Commissioned report

Treasury Living Standards Dashboard: Monitoring Intergenerational Wellbeing

This report was commissioned by the Treasury from wellbeing expert Conal Smith of Kōtātā Insight. The report includes a proposed ‘dashboard’ covering a range of elements and specific indicators of living standards and intergenerational wellbeing in New Zealand.


The vision of the New Zealand Treasury is to promote higher living standards for all New Zealanders. To support this, the Treasury uses the Living Standards Framework to guide its policy advice. In 2017, the Living Standards Framework underwent a major “refresh” to focus it on the four capital stocks (physical and financial capital, natural capital, human capital and social capital) that form the resource base for intergenerational wellbeing. In order to usefully inform policy advice and strategic planning, the Living Standards Framework needs to be more than just a conceptual tool. It will be necessary to develop measures that can provide meaningful information on intergenerational wellbeing to complement existing fiscal and economic measures.

This report develops a proposed Living Standards Dashboard to support the application of the Living Standards Framework to policy issues. In particular, it sets out a view of the economics underpinning the Living Standards Framework and outlines an agenda for applying the Living Standards Framework to inform Treasury’s policy analysis. As with the System of National Accounts, there is value in having the Living Standards Framework grounded in a coherent economic model that can help identify and define the key concepts that will need to be measured. These include current wellbeing, the capital stocks that form the productive resources used to produce wellbeing, as well as New Zealand’s net claims on the rest of the world and productivity. In all cases, both the level, change, distribution, and stability of outcomes are of importance.

The report sets out a starting list of indicators capturing these key concepts and identifies available data sources as well as data gaps. The OECD How’s Life? Framework is used as a reference point for the proposed Dashboard’s international comparability, but relevance to New Zealand is also a core focus and this is reflected both in the elements of wellbeing that are measured and the choice of specific indicators and data sources. The report concludes with a proposal for reporting the indicators and recommendations for future development. To help manage the trade-off between breadth and depth of coverage, the report recommends a tiered approach for the Dashboard with different “cuts” depending on the context.