In this section, we summarise the changes
in social outcomes for New Zealanders over the longer term, based on
the updated indicators, and we compare New Zealanders’ wellbeing with
that of people living in other countries. We feature the changes in
social outcomes for men and women over time. We also summarise the
changes for the Māori, Pacific peoples, Asian and Other ethnic groups
relative to the European population.
Changes in social wellbeing over time
Changes in social wellbeing over time
This Report shows social outcomes have improved strongly since
the mid-1990s, as did previous reports. Most of the indicators for
which 10-year trends are available show improvements. Suicide, road
casualties, unemployment, population with low incomes, participation in
tertiary education, and the educational attainment of the adult
population (tertiary) have all improved markedly. Only the obesity,
income inequality and voter turnout indicators have deteriorated over
We have new data for 27 of the 40 indicators used in this
report. Overall, New Zealanders have a good level of social wellbeing
and our wellbeing continues to improve across a number of domains. Most
of the updated indicators in the Health and Paid Work domains show
improved outcomes, and the road death rate has improved in the Safety
However, some outcomes have levelled off following
improvements in past years. In particular, a number of indicators in
the Knowledge and Skills and the Economic Standard of Living domains
are static or show small declines. Some of these are indicators that
measure several components, so changes cannot always be interpreted
unequivocally as being good or bad for social outcomes. For example,
the fall in participation in tertiary education was almost all in
Levels 1–3 certificate courses rather than in courses at bachelor’s
degree level or higher, reflecting an emphasis on improving the quality
of tertiary qualifications.
In the Economic Standard of Living domain, after several years
of steady growth, market income per person levelled off in the year to
March 2006 and increased slightly in the year to March 2007.
The indicator of local content programming on New
Zealand television in the Cultural Identity domain shows an
improvement, but the proportion of Māori language speakers has declined
slightly. In the Leisure and Recreation domain, participation in
physical activity has been steady.
The most recent changes in the Physical Environment domain are
mixed. In the Social Connectedness domain most New Zealanders reported
they believed people can be trusted, but nearly one-fifth reported they
sometimes felt lonely or isolated.
Social wellbeing in New Zealand compared to Organisation
for Economic Co-operation & Development (OECD) countries
Internationally, we compare favourably for many social
indicators. New Zealand is at or above the OECD median for
two-thirds of the 20 indicators for which we have internationally
New Zealand performs extremely well in the area of Civil
and Political Rights. In 2006, New Zealand had the lowest equal
level of perceived corruption in the OECD. We also perform strongly in
the area of Paid Work, with a low unemployment rate and a high
employment rate. New Zealanders have a high level of trust in others
and a high level of internet access in the home. In terms of Knowledge
and Skills, New Zealand is above the OECD median for the
proportion of adults who had at least upper secondary qualifications
and for participation in tertiary education, and around the OECD median
for the proportion of adults who have a bachelor’s degree or higher.
New Zealand is also around the OECD median for the
majority of our Health indicators. Our life expectancy is similar to
the median life expectancy of the OECD, but we have better outcomes
than the OECD median for cigarette smoking. Our suicide death rates and
our obesity rates though, are worse than the OECD median.
New Zealand is below the OECD median for market income
per person, population with low incomes and income inequality. New
Zealand's rate of road deaths is also slightly worse than the OECD
Figure CO1 Social wellbeing in New
Zealand, relative to the OECD
Changes in social wellbeing for females and males
Over the last 40 years, New Zealand has experienced
significant social and demographic changes, many of which have impacted
differently on men and women. In this section we look at how the
outcomes we measure differ between males and females, on average, and
how these sex differences have changed over time. It should be noted we
are reporting only on average outcomes, when there can be large
variations within outcomes.
Figure CO2 Social wellbeing for females,
relative to males, 2004–2006
Interpreting "Social wellbeing for females, relative to males"
The circle represents average outcomes for males. The
spokes represent average outcomes for females. Where a spoke
falls outside the circle, the outcome for females is better than for
males. The further the spoke is from the circle, the better the outcome
for females relative to males. Where a spoke falls inside the circle,
the outcome for females is worse than for males. There are, however,
some important limitations on this style of presentation. In
particular, we cannot directly compare the size of changes for
different indicators. Where possible, the data represents three-yearly
averages. Most of the data is from 2004–2006 except for: obesity
(2003), suicide (2002–2004) and assault mortality (2002–2004).
Although female Health outcomes are generally better, the gap
Although women on average are healthier and are increasingly
better educated than men, they lag behind men in outcomes for Paid
Work. Outcomes for men and women in the Economic Standard of Living
domain are generally similar. In the Safety domain, males face a higher
risk of injury or death than females, although fear of crime has a
higher impact on the quality of life of females. Improvements for males
in Health and improvements for women in Paid Work mean the gaps are
narrowing in these domains. In other areas sex differences are less
pronounced, although men continue to outnumber women as Members of
On average females live longer than males but between 1996 and
2005 the sex gap in life expectancy decreased from 5.3 years to 4
years, reflecting greater gains for males. Between 1996 and 2001 the
number of years a female could expect to live in good health (not
requiring the assistance of a person or complex device) increased by
one year, but there was no real improvement for males. This suggests
the increase in life expectancy for males over the period 1996–2001 was
in years of relatively poor health. Females gained fewer years, but the
time gained was in relatively good health.
Between 1989 and 2003, obesity increased markedly for both
males and females, doubling from 10 to 20 percent for men, and
increasing from 13 to 22 percent for women. Females and males have
shared very similar rates of cigarette smoking since the 1980s. Rates
for both sexes have fallen from 30 percent in 1985 to 25 percent for
males and 23 percent for females in 2006.
There is a marked sex gap in the suicide death rate. The male
suicide rate is over twice that of females, but females make more
suicide attempts than males. Since the mid-1980s, the male suicide
death rate increased and then declined whereas the female suicide death
rate has remained fairly stable.
Knowledge and Skills outcomes are improving faster for
females than males
In 2006, 65 percent of females compared with 56 percent of
males left school with NCEA Level 2 or above. The sex gap in school
leavers with higher qualifications increased from the late 1980s and
reached a peak in 2001. From 2003 to 2006, the gap in attainment of
NCEA Level 2 or above decreased from 10 percentage points to 9
percentage points. Although women are more likely than men to
participate in tertiary education (14.6 percent compared with 12.8
percent of men in 2006), the recent decline in participation between
2005 and 2006 was greater for women than for men.
Men still have a higher rate of educational attainment than
women across the population as a whole. In 2006, 78 percent of men and
76 percent of women had attained an educational qualification at upper
secondary level or above. This reflects the fact that males aged 45
years and over (and particularly those aged 55–64 years) are more
likely to have a higher level of educational attainment than their
female contemporaries. This gap is narrowing as younger cohorts of
women achieve higher educational outcomes than men. Between 1991 and
2006, the educational attainment of men at upper secondary level or
above increased by 8 percentage points compared with 13 percentage
points for women.
Men generally have better Paid Work outcomes than women,
though the gap has narrowed
In 2006, 3.5 percent of men and 4.1 percent of women were
unemployed and actively seeking work. The unemployment rate for women
has been higher than that for men since 2002. During New Zealand's peak
years of unemployment in the early 1990s, rates of unemployment were
higher for men than for women.
Men are also more likely to be employed than women, although
the female employment rate is increasing. In 2006, 82 percent of men
aged 15–64 years were employed compared to 68 percent of women. While
the employment gap between the sexes is substantial, it has narrowed –
from 24 percentage points in 1986 to 14 percentage points in 2001, at
which point it plateaus.
Men have higher median hourly earnings than women across all
ages, although the gap has narrowed over time and is small at younger
ages. In 2006, median hourly earnings for males were $18.13 an hour.
Female earnings were $2.25 an hour lower at $15.88. The ratio of female
to male median hourly earnings fluctuated between 1997 and 2006, but
was higher at the end of the period. In 2006, median hourly earnings
were about the same for both sexes in the 25–29 years age group. Women
are concentrated in a narrower range of jobs than men, are
under-represented in higher-level positions, and are more likely to be
responsible for a greater share of unpaid work and caring
responsibilities. These factors in part contribute to lower female
Men are more than twice as likely as women to suffer workplace
injuries involving a claim to ACC, but the gap has narrowed. In 2005,
there were 170 claims per 1,000 full-time equivalents (FTEs) for males
compared with 81 per 1,000 FTEs for females. This reflects in part a
male predominance in relatively dangerous occupations. Between 2001 and
2005, there was a greater improvement for males in the rate of
workplace injuries than for females.
Employed men and women have similar rates of satisfaction with
work-life balance. Among full-time workers, men are more likely to be
satisfied with their work-life balance than women.
Outcomes for men and women in the Economic Standard of Living
domain are generally similar
Since 1986, females have been slightly more likely than males
to be living in households with low incomes, reflecting in part the
higher proportion of female sole parents, although the gap closed in
2004. Women are also more likely than men to be in lower paid jobs.
There is little difference between males and females in housing-related
There are still considerably more men than women in Parliament
Despite improvements from the mid-1980s, women are still
considerably under-represented in Parliament. In 1984, under the
first-past-the-post electoral system, 13 percent of the Members of
Parliament were women. This increased sharply to 29 percent under the
first mixed-member-proportional election in 1996. Following
fluctuations in the next three elections, women now make up 32 percent
of the 121 Members of Parliament. In the 1980s, women were more highly
represented in local government than in national government, but this
was reversed in the 2005 general election. In the 2004 local government
elections, 30 percent of elected members were women.
Men are more physically active than women
Surveys over the last two years by Sport and Recreation New
Zealand show men are more likely to be physically active than
Males face a higher risk of injury or death than females
although fear of crime has a higher impact on the quality of life of
Males are more likely than females to die from assault or
intentional injury (1.7 deaths per 100,000 males in 2004, compared with
the female rate of 0.7 deaths per 100,000 females). They are also more
likely to be injured or killed in motor vehicle accidents. Although
road deaths have declined substantially for both sexes since the
mid-1980s, the male road death rate has remained double that for
The New Zealand Crime and Safety Survey 2006 shows males
and females are equally likely to experience some form of criminal
victimisation. Although females were twice as likely as males to be the
victims of sexual offences, males were more likely to be the victims of
confrontational offences by people they did not know.
Despite having the same criminal victimisation rate, females
affected by partner violence were the victims of more incidents per
person on average than males affected by partner violence.96 Women were
also more likely than men to report that fear of crime impacted on
their quality of life.
Social Connectedness outcomes are mixed
Men and women reported a similar level of trust in others in
2006, but women were more likely than men to have felt lonely during
the past 12 months.
Changes in wellbeing for Māori relative to Europeans
Māori have poorer outcomes than Europeans, but the gap is
closing in many areas
Over recent years there have been considerable improvements in
outcomes for Māori across a number of domains, in many cases at a
faster rate than for Europeans. Among the improving outcomes for Māori
have been increasing life expectancy, greater participation and
attainment in education, declining unemployment and rising incomes.
However, in these areas and others the average outcomes for Māori still
tend to be poorer than those for Europeans.
It is important to note the risk of poor outcomes often varies
by age. For example, young adults have higher rates of unemployment,
suicide death, road casualties and criminal victimisation, and lower
incomes than older adults. For ethnic groups with a young age profile,
such as Māori and Pacific peoples, this means that poor outcomes
relative to those of other ethnic groups may be partly attributable to
the different age structures of the groups. This should be kept in mind
when comparing outcomes between ethnic groups for indicators where the
data has not been age standardised.
Māori have experienced greater gains in life expectancy than
non-Māori over recent years, but Māori still have a shorter life
expectancy than Europeans. Māori women have the highest smoking rates
of any ethnic group (50 percent) followed by Māori men (40 percent).
Since 1990, smoking prevalence has declined by five percentage points
for Māori, the same as for the European/Other ethnic group. Māori also
have a higher suicide death rate than non-Māori and are more likely to
be obese than those in the European/Other ethnic group.
Considerable gains in Māori educational participation over a
number of years have narrowed the gaps between Māori and Europeans in
the Knowledge and Skills domain. The participation rate of Māori
children in early childhood education grew faster than that for
European children from 2000–2004, but it levelled off in 2005 and 2006
at 90 percent, compared with a participation rate for European children
of 98 percent. Māori attainment of higher school qualifications in 2006
(37 percent) was considerably lower than for Europeans (65 percent).
There have also been considerable increases in Māori participation in
tertiary education and in 2006 the rate of Māori participation at
tertiary level was the highest of all the major ethnic groups at 20
percent. However, in the core tertiary education age group of 18–24
years the Māori participation rate was lower than that of Europeans. As
a result of increasing tertiary participation, the proportion of Māori
holding a qualification at bachelor’s degree level or above has also
increased over the last 10 years.
The Māori unemployment rate halved between 1995 and 2006, and
is now the lowest since the Household Labour Force Survey began. The
gap between the unemployment rates of Māori and Europeans narrowed from
12 percentage points to 5 percentage points over that period. The
employment rate for Māori has been increasing at a faster rate than
that for Europeans since the early 1990s, although at 65 percent in
2006 it remains well below the European rate of 80 percent. The ratio
of Māori to European median hourly earnings fluctuated between 1997 and
2006, and was slightly higher at the end of the period although it
dropped from 2005 to 2006.
Workplace injury claim rates are higher for Māori than those
for other ethnic groups (182 per 1,000 FTEs compared with 119 per 1,000
FTEs for Europeans in 2005). The higher claim rate for Māori is likely
to reflect their relatively greater concentration in high-risk
industries and occupations.
The proportion of Māori living in households with low incomes
has fallen in recent years. After rising from 11 percent in 1982 to 41
percent in 1994, the figure dropped to 22 percent in 2004, narrowing
the gap between outcomes for Māori and Europeans living in low income
On average, Māori have worse outcomes in the Safety domain.
Māori are about twice as likely as other ethnic groups to die in motor
vehicle accidents, and considerably more likely than non-Māori to die
as a result of assault or intentional injury. In the five years to
2004, the rate of death from assault or intentional injury for Māori
children under 15 years was 1.4 per 100,000 children, compared with 0.6
per 100,000 for non-Māori. Māori adults are also more likely to be
victims of crime (47 percent compared with 37 percent for Europeans).
While 36 percent of Europeans reported that crime affected their
quality of life, 47 percent of Māori reported this.
The number of speakers of te reo Māori increased by 1,100
between 2001 and 2006. The 2006 Census shows a slight decrease in the
proportion of Māori who speak Māori since 2001, while the 2006 Survey
on the Health of the Māori Language shows an increase over this same
period. It is not clear whether the proportion of Māori who speak Māori
has declined slightly or increased.
Figure CO3 Social wellbeing for Māori,
relative to Europeans, 2004–2006
Interpreting "Social wellbeing for Māori, relative to
The circle represents average outcomes for Europeans. The
spokes represent average outcomes for Māori. Where a spoke falls
outside the circle, the outcome for Māori is better than for Europeans.
The further the spoke is from the circle, the better the outcome for
Māori relative to Europeans. Where a spoke falls inside the circle, the
outcome for Māori is worse than for Europeans. There are, however, some
important limitations on this style of presentation. In particular, we
cannot directly compare the size of changes for different indicators.
Where possible, the data represents three-yearly averages. Most of the
data is from 2004–2006 except for: life expectancy (2000–2002), obesity
(2003), suicide (2002–2004), participation in cultural and arts
activities (2002), assault mortality (2002–2004), road deaths
(2002–2004) and contact with parents (2001).
Changes in wellbeing for Pacific peoples relative to
Although outcomes are improving for Pacific peoples, they are
still comparatively poor in a number of areas
Like Māori, Pacific peoples have also experienced improving
outcomes in a number of areas including education, employment and
living standards. However, some indicators show a slowing of earlier
improvements and considerable gaps remain between the outcomes of
Pacific peoples and those of Europeans.
Pacific peoples were more likely to smoke cigarettes in 2006
(37 percent) than Europeans/Others (21 percent) and Asians (12
percent), but were less likely to do so than Māori (45 percent).
Pacific peoples have the highest prevalence of obesity of any ethnic
Knowledge and Skills outcomes for Pacific peoples have
generally improved over the long term but recent changes are more
mixed. As was the case with Māori, the participation rate of Pacific
children in early childhood education increased faster than the rate
for European children between 2000 and 2004, but participation rates
declined slightly over the next two years. Pacific children have the
lowest rate of attendance of any ethnic group. Pacific peoples’
attainment of higher school qualifications in 2006 (50 percent) was
lower than for Europeans (65 percent).
The increase in the proportion of Pacific adults with
qualifications at upper secondary level or above between 1996 and 2003
was the largest of any ethnic group, but between 2003 and 2006 the
proportion declined. The proportion of Pacific adults who hold a
qualification at bachelor’s degree level or above has increased since
The unemployment rate for Pacific peoples, like that of Māori,
has fallen markedly over recent years. In 2006, Pacific peoples had an
unemployment rate of 6.4 percent – lower than the Māori rate but higher
than that for Europeans. Unemployment peaked at 28.0 percent in 1991
for Pacific peoples, the highest rate for any ethnic group, and 20.1
percentage points higher than the European unemployment rate. In 2006,
this gap had reduced to 3.7 percentage points. Pacific unemployment
reached a record low of 6.1 percent in 2005. Employment rates for
Pacific peoples fell steeply from 68.4 percent in 1986 to 45.6 percent
in 1991. They have recovered strongly since then. However, with an
employment rate of 61.6 percent in 2006, Pacific peoples are still less
likely to be employed than they were in 1986.
The ratio of Pacific peoples’ median hourly earnings to
Europeans’ earnings has fluctuated over the past nine years. The ratio
is now slightly higher than it was in 1997.
The proportion of Pacific peoples living in households with
low incomes has fallen markedly in recent years. After rising from 13
percent in 1982 to 44 percent in 1994, it dropped to 29 percent in
2004. The proportion of Pacific families spending more than 30 percent
of their income on housing costs has been higher than that for European
or Māori families over the past decade to 2004, but the gap narrowed
between 2001 and 2004. Pacific peoples are far more likely to live in
crowded households than other ethnic groups. The level of household
crowding improved for Pacific peoples between 1986 and 2006.
In 2005, 47 percent of Pacific peoples were victims of crime
compared with 37 percent of Europeans. Pacific peoples were also more
likely than Europeans to report that fear of crime had an impact on
their quality of life.
Figure CO4 Social wellbeing for Pacific
peoples, relative to Europeans, 2004–2006
Interpreting "Social wellbeing for Pacific peoples, relative
The circle represents average outcomes for Europeans. The
spokes represent average outcomes for Pacific peoples. Where a
spoke falls outside the circle, the outcome for Pacific peoples is
better than for Europeans. The further the spoke is from the circle,
the better the outcome for Pacific peoples relative to Europeans. Where
a spoke falls inside the circle, the outcome for Pacific peoples is
worse than for Europeans. There are, however, some important
limitations on this style of presentation. In particular, we cannot
directly compare the size of changes for different indicators. Where
possible, the data represents three-yearly averages. Most of the data
is from 2004–2006 except for: obesity (2003), participation in cultural
and arts activities (2002), assault mortality (2002–2004), road deaths
(2002–2004) and contact with parents (2001).
Outcomes for ethnic groups other than European, Māori and
Pacific peoples are mixed
Indicators for ethnic groups other than European, Māori and
Pacific peoples are limited. Some surveys used in this report provide
separate data on Asians and on those people of other ethnicities. In
other cases, data on Asians and on those of other ethnicities are
combined. This, along with the diverse make-up of the Other category,
probably contributes to the mixed outcomes evident for this group.
After European children, Asian children are the most likely to
have attended an early childhood service before attending primary
school, followed by children of the Other ethnic group. The rate of
attendance for Asian children and children of the Other ethnic group
grew faster than the rate for European children between 2000 and 2006.
The Asian group has the highest level of school leavers with higher
school qualifications, followed by Europeans. Adults from the Other
(including Asian) ethnic group are the most likely to have at least
upper secondary qualifications and to have tertiary qualifications at
bachelor’s degree level or above.
The Other (including Asian) ethnic group has the second lowest
rate of unemployment, behind Europeans (6.2 percent compared with 2.7
percent for Europeans in 2006). The unemployment rate of this group has
been consistently below the unemployment rates of Māori and Pacific
peoples since 1986. Between the mid-1990s and 2005, partly through the
inclusion of international students studying in New Zealand, the Other
ethnic group had the lowest rate of employment of any ethnic group. In
2006, the employment rate of the Other ethnic group was higher than
that for Pacific peoples. Median hourly earnings for the Other ethnic
group have consistently been second highest, behind European median
hourly earnings over the period since 1997. However, employees from the
Other ethnic group experienced the lowest percentage increase (4
percent) in real median hourly earnings from wage and salary jobs over
the nine years to June 2006.
The proportion of Other (including Asian) ethnic families with
low incomes increased from 8 percent in 1982 to a peak of 54 percent in
1998. It decreased to 38 percent in 2004, but was the highest of any
ethnic group. Households with an adult of Other ethnicity were more
likely to spend more than 30 percent of their income on housing costs
than any other group, and to experience an increase in the proportion
with housing costs greater than 30 percent between 2001 and 2004 (from
36 percent to 42 percent). After Pacific peoples and Māori, those in
the Other (excluding Asian) ethnic group were the most likely to be
living in a crowded household, followed by Asians. The Other ethnic
group was the only ethnic group to have an increased incidence of
crowding between 1991 and 2001.