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Barriers to social inclusion

Some New Zealanders experience barriers to social and economic participation that lead to lower living standards. For example, a lack of skills, previous criminal convictions, and health issues, can make finding employment difficult.[104] Government has a range of services designed to reduce these barriers. However, accessing some services can itself be a barrier for participation, for example because of the time required to gather supporting evidence and the challenge of complying with paperwork.[105]

The Treasury's analysis shows most people experiencing persistent disadvantage access government services repeatedly. Figure 4.1 uses the Integrated Data Infrastructure (IDI), a data set that links routinely-collected government data, including on children and their families.[106] The figure shows the rates of uptake of services for two groups – the 10 percent of people now in their early 20s who at birth could be shown to be at high risk of poor welfare and corrections outcomes and other people of the same age. The IDI information shows that high-risk children have a significantly increased likelihood of engaging with social services throughout their lifetimes.

A long-term challenge for New Zealand is to reduce the number of disadvantaged people. Most measures of income inequality in New Zealand show relatively little change over the past 20 years (see Figure 4.2). However, income inequality is only one input into life outcomes. Outcomes for people also depend on a range of other factors including access to quality education, jobs, healthcare, stable home environments, material hardship and persistent disadvantage. This highlights the importance of providing all New Zealanders with the opportunities they need to participate and develop their capabilities so that they can live independent and productive lives.

Figure 4.1 - Differences in outcomes between people at high risk and others
Figure 4.1 - Differences in outcomes between people at high risk and others .
Source:  See the background paper prepared for this Statement: The benefits of improved social sector performance.

Disclaimer: Access to the data presented here was managed by Statistics New Zealand under strict micro-data access protocols and in accordance with the security and confidentiality provisions of the Statistic Act 1975. These findings are not Official Statistics. The opinions, findings, recommendations, and conclusions expressed are not those of Statistics New Zealand.

Figure 4.2 – Income inequality in New Zealand
Figure 4.2 - Income inequality in New Zealand.
Source:  Adapted from Bryan Perry (2016) Household incomes in New Zealand: Trends in indicators of inequality and hardship 1982 to 2015, Ministry of Social Development.

Note: The Gini coefficient compares cumulative proportions of the population against cumulative proportions of income they receive. It ranges between 0 in the case of perfect equality and 1 in the case of perfect inequality.[107] The 90:10 ratio represents the equivalent consumption at the 90th percentile of the equivalent consumption distribution divided by the equivalent income at the 10th percentile – which means that if the ratio were equal to 4, for example, then the poorest person in the richest 10 percent of the population would consume four times as much as the richest person in the poorest ten percent.[108]


  • [104] Auckland City Mission (2014) The Family 100 Project Speaking for Ourselves: The truth about what keeps people in poverty from those who live it, p 20.
  • [105] Auckland City Mission (2014) The Family 100 Project Demonstrating the Complexities of being poor; an empathy tool, pp 18-19.
  • [106] The Integrated Data Infrastructure (IDI) is a large research database containing microdata about people and households. Data is from a range of government agencies, Statistics NZ surveys including the 2013 Census, and non-government organisations. Researchers use the IDI to answer complex questions to improve outcomes for New Zealanders. (see:
  • [107] See Statistics New Zealand's social indicators website at:
  • [108] See The World Bank (2000) Making Transition Work for Everyone, "Appendix A – Measurement of Living Standards and Inequality", p 372.
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