The Social Report 2016

The Social Report can best be described as a state of the nation report. It uses statistical indicators to monitor trends across key dimensions of people’s lives to provide a picture of progress towards better social outcomes for New Zealanders.

The Social Report 2016 builds on the social wellbeing framework established in The Social Report 2001. This is the 11th edition of the Social Report and the first one published since The Social Report 2010.

This introduction outlines:

  • the Social Report framework
  • the purpose of the Social Report
  • the domains and social indicators
  • the criteria for selecting indicators
  • what’s new in The Social Report 2016
  • how outcomes are reported for different groups of the population
  • the timeliness of the data
  • the structure of the report
  • other indicator reports.

Social Report frameworkTop

The Social Report framework provides the underlying structure for the Social Report and includes four main principles – transparency, openness, independence and trust.

The framework is intended to provide clarity about what the Social Report does and doesn’t do, and has been used as part of consultation discussions with key stakeholders. The framework also helps demarcate the Social Report from, and align it with, other frameworks used by other agencies (eg the framework used by the Ministry for the Environment and Statistics New Zealand to develop environmental reporting; and the Treasury’s Living Standards Framework, aimed at helping staff and others to think widely about the most important things for lifting living standards for New Zealanders).

More information on the Social Report framework can be found in Appendix 1.

Purpose of the Social ReportTop

The aims of the Social Report are to:

  • report on social indicators that complement existing economic and environmental indicators
  • compare New Zealand with other countries on measures of wellbeing
  • contribute to better-informed public debate
  • aid planning and decision-making, and help identify key areas for action.

The report shows how people are faring in New Zealand, how this has changed over time, and how social outcomes vary for different groups in the population. It helps identify adverse trends at an early stage. While the report cannot always show what is driving these trends, it can point to the need for further analysis to help understand the changes and how to address them.

The trends identified in the Social Report are influenced by many factors. The economy, government policy, international factors, demographic change, and the decisions and choices of individuals, families, communities and businesses all affect social outcomes. The cross-cutting nature of many social issues means the Social Report is not a tool for evaluating the effectiveness of specific government policies.

Domains and social indicatorsTop

The Social Report 2016 presents 49 headline social wellbeing indicators in 10 outcome “domains” or areas of people’s lives such as health, education, economic standard of living, and safety. These are listed in Table IN1.2. The desired outcomes for each domain are “ideal” outcomes, rather than specific targets.

The outcome domains are interconnected. Doing well or poorly in one domain is likely to affect performance in other domains. For example, poor educational outcomes are associated with higher levels of unemployment and lower incomes, which in turn are linked to housing affordability problems, poorer health and lower levels of life satisfaction.

Social indicators are statistical measures that can be repeated over time to illustrate changes in the quality of life or social wellbeing. Some indicators measure change in the outcome of interest directly (eg median hourly earnings). Others are known to be good predictors of later outcomes (eg cigarette smoking is a predictor of later health problems).

The Social Report indicators are a mixture of objective measures (eg obesity, assault mortality) and subjective measures that reflect how people feel about a situation (eg contact with family and friends, life satisfaction).

The key feature of a social indicator is that any change can be interpreted as progress towards, or a movement away from, the desired outcome. This distinguishes social indicators from other social statistics that cannot be interpreted this way. For example, while a rise in the median age of parents living with dependent children is a useful statistic for describing social change, the change itself cannot be said to be necessarily “good” or “bad”.

Criteria for selecting indicatorsTop

Selection criteria help to derive a balanced and manageable set of indicators from the mass of statistics available. Indicators for the Social Report have been selected against the nine criteria detailed in Table IN1.1 below.

Table IN1.1 – The Social Report 2016 selection criteria

Criteria Description
Relevant to social outcome of interest The indicator should be the most accurate statistic for measuring both the level and extent of change in the social outcome of interest, and it should adequately reflect what it is intended to measure (ie it should be valid)
Based on broad support There should be wide support for the indicators chosen so they report on a broadly shared understanding of wellbeing
Grounded in research There should be sound evidence on key influences and factors affecting outcomes
Able to be disaggregated Ideally, it should be possible to break the data down by age, sex, socio-economic status, ethnicity, family or household type, and region so we can compare outcomes for different population groups
Consistent over time The indicator should be able to be defined and measured consistently over time to enable the accurate monitoring of trends
Statistically sound The indicator uses high-quality data and the method used to construct it is statistically robust
Timely Data should be collected and reported regularly to ensure indicators are providing up-to-date information
Easy to interpret and understand Indicators should be simple to interpret and what the indicator is measuring should be obvious to users
Internationally comparable As well as reflecting the social goals of New Zealanders, indicators should be consistent with those used in international monitoring programmes so we can make comparisons

Trade-offs between criteria are sometimes required. For example, it may be necessary to choose an indicator where data is produced at long intervals to ensure a consistent time series is available. On other occasions, it may be useful to include indicators with only one data point where they provide important information that otherwise would not be reported.

In some domains, there is an abundance of good data from which to draw appropriate indicators, while in other domains, there is less good-quality or relevant data available. It is considered more important that the indicators are placed in the most appropriate domain, rather than trying to balance the number of indicators across domains.

If indicator areas (eg environment) are comprehensively covered in other reports, they have not been included in the Social Report.

What’s new in The Social Report 2016Top

Given the time since the previous report (The Social Report 2010) was published, almost all indicators have been updated – the exception is the “Adult literacy and numeracy skills” indicator whose data source has not been updated since 2006 – and six new indicators have been added. The 49 headline indicators for The Social Report 2016 are set out in Table IN1.2, with the new indicators highlighted.

Table IN1.2 – The Social Report 2016 outcome domains, desired outcomes
and headline indicators

Outcome domain and desired outcomes Headline indicator

Everybody enjoys a full and healthy life by living well, staying well and getting well. Avoidable deaths, disease and injuries are prevented. Everybody has the ability to function, participate and live independently or appropriately supported in society

Life expectancy
Health expectancy
Self-rated health
Psychological distress
Cigarette smoking
Potentially hazardous drinking
Participation in physical activity

Everybody has the knowledge and skills needed to participate fully in society. Lifelong learning and education are valued and supported

Participation in early childhood education
School leavers with higher qualifications
Participation in tertiary education
Educational attainment of the adult population
Adult literacy and numeracy skills

Everybody has access to meaningful, rewarding and safe employment. An appropriate balance is maintained between paid work and other aspects of life

Median hourly earnings
Work-related injury
Job satisfaction
Satisfaction with work-life balance

New Zealand is a prosperous and equitable society, where everybody has access to an adequate income and decent, affordable housing that meets their needs. People have an adequate standard of living, and are well placed to participate fully in society and make choices about how to live their lives

Market income per person
Income inequality
Population with low incomes
Material hardship
Housing affordability
Household crowding

Everybody has civil and political rights, and actively participates in democratic society. Mechanisms to regulate and arbitrate people’s rights in respect of each other are trustworthy and without discrimination or repression

Voter turnout
Representation of women in government
Representation of ethnic groups in government
Perceived discrimination
Acceptance of diversity
Perceived corruption

New Zealanders have a strong national identity and a sense of belonging, and value cultural diversity. Everybody is able to pass their cultural traditions on to future generations. Māori culture is valued, practised and protected

Local content programming on New Zealand television
Māori language speakers
Language retention
Ability to be yourself in New Zealand

Everybody has access and sufficient time to participate in leisure and recreation activities to their satisfaction

Satisfaction with leisure time
Participation in arts and cultural activities

Everybody enjoys physical safety and feels secure. People are free from victimisation, abuse, violence and avoidable injury

Criminal victimisation
Fear of crime
Assault mortality
Road casualties

People enjoy constructive and supportive relationships with their families, whānau, communities, iwi and friends. New Zealand
is an inclusive society where people are
able to access information and support

Telephone and internet access in the household
Contact with family and friends
Contact between young people and their parents
Trust in others
Voluntary work

Everyone is satisfied with their life as a

Overall life satisfaction

Reporting outcomes for different groups of the populationTop

Where possible, indicators have been broken down by population characteristics such as age, sex, ethnicity, socio-economic status, and regional council area. The breakdowns that can be made, though, are dependent on the level of information collected through the census/surveys or administratively.

The way ethnicity data is presented is constrained by the way it has been collected. Definitions of ethnicity are inconsistent across data sources and change over time.

Timeliness of the dataTop

This report is based around the 2014 year. It uses the most recent data up to this point that was available at the time of production. For indicators based on annual data, this is generally the most recent year. For indicators based on mortality data (suicide and assault mortality), there can be a considerable lag between the year of occurrence and the release of data because of the time it takes to establish cause of death. A number of indicators rely on data from the five-yearly population census, either directly (eg household crowding) or indirectly (eg life expectancy for the Māori population). Importantly, the 2014 period captures the most recent data from the biennial New Zealand General Social Survey (NZGSS).

Structure of the reportTop

The Social Report 2016 is organised into six sections.

The first part of the report, Social wellbeing at a glance, provides a quick overview and summary of the report findings.

The second section, the People section, provides background and contextual information on changes in the size and composition of the New Zealand population.

The third section is the core of the report and is organised around the outcome domains listed in Table IN1.2. Within each of the 10 domains, a set of indicators shows how well New Zealanders are doing in that area.

The fourth section contains the summary of recent and medium-term changes and compares New Zealand against other Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD1 ) countries, and provides a detailed indicator summary table.

The fifth section, the demographic summaries, looks across the report and reviews how different population groups are faring.

The final section contains the bibliography, appendices and endnotes.

  • The Social Report framework is detailed in Appendix 1.
  • A summary of the changes to this report is provided in Appendix 2.
  • Technical notes about indicator construction and data sources are in Appendix 3.

Other indicator reportsTop

New Zealand government agencies publish indicator reports and products on a wide range of different outcomes. Many of these reports are useful complements to the Social Report including:

New Zealand’s Environmental Reporting Series. Produced by the Ministry for the Environment and Statistics New Zealand, this series monitors environmental indicators for air, atmosphere and climate, fresh water, land, marine, and biodiversity.

Regional Economic Report. This report, published annually by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, presents economic data on New Zealand’s 16 regions.

Families and Whānau Status Report. Published annually by the Social Policy Evaluation and Research Unit (Superu), this report presents family and whānau wellbeing indicators.

New Zealand Social Indicators. This web-based product produced by Statistics New Zealand provides a range of regularly updated social indicators.


Feedback is welcomed on The Social Report 2016. Comments can be made via email to: