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Is New Zealand’s ‘golden age’ in the past?

Is New Zealand’s ‘golden age’ in the past?

A new report reveals that New Zealanders are wealthier, living longer, and are healthier than ever before, and education and training levels are at an all-time high. Disturbingly however, the family and the well being of children is under threat, and the crime rate remains high.

The report, State of the Nation New Zealand, traces and analyses the profound social and economic changes occurring over the past century, to paint a definitive picture of life on the island today, and show where opportunities for reform lie. It is released on Wednesday 26 November by The Centre for Independent Studies, and follows on from the well known Australian series.

Other key report findings:

A dramatic increase of single-parent families Single parent families as a proportion of all families with children grew from 10% in 1976 to nearly 30%.

Crime remains unacceptably high whilst imprisonment rates are low. There was an enormous, six-fold increase in the crime rate between the 1950s and the late 1980s. Crime remains disproportionately high, considering the high levels of wealth, welfare expenditure and taxation. The imprisonment rate has not kept up with rising crime, increasing only three-fold since the 1950s.

Tax- Freedom day: In 2000, taxpayers had to work 125 days to pay their proportion of the national tax bill and start working for themselves. In 1940, this was only 50 days.

New Zealanders are healthier and living longer, over a period where expenditure on health has not greatly increased.

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New Zealand has one of the highest youth suicide rates in the world, however numbers have dropped since the Youth Suicide Prevention Strategy began in 1998. Nonetheless, in 2000, New Zealand was the second highest for male suicides and fourth highest for female suicides among twelve OECD countries reviewed.

New Zealand is becoming a more highly educated society. The number of school leavers with no qualification halved between 1974 and 2000. The proportions of students gaining Higher School Certificate and University Bursary have tripled since 1974.

Economic growth over the last decade was 2.6% per annum. This is modest by international comparison and could be improved by more consistent reforms of economic and social policies.

The cost of social services is excessively high, standing at 13% of GDP in 2003. Government expenditure reflects the escalating costs of social services, particularly welfare. The cost of social services is now almost double that of any other category of government spending.

Nicole Billante is a former Research Assistant at The Centre for Independent Studies. She has an MA in Political Science from the University of Canterbury, Christchurch, and has authored several reports on policing and civil society.

Jennifer Buckingham is a Policy Analyst at The Centre for Independent Studies, and author of the ‘State of the Nation Australia’ series, as well as many books on education.

Copies of the report ‘State of the Nation New Zealand’ are available on request.

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