in 1997 and 1998, the rate
has been rising since 1992. The rate in 2005 was 74.6 percent, compared
with 72.3 percent in 1986. The part-time employment rate increased
throughout the period, from 11.9 percent in 1986 to 15.9 percent in
The market income per person, income inequality, population
with low incomes, and housing affordability indicators all deteriorated
between the late-1980s and early-1990s. However, despite improvements
since then, income inequality, population with low incomes, and housing
affordability are still worse than they were in the mid-1980s. Market
income per person is well above mid-1980s levels and household crowding
improved steadily between 1986 and 2001.93
In the year to March 2005, market income per person was
$28,998 in constant 1995/1996 dollars compared with $22,735 in 1988.
After growing slowly between 1988 and 1990, market income per person
fell sharply between 1990 and 1992. Since then it has been increasing
steadily, reflecting labour productivity gains, increasing labour force
participation and declining unemployment.
Income inequality has increased since 1988; the equivalised
disposable income of a household at the 80th percentile was 2.8 times
that of a household at the 20th percentile in 2004, compared with 2.4
times in 1988. Most of the observed increase in income inequality has
been due to a larger overall rise in incomes for those in the top 20
percent of incomes than for those in the bottom 20 percent of incomes.
Since 1988, incomes of those in the bottom 20 percent of all incomes
have increased only a little, once adjustments for inflation are made,
whereas those in the top 20 percent of incomes have climbed by more
than a third.
The proportion of the population with low incomes was
substantially higher in 2004 than in 1988. In that year, 12 percent of
the population was living below the 60 percent threshold compared with
19 percent in 2004. The proportion of the population with low incomes
increased sharply in the early-1990s, in part reflecting high rates of
unemployment and cuts in the level of social assistance. After reaching
a peak in the mid-1990s, the proportion of people with low incomes
declined over the latter half of the decade and has continued to
improve since then.
There has been a substantial increase in the proportion of
households spending more than 30 percent of their income on housing
since the late-1980s. Between 1988 and 1997 the proportion rose from 11
percent to 25 percent of households, before levelling off at 24 percent
in 1998 and 2001 and falling to 22 percent in 2004. The proportion of
households in the lowest 20 percent of the equivalised household income
distribution spending more than 30 percent of their income on housing
rose from 16 percent in 1988 to reach a peak of 49 percent in 1994
before levelling off at 41 to 42 percent over the period 1996–2001. In
2004, this proportion had fallen to 35 percent. While this represents a
substantial improvement since the mid-1990s, the proportion of
low-income households spending more than 30 percent of their income on
housing is still over twice as high as it was in 1988.
The number of women elected to Parliament has gone up since
the mid-1980s, but voter turnout has declined. In 1984, under the
first-past-the-post system, 13 percent of the Members of Parliament
were women. This climbed sharply to 29 percent in the first
mixed-member-proportional election held in 1996. Following fluctuations
in the subsequent two elections, women now make up 32 percent of the
121 MPs. The percentage of women on local boards and councils increased
from 18 percent in 1986 to 30 percent in 1995, and remained at this
level in 2004.
Voter turnout of the eligible population in the 1984 general
election was 89 percent. Following falls in all subsequent elections,
reaching a low point of 73 percent in 2002, turnout recovered to 77
percent in 2005. A major restructuring of local government in 1989 was
initially accompanied by a noticeable increase in voter turnout at the
local authority elections, peaking at 61 percent in 1992. Since then
voter turnout has declined steadily, with the exception of the 1998
elections. The 46 percent voter turnout in 2004 was the lowest since
1989 (57 percent).
The proportion of local content screened on New
Zealand television channels during prime-time is higher now than
it was in 1988. In 2005, local content made up 38 percent of the
prime-time schedule compared with 24 percent in 1988.
Deaths and injuries from motor vehicle accidents have fallen
substantially since 1986, possibly because of better vehicles and safer
roads, as well as the impact of legislation, enforcement and education.
Fatalities dropped by 47 percent between then and 2005 and there were
24 percent fewer injuries.