UNDERSTANDING THE NUMBERS
Statistics New Zealand (SNZ) is a government department and New Zealand’s national statistical office. It is our country’s major source of official statistics and leads the Official Statistics System – the government-wide system of poli cies, practices, processes, underlying data sources, and people that are involved in producing and disseminating official statistics.
SNZ has been publishing statistics for nearly 120-years and maintains three offices – one in Auckland, Wellington, and Christchurch, with around 1,000 staff in total. If knowledge is power then its goal is to give New Zealanders the statistical information it needs to grow and prosper but also to tell the story of New Zealand through statistics that are relevant, accessible, and trustworthy.
Along with other relevant data it collects like age, gender, ethnicity, income levels of individuals and generally the location where its people reside on its official forms, each census that’s taken is essentially a snapshot of how many people, dwellings and electorates there possibly could be in New Zealand. What SNZ does is to process raw information into understandable formats in what are called ‘census products’ which are used by businesses, iwi, local councils, and the government to make decisions on issues that affect us all.
OUR FAST CHANGING FACE
One can only imagine the volume of data that’s collected and to sift through it all will take some doing so for purposes of this post we’ll be making use of some selected infographics supplied by SNZ organised on the basis of New Zealand as a village of 100 people. That make it easier for you (our readers) to better understand the scale of the numbers simplified and some of the relationships that these and any comparisons made.
New Zealand’s face is changing fast. Throughout the period of European colo nisation until a policy change in the 1980s opened the door to a dramatic influx from Asia an official “white New Zealand” policy kept Asians under 1-% of the population. But these days, almost 1-in-every-8 New Zealanders (11.9%) is now Asian, up from 9.2-% seven years ago.
A WORLD WITHIN THE WORLD
The results of Census 2013 now reveal that there are more ethnicities (213) than there are countries (196) in the world. One in every four New Zealanders (25.2%) on Census 2013 day was born overseas. The smallest ethnic groups include Greenlander, Sardinian, and Latin American Creole. Other minority groups inc lude Orkney Islander, Shetland Islander, Corsican, Falkland Islander, Gypsy, Chamorro and Inuit.
The 5 largest ethnic groups Zealand are New Zealand European, Māori, Chinese, Samoan, and Indian, and ethnic diversity has been increasing but the biggest increases since the 2006 census has come from groups within the broader Asian category, spearheaded by the Chinese, Indian, and Filipino ethnic groups.
Filipinos more than doubled to over 40,000 and the new arrivals are those who have come to help with the ongoing Christchurch rebuild, while others emi grated to Canterbury and Otago to work on dairy farms.
MAKING SENSE OF THE DATA
In New Zealand as elsewhere there are hundreds of different kinds and types of occupations but for purposes of statistical organisation and analysis all these are lumped into groupings or standard classifications to make sense of them.
However, for purposes of this post the list of occupations which may be con sidered skilled employment under Immigration New Zealand’s reckoning for the Skilled Migrant Category include:
All occupations in:
Major Group-1: Legislators, Administrators and Managers
Major Group-2: Professionals
Major Group-7: Trades Workers
And some occupations in:
Major Group-3: Technicians and Associate Professionals
Major Group-5: Service and Sales Workers
Major Group-6: Agriculture and Fishery Workers
Major Group-8: Plant and Machine Operators and Assemblers
In addition, for purposes of Census 2013 the data collected has been dual-coded to both the 1999 New Zealand Standard Classification of Occupations (NZSCO99) and the 2006 Australian and New Zealand Standard Classification of Occupa tions (ANZSCO). Both classifications are used in the output that has been pro duced by SNZ.
THE HAVES AND HAVE NOTS
According to the 2013 national Census data that was release in 04 December 2013, more than 181,000 people (or 5-% of the population) have a six-figure salary – up from 105,525 people 7-years ago. The gap between the rich and the poor appears to be widening in New Zealand with the number of Kiwis (41-% who live in Auckland; 19-% in Wellington; and, 12-% in Christchurch) earning more than $100,000 increasing by nearly three quarters. While Census 2013 sta tistics also reveals that median incomes have increased from $24,400 to $28,500 the figure has not kept pace with the inflation rate calculated to be $28,694 to have the same purchasing power.
WE HAVE A LONG WAY TO GO
SNZ’s website contains a ton of information about New Zealand and if you have time, patience and the know-how to navigate around its website you probably will find what you’re looking for because it does provide enough active links to external sources where you might find what you’re looking for.
Having said that, one of the purposes of this post is to validate some observations highlighted in a recently-posted article titled “Glimmer of Hope” found on our sister websites – Filipinos in Auckland and Filipinos in Wellington. This article highlighted some issues and concerns about the current state of affairs in New Zealand from both from an economic well-being and standard of living yardstick and how the country and its inhabitants have fared over the years; how we’ve fared internally on a year-to-year basis and also externally with peer countries in OECD.
Let’s start first with the bar graph you see above. What it does is track the annual levels of disposable incomes of New Zealanders and in this instance, from1992 to 2013.
The term “disposable income” means simply the income remaining after deduc tion of taxes and social security charges, available to be spent or saved as one wishes. Put another way, it is the amount of money that households (or persons) have available for spending and saving after income taxes have been accounted for, but it doesn’t account for the erosion of purchasing power brought about by inflation.
Disposable personal income is often monitored as one of a number of key economic indicators used to gauge the overall state of the economy and is one of the measuring tools that determine New Zealand’s progress over time using a sustainable development approach.
The living conditions New Zealanders have today are based on the environ mental, economic, and social capital built up or depleted by past activity. Sustainable development requires that the living standard we seek to enjoy as a nation should not erode this capital base. Moreover, while the capital base may be maintained sustainably, it is also important that individuals and households have fair access to it. When we raise the issue of fairness, that’s where the problem of the widening “income gap” or inequality crops ups.
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What the Ministry of Social Development’s recent analysis points out is that wealth is distributed more unequally than income. It cites 2004 data showing that while the top 10 per cent of income earners earned 25 per cent of the total income, the wealthiest 10 per cent of New Zealanders had 50 per cent of all wealth in this country. That being said, it is certain that this election year there will be claim and counter-claim from National and Labour about whether the recovering economy is a rising tide that will lift all boats, or whether wealthier New Zealanders will benefit most as poor and middle-income earners continue to struggle.
An increasing level of national income per person available to New Zealanders is consistent also with a rising volume of consumption per person. However, the income level of high-income households has risen more rapidly than that of middle- and low-income households. To make matters worse, the proportion of the population on low incomes has also increased as has the proportion of households spending more of their income on housing, rates, and other basic necessities eroded by price inflation.
The degree of income inequality is often regarded as an indicator of the fairness of the society we live in. Households with low incomes have fewer options for meeting economic needs than households with relatively high incomes. This indicator measures income inequality by comparing the ratio of high household incomes to low household incomes. The higher the ratio rises, the greater the level of inequality and unfairness.
The Ministry of Social Development estimates that between 1988 and 2007, the income inequality ratio increased from 2.24 to 2.5, even if the slope of the line you see in the first graph above shows a slightly ascending trend line from 1992 up to 2009. Then it dropped in 2008 when the recession hit our shores, flat tened out in 2009 and 2010, then inched up a bit from 2011 to 2013.
Recently, in their respective state of the nation speeches, Prime Minister John Key said income inequality in this country was declining while Labour leader David Cunliffe instead says there was an increasing gap between the haves and have-nots as the wealthiest continued to do well, those in the middle struggled to stay there and those at the bottom went backwards.
Analysis from the Ministry of Social Development, which Mr Key’s comment was based on, does little to support either claim. What it does show is that during the late 1980s and early 1990s, income inequality increased quickly. But between 2004 and 2007 it decreased slightly, although not to pre-1987 levels. The ministry’s analysis puts that decline from the mid-90s down to Labour’s Working for Families policy.
SOMETHING MORE REVEALING
Now let’s relate this graph to the second one just below it one which juxtaposes the run of terms in office alternately between the two major parties in New Zealand – National and Labour, each who took turns running our Government during the same time period in question.
It would appear that regardless of which political party was in power at the time there was no significant decline in the trend line (from 1992 to 2008) except in 2009 when the effects of the recession reversed it for the next two years (2010-2011) and the climb upwards (2012-2013) was no better than where the country was before in 2008.
Given that the effects of the recession were global and in instances where the economies of many countries around the world dove down toward negative levels in terms of GDP growth and double-digit unemployment rates, one could say that from a household income point-of-view the stagnant growth of disposable income of Kiwis over the previous 5-years was better than having to go through the economic turmoil and financial ruin other people were ex periencing elsewhere in the world like those living in the United States and most of the EU countries.
But even that is just a snapshot of a small corner of a larger canvass when you compare a localised ‘performance’ measure (Real National Disposable Income) with another one (see next graph below) that’s related but is more revealing and closer to the truth about our state of affairs as a country because what it simply does is compare ourselves as country with other peer countries.
AN APPLES TO APPLES COMPARISON
Most OECD members are high-income economies with a very high Human De velopment Index (HDI) and are regarded as developed countries.
New Zealand is a member of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), an international economic organisation of 34 countries founded in 1961 to stimulate economic progress and world trade. It is a forum of countries committed to democracy and the market economy, providing a plat form to compare policy experiences, seek answers to common problems, identify good practices and co-ordinate domestic and international policies of its members.
If a country becomes heavily indebted (as New Zealand is at the moment) and pays large amounts of interest to service this debt, this will be reflected in a decreased GNI but not a decreased GDP. If a country sells off its resources to entities outside their country this will also be reflected over time in decreased GNI, but not decreased GDP. Therefore, the GDP appears more attractive for countries (like us) with increasing national debt and decreasing assets.
THE LONG SLOG FORWARD
By some crude reckoning, if New Zealand and its people ever aspire to reach the level of where Norway is today at the same pace things have been going on for us over the last 21-years regardless whether National or Labour is in power, and if Norway’s GNI is 2.23 times higher today than New Zealand’s own figure, then we can expect to reach that point sometime in Year 2060. Is that acceptable?
Truth be told, all politicians of this day and age have short-term outlooks. Their decisions are motivated solely by the pursuit of power and their fate hanging on the here and now. It’s the absence of such qualities in leadership such as know ledge, wisdom, vision, judgment and need to promote its virtues, which have brought about every human disaster, recessions and warfare to name just a few.
Ultimately politicians are mere marionettes; their strings pulled this way and that not by vision and sobriety in pursuit of promoting widespread progress for the common good, but by their party masters, bureaucrats, think tanks, lobby ists, interest groups and the media. It is these influential groups in which an enhancement in wisdom and judgment will be most needed. Failing that, then the people themselves should start raising questions.
In the debate that’s now building up as to who should win the election this year for the prized spot in Parliament should we not raise questions about why New Zealand lags so far behind its peers and why there is so much talk of rubbish and other petty issues like the attendance record of MPs in Parliament when the talk should be on innovation and building a New Economy that paints a vision which speaks not just to the dispossessed, but to those who want New Zealand’s eco nomic performance to be lifted much higher and further.
So do you still think ‘she’ll be right’ at this going pace? Yeah, nah.
Filipinos in Hamilton | Our Vital Statistics 2013