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Economic Standard of Living:

Market income per person


The total value of goods and services available to New Zealanders, expressed in inflation-adjusted dollars, per head of population, also known as real gross national disposable income (RGNDI) per person.


Per capita RGNDI measures the average income available to New Zealanders. A nation with a rising per capita RGNDI will have a greater capacity to deliver a better quality of life and standard of living to the population.

Current level and trends 

In the year to March 2007, RGNDI per person was $29,037 in constant 1995/1996 dollars. This was marginally above the previous year’s income ($28,794 per person). Slower economic growth combined with an increase in net borrowing from overseas by New Zealanders contributed to this result, along with population growth. RGNDI grew slowly from $22,747 in 1988 to $23,288 in 1990 and fell sharply to a low of $20,943 in 1992. From 1992, growth in RGNDI per person was variable but uninterrupted until the year to March 2006, when it levelled off. The average annual growth rate over the whole period from 1988 to 2007 was 1.3 percent.

Figure EC1.1 Real gross national disposable income per capita, 1988–2007

Figure EC1.1 Real gross national disposable income per capita, 1988–2007

Source: Statistics New Zealand

International comparison

While gross domestic product (GDP) per capita is the measure most commonly used to compare income levels between countries, gross national income (GNI) per capita more closely corresponds to the measure used in this indicator. To facilitate comparison, both measures are expressed in US dollars at current prices and current purchasing power parities (PPPs). By either measure, New Zealand was ranked 22nd out of 30 OECD countries in 2005, the same ranking as in the previous five years.53 Using GDP per capita, New Zealand was the 18th most prosperous out of 26 countries in 1986 and the ninth most prosperous in 1970. Using GNI per capita, the rankings for New Zealand were 19th in 1986 and eighth in 1970.

Between 1986 and 2005, real GDP per person (using US dollars and PPPs for the year 2000), grew by 27 percent in New Zealand compared with an OECD average of 43 percent.

Economic value of unpaid work

RGNDI does not take into account the value of unpaid work such as looking after one’s own children, cooking meals at home, fixing the car, doing home maintenance, or doing voluntary work in the community. Using data from the 1998/1999 Time Use Survey, the value of unpaid work in 1999 was estimated to be $39,637 million (1998/1999 dollars), equivalent to 39 percent of GDP, or $10,333 per capita.54