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Social Connectedness:

Telephone and internet access in the home


The proportion of the population with telephone and internet access in the home, as measured by the New Zealand Living Standards Surveys.


Being able to communicate and interact easily in the absence of frequent face-to-face contact helps maintain social connectedness. Access to a telephone and access to communication via the internet, especially emails, are particularly relevant as social indicators because mail services are almost universal and fax use is principally by businesses. The internet also makes it easier to access a significant and growing repository of information and knowledge.

Current level and trends

In 2004, 96 percent of households had access to a telephone, a similar proportion to that in 2000 (97 percent). While there has been little change in telephone access, there has been a big increase in the proportion of the population with internet access at home. In 2004, almost two-thirds of adults (65 percent) had access to the internet, compared with 37 percent in 2000.

Table SC1.1 Proportion (%) of the population with telephone and internet access in the home, by population characteristics, 2000 and 2004

  Telephone access Internet access
  2000 2004 2000 2004
Population estimates
Total adult population 18 years and over 96.6 95.6 36.5 65.1
Dependent children 94.7 91.3 38.8 66.0
Age groupings
Adults 18–64 years 96.2 94.9 40.9 70.6
Adults 65 years and over 99.2 99.5 11.4 33.6
Economic family ethnicity
Māori economic family 90.4 83.7 26.9 45.5
Pacific economic family 82.2 89.0 11.0 39.5
European economic family 98.0 96.9 36.8 63.1
Other economic family 98.3 96.4 50.5 79.6
Families with dependent children
One-parent with dependent children 89.3 88.7 22.8 50.2
Two parents with dependent children 97.4 94.9 46.5 77.7
All families with dependent children 95.1 93.0 39.7 69.4
Family employment/income status
18–64 year olds, main income earner in
full-time employment
97.7 95.4 42.6 73.5
18–64 year olds, main income earner not in
full-time employment
92.0 92.1 32.5 59.0
65 year olds and over, with employment or other income
(in addition to New Zealand Superannuation)
99.3 100.0 20.5 54.2
65 year olds and over, with little or no other income
(in addition to New Zealand Superannuation)
98.9 99.1 9.1 30.6

Sources: Ministry of Social Development (2003b); Ministry of Social Development (2006)
Note: Revisions to the weights of the New Zealand Living Standards 2000 data mean that data in this table will not agree with data published in The Social Report 2005

Age and socio-economic differences

People aged 65 years and over were more likely than those aged 18–64 years to have a telephone. However, adults under 65 years were more likely to have internet access in their home (71 percent compared with 34 percent for those aged 65 years and over). Older people with no income other than New Zealand Superannuation had the lowest level of internet access in the home (31 percent). However, the fastest growth in internet access levels between 2000 and 2004 was experienced by older people with employment or other income above New Zealand Superannuation (increasing from 21 percent in 2000 to 54 percent in 2004).

Where the main earner in the family was not in full-time employment, telephone and internet access in the home was lower than average. The difference was particularly striking for internet access (74 percent when the main earner was in full-time employment compared with 59 percent when they were not).

Ethnic differences

People living in Pacific economic families (those with any Pacific member) had the lowest level of internet access in the home (39 percent) in 2004. However, they had strong growth in access between 2000 (when only 11 percent had internet access) and 2004. People living in European and Other economic families experienced similar growth rates. People living in Māori economic families had the lowest rate of growth in internet access. Twenty-seven percent had access in 2000 and 45 percent in 2004. The highest level of internet access in the home in 2004 was among people living in Other economic families (80 percent).

Telephone access rates in 2004 were lowest among people living in Māori economic families (84 percent) and highest in European economic families (97 percent). Between 2000 and 2004, levels of telephone access dropped slightly in all economic family types except Pacific, where the rate rose from 82 percent to 89 percent over the period.

Differences by family type

Overall, families with dependent children were more likely than average to have internet access in the home. However, sole-parent families were less likely than two-parent families to have either internet access or a telephone (50 percent compared to 78 percent for internet access and 89 percent compared to 95 percent for a telephone).

International comparison

New Zealand compares relatively favourably with other countries for internet access, with 61 percent of households having access to the internet in 2006. New Zealand ranked tenth out of 30 OECD countries and above the OECD median of 54 percent, based on data for the years 2003–2006. New Zealand ranked about the same as Canada (60 percent in 2004), above Australia (56 percent in 2004), the United Kingdom (56 percent in 2005) and the United States (55 percent in 2003).93