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Social development matches economic development

Social development matches economic development – Report

Economic gains are being mirrored by social gains, new research released today by the Ministry of Social Development says.

The Social Report 2004 shows a continued improvement in social well-being in New Zealand since the mid 1990s. It is the third social report to be produced as part of the Labour-led government’s determination to be accountable for the social, as well as the economic, state of the nation.

Social Development and Employment Minister Steve Maharey said social development is the essential pre-cursor to economic development.

“Tackling social issues enables us to achieve higher levels of economic growth in the future. A healthy workforce with a high skill level, strong and fair civil institutions, and a vibrant connected society all underpin New Zealand's economic performance.

“This year’s Social Report confirms the social well-being of all New Zealanders is improving. These gains are critical not only for the improved living standards that they bring, but also for the revenue they generate for investment in our social and physical infrastructure.

“This government has put in place a range of policies to support improved economic and social outcomes for New Zealanders and these policies are beginning to pay dividends. Sixteen of the twenty-three indicators for which we have time series data have improved since the mid 1990s.”

Among other indicators: New Zealand’s economic growth has been strong in recent years with per capita incomes increasing by 18 percent between 1995 and 2003, and we recorded economic growth rates twice the OECD average in the March 2004 quarter, the most recent unemployment statistics show unemployment dropping to 4.0 percent, a level of performance not seen in New Zealand since 1987. New Zealand now has the second lowest unemployment rate in the OECD (behind Korea on 3.5 per cent), more people are taking up work and those who are in work are being better paid, with real average hourly earnings growing by 10 percent in the six years to 2003, and a significant growth in early childhood and tertiary participation rates, gains in life expectancy and a reduction in rates of cigarette smoking and suicide.

Steve Maharey said the report also enables a comparison between social well-being in New Zealand and other OECD countries.

“New Zealand is in the top half of the OECD for approximately two thirds of the indicators for which there is comparable international data, including key indicators such as life expectancy, smoking, employment and unemployment, a number of education indicators, and life satisfaction.

“Relative to other OECD nations, the report shows that we perform less well against a smaller number of indicators including income per capita, obesity, child maltreatment deaths, and adult literacy.

“The government commissioned these annual social reports as a means of assessing overall social well-being in New Zealand. During the 1980s and 1990s debate about our society was often restricted to a narrow set of economic measures. The social reports now provide an overall assessment of not only how prosperous we are as a nation, but also the extent to which New Zealanders are in good health, are well educated, are free from criminal victimisation and are socially connected,” Steve Maharey said.

The report also paints a picture of how well-being is distributed across different sub-groups in the population.

“Importantly, there have been across-the-board improvements in social well-being for Mâori and Pacific peoples. For example, in 2003, Mâori unemployment dropped to 10.2 per cent (and has since dropped further to 8.8 per cent), the lowest rate ever recorded, and Mâori now have the highest rates of participation in tertiary education of any ethnic group.

“The Maori and Pacific populations are much younger than the Pakeha population and we all have a stake in ensuring they succeed and help build better living standards for all New Zealanders. While average outcomes are still relatively poor against some indicators, the gains experienced over the past decade mean that in many areas outcomes for Mâori and Pacific peoples are catching up with outcomes for Pakeha,” Steve Maharey said.

Copies of the report can be downloaded from the social report website at http://www.socialreport.msd.govt.nz.

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