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Living Standard Survey

NZers get chance to participate in Living Standards survey

Over the next six weeks, 5000 New Zealanders will have the chance to take part in a nationwide survey of Living Standards. The Ministry of Social Development is undertaking this survey to measure how living standards have changed, and why people experience different standards of living.

The research builds on the world-leading research project Living Standards 2000, which provided a picture of the differing living standards of New Zealanders. The information gained from this survey will help to provide sound evidence upon which the government can base social policy decisions to improve living standards for all New Zealanders.

This survey updates the research from 2000 and aims to uncover the reasons why people have different living standards.

The survey will be carried out all over the country, including 1,540 people from Auckland and 500 from Wellington. Participants, chosen at random, will be interviewed on a range of issues including health, accommodation, work, personal support networks, their life history and social circumstances. For those with dependent children in their households, a range of child-specific questions has been devised. These will assess the impact that the economic situation of families has upon our youngest citizens. In addition, participants will have the opportunity to rate their own standard of living, and how satisfied they feel about this. The interviews are strictly confidential; the Ministry will have no means of identifying individuals.

The research uses the New Zealand Economic Living Standard Index (ELSI) developed by the Ministry’s Centre for Social Research and Evaluation (CSRE).

ELSI is a world first in gathering information on living standards. It asks people what they actually have, what they can afford to buy, and what things they really do.

“Knowing all this stuff helps us to understand where we need to focus our efforts to improve living standards for all New Zealanders,” says Nicholas Pole, General Manager for Centre for Social Research and Evaluation.

“We used to gather information on the basis of family income and family size. Now we’re able to gather a wider range of information to factor into living standards, and this can be used to tailor future policy.”

Living Standards 2000 revealed where higher and lower living standards were occurring in New Zealand and in what population groups.

“Now we need to know why people have different living standards,” says Mr Pole. “For example we know that some people earning the same income can have quite different living standards. We’ve now got to find out what factors are influencing this.

“Living Standards 2000 found that more than a quarter of all families with dependent children were worse off than the population as a whole and, of these children, one in five couldn’t afford to visit the doctor, didn’t have warm clothing or shoes, or shared a bed because of cost.

“Children with lower living standards were at least twice as likely to miss out on school outings and organised sports, or go without school books and supplies.

“This kind of information gives us a graphic picture of how people in constrained circumstances are living.”

Mr Pole said the survey was the second stage of research to occur over many years in the quest to refine information. “In years to come this research will also track changes in the living standards of New Zealanders from the benchmark that we have set in 2000.”

The Ministry encourages people to take part in the research. Those being approached to participate will initially be sent letters inviting them to take part. Interviewers will then contact them to make interview appointments.


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