Treasury staff insight

Measuring wellbeing

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Living Standards Framework 2021

We are on the road to developing the Treasury’s first Wellbeing Report. The first stops along the way have been the refresh of the Living Standards Framework (LSF) Dashboard and the publication of the report, ‘Trends in Wellbeing in Aotearoa New Zealand, 2000-2020’.

For context, the Wellbeing Report is a new stewardship report that the Treasury will produce at least once every four years – a recent addition to the Public Finance Act. The Act says that, using our best professional judgement, we must describe using indicators:

  • the state of wellbeing in New Zealand
  • how the state of wellbeing has changed over time, and
  • the sustainability of, and any risk to, the state of wellbeing.

The Treasury will use its two wellbeing frameworks, the LSF and He Ara Waiora, to frame the Wellbeing Report.

The 2021 LSF and LSF Dashboard

The LSF Dashboard provides transparency around the indicators that will inform the development of the Treasury’s 2022 Wellbeing Report. The Dashboard collects and presents indicators that measure the concepts in the LSF. It is an interactive tool, accessible through our website, which you can use to get a sense of wellbeing in Aotearoa New Zealand. You can break down many indicators by population group, see comparisons with other countries, and explore wellbeing across the domains and other levels of the LSF. Check it out at: Living Standards Dashboard Framework

The Treasury will also use He Ara Waiora (HAW), alongside the LSF, to frame the Treasury’s 2022 Wellbeing Report. Te Puni Kōkiri is currently leading a workstream to develop indicators that measure the concepts in HAW, and we are excited to see these complement the LSF Dashboard. There is more on HAW at He Ara Waiora

The recent LSF Dashboard refresh has evolved the 2019 version of the Dashboard to better align with the 2021 LSF, which we released in October last year. The LSF has continued to evolve over the last decade as we develop our wellbeing thinking. New aspects of the framework, like the additional ‘Institutions and Governance’ level and the redefinition of the wellbeing domains to better reflect child wellbeing, need to be reflected in the LSF Dashboard.

We have restructured the Dashboard so that each section corresponds to each level of the LSF:

  • The Our Individual and Collective Wellbeing section has 62 indicators that measure those resources and aspects of our lives that have been identified by research or public engagement as being important for our wellbeing as individuals, families, whānau and communities. It shows, for instance, that the road toll has decreased significantly over the last 20 years, and that older people tend to feel more able to express their identity than younger people. It also includes additional analysis of wellbeing across the domains.
  • The Our Institutions and Governance section has 18 indicators that measure the health of our institutional spheres like whānau, hapū and iwi, and firms and markets. These can help us understand whether issues like corruption are making it more difficult for institutions to play their roles well and be resilient to shocks (thankfully, New Zealand is perceived to be one of the least corrupt countries in the OECD).
  • The Wealth of Aotearoa New Zealand section has 23 indicators that measure the stocks, states and flows of our wealth. As a couple of examples, it shows that New Zealand has $150,000 of net fixed assets per capita and that the mean coastal sea-level rise each year has been increasing over the last 20 years.

We have also added and moved indicators to better align with the redefined domains of the LSF and incorporated more child-relevant indicators. Our paper gives more detail about the changes. Check it out at: The Living Standards Framework Dashboard - April 2022

Trends in Wellbeing in Aotearoa New Zealand

The ‘Trends in Wellbeing in Aotearoa New Zealand’ report uses the LSF Dashboard as a stepping stone to a wider analysis of wellbeing trends in Aotearoa New Zealand. It is the first in a series of papers that we plan to release in the lead-up to the Wellbeing Report, which will be published in November 2022.

The report addresses the first two requirements in the Public Finance Act, exploring the following three key questions:

  • Where are we as a country positioned on average in comparison to other countries across the various domains of wellbeing?
  • Has our situation improved, worsened, or stayed stable over time?
  • Are there any notable differences in the distribution of wellbeing across various groups in the population?

These are big questions, and the report shows a mixed picture of wellbeing in New Zealand. We see that we are going well in many respects, with high air quality, high rates of employment and volunteering, and high levels of social connection and life satisfaction. However, we also face many challenges and opportunities for improvement. The report highlights concerning trends, with decreasing education attainment relative to the OECD and increasing obesity levels. And those that don’t own their own house tend to face problems with affordability, habitability and crowding.

We also see that, unsurprisingly, different population groups have, on average, different experiences of wellbeing. Some of the most striking differences relate to disability, with disabled people having much lower wellbeing than non-disabled people on many indicators. New Zealand is unique in that, contrary to many OECD countries, our older peoples tend to have high levels of wellbeing. We note concerns for the wellbeing of children and young people, observing that we have the highest rate of bullying in the OECD and school attendance is declining, to name a few.

The insights above and many more are laid out in the report Trends in Wellbeing in Aotearoa New Zealand, 2000-2020

   Improving Steady Worsening
  • Employment
  • Air quality
  • Adult skills
  • Engagement and voice
  • Social support
  • Life satisfaction
  • Self-reported health
  • Loneliness
  • Safety
  • Incomes
  • Riverine E.coli
  • Long hours of work
  • Rental affordability
  • NEET rates
  • Suicide rates
  • Psychological distress
  • School achievement and attendance

Keep an eye out for upcoming papers and events

These are early products in the process of developing the Wellbeing Report. The ‘Trends in Wellbeing in Aotearoa New Zealand’ report uses a conventional, indicator-heavy approach to exploring trends in wellbeing. Subsequent papers over the next six months aim to provide more novel and analytically sophisticated perspectives on the first two requirements for the Wellbeing Report. They will also address the requirement to analyse sustainability and risk, including how we could better measure and value the aspects of our wealth, and explore wellbeing through the He Ara Waiora framework.

The ‘Trends in Wellbeing in Aotearoa New Zealand’ report also focuses on longer-term trends in wellbeing rather than the more immediate impacts of the COVID pandemic. We aim to release an update of earlier analysis of COVID wellbeing impacts later in the year.

Keep an eye out for other papers in the coming months, as well as events in our Wellbeing Report virtual seminar series. The series aims to bring in external ideas as a source of challenge and intellectual stimulation, and to foster debate within the Treasury and the wider public sector. There will be an opportunity to hear external speakers from New Zealand and international experts, as well as hear about emerging Treasury wellbeing mahi. If you missed it, you can check out the recent speech from our Secretary, Caralee McLiesh, Wellbeing in Aotearoa New Zealand 2022: Work towards Te Tai Waiora (the Wellbeing Report)

Please let us know of any work that you are doing that could inform our Wellbeing Report and longer-term work on wellbeing.