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NZ's social wellbeing continuing to improve

8 August 2006

Media Release
For Immediate Release

New Zealand's social wellbeing continuing to improve

The Social Report 2006, released today by the Ministry of Social Development, shows that New Zealanders' social wellbeing is continuing to improve.

"Twenty-five of the 42 indicators we monitor have been updated this year and most continue the improving trends shown in previous years" said Marcel Lauzière, Deputy Chief Executive of Social Development Policy and Knowledge. "This includes most of the indicators in the Health, Knowledge and Skills, and Paid Work domains.

"This year's report for the first time also looks at how New Zealanders' wellbeing has changed over the last 20 years. Of the 18 indicators we can track from the mid-1980s, the majority have improved. New Zealanders are better educated, they're healthier and more of them are in paid work.

"Since the mid-1980s, life expectancy has increased, suicide rates have reduced, and cigarette smoking has decreased. However, obesity has doubled for men and almost doubled for women, reflecting changes in diet and physical activity.

"There have been substantial increases in participation in early childhood and tertiary education, and more school leavers have higher qualifications. The unemployment rate has fallen steadily since it peaked at over 10 percent in 1992, and employment has risen.

"Although there have been significant improvements since the mid-1990s, several indicators of our economic standard of living have yet to fully return to where they were in the mid-1980s. Housing affordability and the population with low incomes were worse in 2004 than in 1986, although improving. Income inequality was also worse in 2004 than 1986, but is largely stable. Market income per person and household crowding are better now than in 1986.

"Outcomes for Maori have improved over the last decade for all the indicators that we can measure over time, with the exception of obesity. In many cases this improvement has been at a faster rate than for Europeans, although overall average outcomes for Maori remain worse than for Europeans.

"Maori life expectancy has increased since the mid-1980s and suicide rates and smoking have fallen, although in 2004 Maori still had the highest rates of smoking of all ethnic groups. Maori unemployment rates have fallen and employment rates have risen. Participation in early childhood and tertiary education has increased, and a higher proportion of Maori students leave school with higher qualifications than in the mid-1980s.

"Economic outcomes for Maori have improved since the mid-1990s. The proportion of Maori families with low incomes fell from 42 percent in 1993 to 24 percent in 2004. The proportion spending more than 30 percent of their income on housing costs dropped from 36 percent in 1997 to 21 percent in 2004. In keeping with the general trend, however, some outcomes are still worse than they were in the mid-1980s.

"Overall the picture for Pacific people is similar to that for Maori. Outcomes are improving for most of the indicators that we can monitor, particularly in the areas of knowledge and skills, paid work, and economic standards of living. In some cases outcomes are improving faster for Pacific people than for the population as a whole.

"Women's and men's outcomes are similar across many of the indicators. Women's health and education outcomes are better than men's, but men have better outcomes in the paid work area.

"This year we have updated the number of indicators we have at a regional and territorial authority level, added new indicators and included time series data back as far as the 1980s. The regional information is summarised in The Social Report 2006 Regional Indicators. More detailed data is available on the social report website http://www.socialreport.msd.govt.nz"


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