New Zealand

   

Social Policies

#6
Key Findings
With high educational attainments and a strong health system, New Zealand falls into the top ranks internationally (rank 6) with regard to social policies. Its score on this measure is unchanged relative to its 2014 level.

While the country’s PISA scores are high, educational performance is declining, with indigenous children in particular struggling. The new Labour government introduced free tertiary education for first-year undergraduates. The health care system is generally of a high quality, and Maori health outcomes are improving.

Social-security benefits are comprehensive, but high housing costs are a growing problem for the poor. The new government has launched an affordable-housing construction program. Child-poverty rates remain a concern. Women’s labor-market participation rates are still well below that of men, but paid parental leave has been extended to 26 weeks.

Pension policies prevent poverty. Private pension plans are increasingly popular, but have been criticized for a lack of transparency. Integration policy is largely successful, with a recently implemented visa program focusing on skilled immigration. Net immigration figures have risen sharply.

Education

#4

To what extent does education policy deliver high-quality, equitable and efficient education and training?

10
 9

Education policy fully achieves the criteria.
 8
 7
 6


Education policy largely achieves the criteria.
 5
 4
 3


Education policy partially achieves the criteria.
 2
 1

Education policy does not achieve the criteria at all.
Education Policy
9
According to the OECD’s Education at a Glance 2016 Report, the performance across all levels of New Zealand’s education sector compares well with those of other developed countries. PISA scores in New Zealand are higher than the OECD average, although the latest PISA report shows signs of some decline. There is growing evidence that children from lower socioeconomic backgrounds are struggling. Scores for Māori and Pasifika students, which have long been below average, are declining. The effects of socioeconomic disparities continue to be a major topic of public debate. In both primary and secondary education sectors, inequalities persist in school financing and students’ educational achievement, while affordability is affecting parents’ choice of school for their children. Free education is frequently described as being a “myth” and the education-funding system is criticized for being too reliant on parent donations, which produces further inequalities. On a more positive note, according to OECD data, teachers in New Zealand were ranked 4 out of 35 countries for professionalism.

In the field of primary and secondary education, investment and participation rates are high, with teacher-student ratios being among the lowest in the OECD. The main elements of the National government’s approach to education include increasing participation of disadvantaged groups in early childhood education, encouraging students to stay in school longer by improving pathways to further learning and work, and raising teaching quality through increasing collaboration between schools. The new Education Act, passed by parliament in May 2017, lets children start school at the age of four years and 10 months and allows for online-only schools called “communities of online learning” (COOLs).

As for tertiary education, New Zealand’s eight universities are ranked in the top 450 universities worldwide, according to the latest QS World University Ranking, and in the top 600 universities worldwide, according to the Times Higher Education Ranking. Despite the disadvantage of geographical distance, the proportions of international students undertaking short-term study, as well as enrolling in the bachelors, masters and doctoral programs, are higher than the OECD average. Nearly half of all international students come from China and India. While graduation rates at undergraduate level are generally higher than the OECD average, graduation rates for students below 30 years old are in line with the OECD average. For masters studies, the graduation rate of 4% is significantly lower than the OECD average.

Tuition costs have been a source of some concern for New Zealand’s political parties. According to the OECD, tertiary students in New Zealand are paying the seventh-highest fees in OECD countries. The new Labour/NZ First party quickly introduced free tertiary education for first-year undergraduate students, beginning in the 2018 academic year. This policy had been repeatedly rejected by the National government, largely on the grounds that taxpayers were required to carry the burden of a previous Labour government policy, continued under the 2008-17 National government, of providing interest-free student loans. That said, in September 2016, the Productivity Commission’s “New Models of Tertiary Education” recommended reinstating interest on student loans, a suggestion that was categorically ruled out by the National-led government.

A recent development has been the launch of “FindMyPath,” “a new website to help young people explore qualification pathways and figure out what they should study to achieve their career goals.” The policy aims to strengthen the link between education and the labor market.

In December 2015, the Pathway Student Visa pilot program was introduced for a period of 18 months with selected primary, secondary and tertiary institutions. Immigrants with a Pathway Student Visa can undertake three consecutive study programs with selected education providers and the visas are valid for up to five years.

In vocational education, apprentice numbers and completion rates have increased. Furthermore, New Zealand ranks high among OECD countries for adult education.

Citations:
Education at a Glance 2017. OECD Indicators. (http://www.oecd.org/education/education-at-a-glance-19991487.htm).
New website helps students to ‘FindMyPath.’ 30 June 2016 https://www.beehive.govt.nz/release/new-website-helps-students-%E2%80%98findmypath%E2%80%99 (accessed 13 September, 2016).
Pathway visas. New Zealand Immigration. https://www.immigration.govt.nz/assist-migrants-and-students/assist-students/student-visa-info/pathway-visas (accessed 13 September, 2016).
Dougan, Patrice, 2016. NZ students’ results decline, but still above OECD average – PISA report. New Zealand Herald. 6 December 2017 (http://www.nzherald.co.nz/education/news/article.cfm?c_id=35&objectid=11761505 ).
Education Council of Aotearoa New Zealand: http://www.educationcouncil.org.nz/ (accessed November 29, 2016).

Social Inclusion

#13

To what extent does social policy prevent exclusion and decoupling from society?

10
 9

Policies very effectively enable societal inclusion and ensure equal opportunities.
 8
 7
 6


For the most part, policies enable societal inclusion effectively and ensure equal opportunities.
 5
 4
 3


For the most part, policies fail to prevent societal exclusion effectively and ensure equal opportunities.
 2
 1

Policies exacerbate unequal opportunities and exclusion from society.
Social Inclusion Policy
7
New Zealand has a long tradition of support for a more egalitarian society. Governments have established a comprehensive system of social security benefits, including income support. Increased efforts have been put into reducing general disparities, most evident between New Zealand Europeans and the Maori, Asian and Pasifika populations. These differences, however, are more of a reflection of economic, structural and geographic influences than race-based discrimination. With regard to gender equality, based on the ratio of female-to-male earned income, New Zealand has slipped behind in recent years, although, with a pay gap of 9.4% in the June 2017 quarter, it continues to rank among the top countries. In contrast, the rate of unemployment among Maori youth in 2014 was 22%, some four times above the national average. Pacific Island youth unemployment for the same year was at 25%. In recent years, there has been growing public awareness of the incidence of child poverty within New Zealand. Its rate is about the OECD average, but is more than double the rate in the best performing OECD countries.

Housing is an ongoing and substantial social problem. Many of these problems are driven by the high cost of housing in New Zealand, which is above the OECD average, and inevitably affects the poor hardest. Today, the median house price in Auckland is about 10 times the median household income. The outgoing National government was criticized for responding too slowly and underestimating the seriousness of the housing problem. In January 2015, it had announced the introduction of a social housing reform program. In September 2016, housing legislation came into force, which aimed to further stimulate house building in Auckland and free up land for low-cost housing, especially for first-home buyers. In 2017 the incoming Labour/NZ First government pledged to build 100,000 affordable houses within the next ten years.

For the 2017 budget, the government announced a social investment program targeting the most vulnerable sectors of society with early intervention in an effort to save taxpayers money in the long run. The package includes 14 initiatives on mental health, behavioral services for children with behavior difficulties, burglary prevention, national coverage for Family Start, an intensive home visiting program, enhancing industry, treatment, and learning interventions to reduce prisoners’ risk of re-offending and improving their broader social outcomes, increasing long-term contraceptive access for low-income women, expanding Housing First, reducing youth crime rates, and creating positive pathways for people with a corrections history who participate in specific reintegration programs. During the 2017 election, opposition parties complained that these reforms came too late in the life of the government and did not go far enough.

Citations:
New Zealand Income Survey – June 2015 Quarter (Wellington: Statistics New Zealand 2015) (ttp://www.stats.govt.nz/browse_for_stats/income-and-work/Income/NZIncomeSurvey_HOTPJun15qtr.aspx) (accessed 18 September, 2016).
Editorial: Of course house prices must come down. The Dominion Post. 30 July 2016 (http://www.stuff.co.nz/dominion-post/comment/editorials/82623765/editorial-of-course-house-prices-must-come-down).
Children’s Commission, ‘Solutions to Child Poverty in New Zealand’ (Wellington: 2012).
Edwards, Bruce, 2017. Political Roundup: New Zealand’s obsession with inequality. New Zealand Herald. 18 January 2017 (http://www.nzherald.co.nz/politics/news/article.cfm?c_id=280&objectid=11784463).
OECD Economic Survey of New Zealand 2017. (http://www.oecd.org/newzealand/economic-survey-new-zealand.htm) (accessed 24 September 2017).
Dykes, Peter, 2016. The Quasi-Market Approach: the answer for social housing in New Zealand? Institute for Governance and Policy Studies. University of Wellington. Policy Quarterly – Volume 12, Issue 2. May 2016 (http://igps.victoria.ac.nz/publications/files/bd7694d5606.pdf) (accessed 18 September, 2016).
Gender Pay Gap reduction great news for women. Beehive. 1 September 2017 (https://www.beehive.govt.nz/release/gender-pay-gap-reduction-great-news-women).

Health

#1

To what extent do health care policies provide high-quality, inclusive and cost-efficient health care?

10
 9

Health care policy achieves the criteria fully.
 8
 7
 6


Health care policy achieves the criteria largely.
 5
 4
 3


Health care policy achieves the criteria partly.
 2
 1

Health care policy does not achieve the criteria at all.
Health Policy
8
Since 2009, health reforms have encompassed the consolidation of regional hospitals and primary-care organizations, increased use of benchmarking and further decentralization. Although there is both public and private provision of health care, access to the public hospital system is freely available to all residents. Health care is not only generally of a high quality, it is also cost effective and relatively efficiently managed. However, concerns about rising costs and a lack of productivity gains led to the appointment of a ministerial review group and a national health board in 2009, tasked with improving coordination between the government ministry and district health boards, and providing advice on the allocation of budgets. The OECD points out that the biggest projected long-term public spending pressure is in health care, which is expected to jump from 6.2% of GDP in 2015 to 9.7% of GDP in 2060, owing to both aging demographics and the expected increase in expensive new treatments. The gap in health status between Maori and non-Maori has been reduced, particularly regarding smoking-related illnesses and obesity. Gaps in life expectancy have been reduced but more remains to be done, including changes in behavior and lifestyle. Concerns about health disparities have been an ongoing concern, as noted by OECD reports.

Citations:
OECD Health Statistics 2015: How Does Health Spending in New Zealand Compare (Paris: OECD 2015).
OECD Health Statistics 2016 (http://www.oecd.org/els/health-systems/health-data.htm) (accessed 19 September, 2016).
OECD Economic Survey of New Zealand 2017. (http://www.oecd.org/newzealand/economic-survey-new-zealand.htm) (accessed 24 September 2017).
Collins, Simon, 2016. Maori men suffering in disability statistics. New Zealand Herald. 27 June 2016 (http://www.nzherald.co.nz/maori/news/article.cfm?c_id=252&objectid=11663847).
New Zealand Health Research Strategy 2017-2027. Ministry of Health. (http://www.health.govt.nz/publication/new-zealand-health-research-strategy-2017-2027) (accessed 24 September 2017)

Families

#11

To what extent do family support policies enable women to combine parenting with participation in the labor market?

10
 9

Family support policies effectively enable women to combine parenting with employment.
 8
 7
 6


Family support policies provide some support for women who want to combine parenting and employment.
 5
 4
 3


Family support policies provide only few opportunities for women who want to combine parenting and employment.
 2
 1

Family support policies force most women to opt for either parenting or employment.
Family Policy
8
The labor force participation rate of women is comparatively high. However, women have been more susceptible to unemployment than men following the global financial crisis. In 2017, the gender pay gap in New Zealand was 9.4%. Participation of women in the labor force, including business and politics (e.g., women make up only a third of members of parliament), is still well below that of men. Paid parental leave is funded by the government and was extended by the incoming Labour/NZ First government in November 2017 to cover loss of income for up to 26 weeks.

Despite an effort to target resources to serve low-income families and beneficiaries, child poverty levels remain high. If the poverty line is determined to be less than 60% of the median household income, then some 285,000 children were considered to be in poverty in 2014. This has led to increased public criticism, for example by UNICEF New Zealand. Community-based efforts to provide needy children with food in schools have been supported by businesses and government initiatives.

A strengthening of family violence laws was announced in September 2016. According to the then prime minister, “the rate of family violence in New Zealand is unacceptable.” This will involve reforming civil and criminal law. The resulting Family and Whānau Violence Legislation Bill had its second reading in September 2017.

Citations:
Govt again vetoes paid parental leave bill. 29 June, 2016 (http://www.radionz.co.nz/news/political/307590/govt-again-vetoes-paid-parental-leave-bill) (accessed 13 September, 2016).
Safer Sooner: Strengthening family violence laws. The Ministry of Justice: https://www.justice.govt.nz/about/news-and-media/news/safer-sooner-strengthening-family-violence-laws/ (accessed October 3, 2016).
Family violence laws introduced to parliament. New Zealand Law Society. 16 March 2017 (https://www.lawsociety.org.nz/news-and-communications/latest-news/news/family-violence-laws-introduced-to-parliament).


Jonathan Boston, Simon Chapple, 2014. Child Poverty in New Zealand, Wellington Bridget Williams Books.

Pensions

#12

To what extent does pension policy realize goals of poverty prevention, intergenerational equity and fiscal sustainability?

10
 9

Pension policy achieves the objectives fully.
 8
 7
 6


Pension policy achieves the objectives largely.
 5
 4
 3


Pension policy achieves the objectives partly.
 2
 1

Pension policy does not achieve the objectives at all.
Pension Policy
6
New Zealand’s pension system is tax-based. It is relatively efficient, as it prevents poverty in old age with a relatively low level of public spending, measured as a percentage of GDP. The most recent innovation in this area is KiwiSaver, introduced in 2007, a publicly-subsidized private pension plan offered on a voluntary basis. At the time of writing, KiwiSaver enjoys broad political support from both major parties. Although introduced by a Labour government, the National governments implemented only minor modifications. KiwiSaver is a popular option. As of September 2017, more than 2.7 million people had joined the program. However, despite its popularity, the KiwiSaver scheme has come under public scrutiny. A particular criticism has been the lack of transparency around account fee charges, as most KiwiSaver providers don’t inform customers of the exact amount charged for managing their accounts. Another public debate concerns where the KiwiSaver funds end up. It was revealed that, through KiwiSaver, New Zealanders have been investing in tobacco and weapons’ companies.

In the longer term, however, demographic changes mean that more effort must be made to encourage private savings as part of a strategic plan to address public sector affordability issues and intergenerational equity challenges. New Zealand’s recent history of economic downturn and rising unemployment discouraged private saving. As conditions have improved, however, the issues of intergenerational equity and affordability have focused attention on reform. The OECD has suggested improving fiscal sustainability through the raising of the retirement age, while slowing the pace of growth in benefit payments, and through removing subsidies, especially to high-income members. For a long time, the government resisted pressure from some economic and social forecasters, party leaders, and media voices to gradually increase the age of pension eligibility from 65 to 67 years; indeed, prior to the 2014 election the then prime minister threatened to resign rather than adopt a retirement age of 67 years as government policy. One proposal coming from a then government support party, United Future, was to encourage a higher retirement age by increasing the pension rate for those retiring at 70, while allowing retirees to take their pensions at lower rates from the age of 60. Finally, in March 2017, the government released plans to lift the pension age to 67 by 2040 and require migrants to live in New Zealand for 20 years, rather than 10, before they can get New Zealand Super. These plans notwithstanding, in the run-up to the 2017 election, the Labour and NZ First parties made it clear that under their leadership, the 65-year age entitlement would continue.

Citations:
Joining KiwiSaver, http://www.kiwisaver.govt.nz/statistics/monthly/ (accessed January 18, 2018).
Nippert, Matt, Tutty, Caleb, 2016. Dirty secrets revealed: ANZ announces review amidst KiwiSaver furor. New Zealand Herald. 18 August 2016 (http://www.nzherald.co.nz/business/news/article.cfm?c_id=3&objectid=11696300)
Davison, Isaac, 2017. English’s Super policy may not survive election. New Zealand Herald. 7 March 2017 (http://www.nzherald.co.nz/politics/news/article.cfm?c_id=280&objectid=11813022).

Integration

#2

How effectively do policies support the integration of migrants into society?

10
 9

Cultural, education and social policies effectively support the integration of migrants into society.
 8
 7
 6


Cultural, education and social policies seek to integrate migrants into society, but have failed to do so effectively.
 5
 4
 3


Cultural, education and social policies do not focus on integrating migrants into society.
 2
 1

Cultural, education and social policies segregate migrant communities from the majority society.
Integration Policy
9
Today, New Zealand is a prime destination for immigrants. Typically, New Zealand attracts between 40,000 and 50,000 new immigrants each year, and 2017 was a record year for net migration with 72,000 people moving to New Zealand on balance. The increasing numbers of immigrants who become New Zealand citizens reflects the country’s willingness to promote integration. Based on labor market and education system indicators, integration policy has been quite successful. New legislation was enacted in 2015 to ensure that migrant workers had the same employment rights as all other workers in New Zealand. These measures are reflected in the views of most immigrants who are satisfied with their situation. According to statistics collected by New Zealand’s General Social Survey, 87% feel fully integrated and perceive no significant differences in economic living standards compared with the native-born population. The government expects that the Immigration Global Management System (IGMS) and the Global Service Delivery Model (GSDM) will improve matters yet further. In April 2016, the new Global Impact Visa policy was announced. It is a collaborative public-private sector approach to attract international applicants with sought-after skills. To some degree, the overall good performance has to do with the fact that New Zealand employs a points-based selection system that helps to attract immigrants who are relatively self-sufficient financially and can be easily integrated in the labor market. Indeed, the Immigration Act 2009 clearly states for the first time that skilled immigration is preferred in New Zealand. The appeals procedure has been streamlined, and the decision to grant entry can now be based on “classified information” with regard to security matters or criminal conduct. Nevertheless, visa procedures are still complex, and dealing with immigration bureaucracy can be tricky for applicants.

More problematic are the challenges for lesser-skilled immigrants, who experience difficulties in settling in New Zealand when they are unable to bring over other family members. Sustained economic growth during the global financial crisis, together with the Christchurch rebuild following the 2010 and 2011 earthquakes, and Auckland’s recent house-building boom, have provided significant employment opportunities for migrant workers.

Although the government has been reluctant to increase its quota of refugees, public pressure led to a decision in 2015 to double the quota, with the government agreeing to take an additional 600 Syrian refugees on top of an annual intake of 750 refugees. Even Winston Peters, the leader of the New Zealand First party, supported an increase in refugee numbers, despite having built his party in the 1990s on an anti-immigration and anti-refugee platform. In January, March and May 2016, some Syrian refugees were accepted into New Zealand under special provisions.

Established in 2015, the People’s Party of New Zealand focuses on Indian and other Asian communities’ rights. The party participated in the recent general election, but won only 0.1% of the votes and no seats.

Citations:
Attitudes toward Immigrants and Immigrant Experiences: http://www.dol.govt.nz/publications/research/attitudes-toward-immigrants-experiences-regional/report-04.asp (accessed October 13, 2014).
Immigration Act 2009 (Wellington: Government of New Zealand, 2009).
The New New Zealanders: Why migrants make good Kiwis. New Zealand Initiative. Reports & Media. 30 January 2017 (https://nzinitiative.org.nz/insights/reports/the-new-new-zealanders/).
Immigration Amendment Act 2015: http://www.immigration.govt.nz/migrant/general/generalinformation/news/immigrationamendmentact2015.htm (accessed October 24, 2015).
Collins, Simon, 2016. Syrian refugees welcomed to NZ. New Zealand Herald. 29 January 2016 (http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11581680).

Safe Living

#13

How effectively does internal security policy protect citizens against security risks?

10
 9

Internal security policy protects citizens against security risks very effectively.
 8
 7
 6


Internal security policy protects citizens against security risks more or less effectively.
 5
 4
 3


Internal security policy does not effectively protect citizens against security risks.
 2
 1

Internal security policy exacerbates the security risks.
Safe Living Conditions
8
New Zealand’s internal security is the responsibility of the police. By tradition, the prime minister takes ministerial responsibility for the national security and intelligence portfolio, although former Prime Minister John Key broke with that tradition in 2014 by handing over day-to-day responsibility for intelligence services to the attorney general.

The New Zealand Security Intelligence Service (NZSIS) and the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) provide advisory services. In August 2016, the New Zealand Intelligence and Security Bill 2016 was introduced. The bill has reformed legislation and enhanced transparency of New Zealand’s intelligence and security agencies. Expenditures for public order and safety are relatively high and growing, as New Zealanders feel crime to be a salient issue. Recent crime statistics show a considerable decline in criminal offense – partly as a result of an aging society in which the age groups that statistically commit more crimes are shrinking, and partly as a consequence of increased expenditures for police, criminal justice and prison services. However, there was a 2.3% increase in the victimization rate for the year to July 2016 due to an increase in burglaries.

Internal security threats are also addressed through a Combined Threat Assessment Group (CTAG) which involves staff seconded from NZSIS, the New Zealand Police, the New Zealand Defense Force, the GCSB, the New Zealand Customs Service and Maritime New Zealand. CTAG provides assessments on terrorist or criminal threats intended to create physical harm to New Zealand citizens or affect New Zealand interests at home or overseas, based on all information sources within the New Zealand government.

Citations:
New Zealand Police Crime Statistics for the fiscal year ending 30 June 2014: http://www.police.govt.nz/about-us/publication/crime-statistics-fiscal-year-ending-30-june-2014 (accessed October 13, 2014).
New Zealand Security Intelligence Service: http://www.security.govt.nz/our-work/protection-from-terrorism/ (accessed November 30, 2014).
NZ Intelligence and Security Bill 2016. New Zealand parliament (https://www.parliament.nz/en/pb/bills-and-laws/bills-digests/document/51PLLaw23781/new-zealand-intelligence-and-security-bill-2016-bills) (accessed 13 September, 2016).
Official crime stats released today. 31 August, 2016 (https://www.beehive.govt.nz/release/official-crime-stats-released-today-0) (accessed 13 September, 2016).

Global Inequalities

#10

To what extent does the government demonstrate an active and coherent commitment to promoting equal socioeconomic opportunities in developing countries?

10
 9

The government actively and coherently engages in international efforts to promote equal socioeconomic opportunities in developing countries. It frequently demonstrates initiative and responsibility, and acts as an agenda-setter.
 8
 7
 6


The government actively engages in international efforts to promote equal socioeconomic opportunities in developing countries. However, some of its measures or policies lack coherence.
 5
 4
 3


The government shows limited engagement in international efforts to promote equal socioeconomic opportunities in developing countries. Many of its measures or policies lack coherence.
 2
 1

The government does not contribute (and often undermines) efforts to promote equal socioeconomic opportunities in developing countries.
Global Social Policy
9
New Zealand is highly committed to tackling global socioeconomic inequalities. According to the Commitment to Development Index 2017 (Center for Global Development), which ranks 27 of the world’s richest countries on their dedication to policies that benefit people living in poorer nations, New Zealand is ranked 10th. Its aid program is managed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade. It is coherent and efficient in prioritizing economic development (New Zealand is ranked fifth of 41 countries by the Center for Global Development with regard to the quality of its development assistance), despite being criticized by some NGOs. Free access to global markets for developing countries is high on its agenda. The government openly argues for its development program to be used for diplomatic and trade outcomes, and not solely development outcomes. Geographically, New Zealand focuses on countries in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and in the South Pacific, although significant funding is channeled through multilateral and international agencies.

Citations:
Aid Statistics – Donor Aid at a Glance: New Zealand: http://www.oecd.org/dac/stats/documentupload/NZL.JPG (accessed October 13, 2014).
International Development Policy Statement: Supporting Sustainable Development (Wellington: Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade 2011).
New Zealand Aid Programme: https://www.mfat.govt.nz/en/aid-and-development/our-approach-to-aid/ (accessed December 4, 2016).
The Commitment to Development Index 2017. Center for Global Development (https://www.cgdev.org/commitment-development-index-2017) (accessed 27 September 2017).
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