Media statement

The Treasury launches living standards framework

The Treasury has today launched a paper, Working Towards Higher Living Standards for New Zealanders, that provides a descriptive framework of the factors that it considers are essential to national well-being.

The paper is designed to provide greater clarity around the ultimate aim of Treasury's work: to improve the living standards of New Zealanders.

"Improving the living standards of New Zealanders is at the heart of Treasury's work, but we've not always been clear about how we define improved living standards or how they can be measured" Secretary to the Treasury John Whitehead said today when launching the paper.

"This is a significant piece of work and it will bring about a shift in how the Treasury formulates advice to the Government.

"While good economic performance contributes to raising material living standards, the Treasury recognises that a broad range of other factors also contribute to people's standard of living.  Over the last 18 months we have undertaken research and analysis to improve our understanding of these factors, and have used the results of that work to develop a Living Standards Framework" Mr Whitehead said.

The Living Standards Framework recognises the following five elements:

  1. There is a broad range of material and non-material determinants of living standards beyond income and Gross Domestic Product.
  2. Freedoms, rights and capabilities are important for living standards.
  3. The distribution of living standards across different groups in society is an ethical concern for the public, and a political concern for governments.
  4. The sustainability of living standards over time is important, so analysis of policy needs to weigh up short-term and long-term costs and benefits.
  5. Measuring living standards with subjective measures of wellbeing provides a useful cross-check of what is important to individuals.

"The paper being published today describes the factors that, in Treasury’s view, comprise living standards, and formalises what until now we have only done informally.

"It is not a framework that automatically generates the right answer to every question, but it does help describe the factors that we consider when providing advice.

"The total value of goods and services is still the most dependable measure of a nation's economic progress, and therefore its prosperity, but this exercise is about seeking to establish a broader, intellectual basis for Treasury's work - one that provides a guide for how we should be thinking about the complex and multidimensional nature of living standards" Mr Whitehead said.

The Living Standards Framework has already been integrated into the Treasury's Statement of Intent and will also be reflected in the post-election Briefing to Incoming Minister and the next Long Term Fiscal Statement.

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Media contact:

Mike Munro | Communications Manager
Tel: +64 4 917 6008
[email protected]