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Assessing New Zealand's performance across living standards dimensions

By taking a wider perspective beyond Gross Domestic Product (GDP), we can better evaluate what it's like to live in a particular country. How to achieve this wider perspective and what measures to use are, however, still a work in progress.

The most relevant comparative index for a developed country is the OECD's Better Life Index (BLI). New Zealand ranks above the OECD average in the majority of indicators in the BLI (see Figure 1.2).[4]

Figure 1.2 - Better Life Initiative: New Zealand (2015)
Figure 1.2 - Better Life Initiative: New Zealand (2015).
Source:  OECD (2015) How's Life in New Zealand?


Note: This figure is based on a ranking of all OECD countries. Longer grey lines show areas of relative strength in terms of a higher ranking (e.g. New Zealand's air quality and perceived health ranked among the best in the OECD).

With regard to the "income" dimension of the BLI, New Zealand is below the OECD average.[5] This is broadly consistent with New Zealand's GDP per capita ranking within the OECD (see Section Two).

New Zealand performs particularly well in health, civic engagement, employment, environment, and life satisfaction. However, the BLI in-and-of-itself does not reveal differences across groups of New Zealanders. For example, some groups are under-represented in employment, there is a wide gap between the highest and lowest performers in education (see Section Three), and some groups have worse life outcomes than others (see Section Four). In the case of natural resources, the BLI indicators do not fully capture aspects that matter for long-term sustainability (see Section Five).


  • [4] See OECD (2015) How's Life? 2015: Measuring Well-being.
  • [5] In Figure 1.2, 'household income' is 'household net adjusted disposable income' (i.e. after taxes and including cash and in-kind transfers).
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