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Social indicators up but investment must continue

21 July 2005 Media Statement

Social indicators up but investment must continue

Social Development and Employment Minister Steve Maharey welcomed the findings of the latest Social Report as evidence of solid progress on social issues, but warned further investments were needed in core areas such as health, education and family assistance if New Zealand was to continue its strong growth path.

The report shows that social wellbeing continues to improve in New Zealand across 16 of 22 measures, in areas like health, education, employment and incomes.

"We've made tremendous progress across most social indicators in the last five years," Steve Maharey said. "It's the sort of progress that could not have been achieved without big increases in health and education spending , or without active policies to help more people into jobs."

Highlights from the report include:
- Real median hourly wages have increased for young people aged 15-24 since 1997
- Children starting school are more likely to have had early childhood education
- The child poverty rates fell from 27 percent in 2001 to 21 percent in 2004
- Life expectancy has increased, while smoking, road casualties and suicide deaths have declined
- Most employed New Zealanders are satisfied with their work-life balance
- On the downside, obesity among adults has become more prevalent

"The good news from this report is that we're continuing our climb through the top half of the OECD on two thirds of the measures where there is comparable international data.

"The challenge now is to ensure these trends continue. To do that we must continue to invest in the things that matter."

Steve Maharey said the Social Report was introduced by the Labour-led government in 2001 to ensure successive New Zealand governments could be held accountable for the social, as well as economic wellbeing of the nation.

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


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