Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

Q What is the Social Report?

A 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 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.

In The Social Report 2016, 49 national level indicators are presented using graphs, tables and commentary. A chapter on changes in the size and characteristics of the New Zealand population provides context, while summary sections provide analysis on the changes in social wellbeing in New Zealand.

Q Why is the Social Report produced?

A The Social Report contributes to well-informed public debate by providing an accessible overview of key social indicators. It identifies positive and adverse trends of these indicators. This is useful to local and central government agencies, and Non-Government Organisations (NGOs), to identify areas of concern, develop responses to issues, and monitor changes over time. The report cannot always illuminate what is driving these trends, but it can point to the need for further research to understand what is happening and what actions need to be taken to address them. It is also a useful resource for community groups, academics, schools, and not-for-profit organisations.

The Social Report complements indicator reports produced by other agencies, including the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, the Social Policy Evaluation and Research Unit and the Ministry for the Environment.

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) is promoting the use of indicators to measure progress within societies. The OECD also encourages the use of indicator sets to inform and promote evidence-based decision-making within and across the public, private and NGO sectors.

Many other OECD countries, such as Australia, the United Kingdom and Canada, have products similar to the Social Report which also monitor changes in social indicators over time.

Q Who uses the Social Report?

A The Social Report is used by central and local government research and policy staff, local and national politicians, NGOs, private sector organisations, the media, academics, students and others.

Q Can the Social Report be used to inform government policy?

A The Social 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 or be used to directly inform policy, it can point to the need for further analysis to help understand the changes and how to address them.

Q Does the Social Report measure government performance or specific government policies/programmes/interventions?

A The Social Report focuses on individual wellbeing and concentrates on how New Zealand is doing as a nation overall. While it helps to identify trends and to understand the effects of such trends, including policy changes, it cannot evaluate the impact of single intervention programmes or sector-specific issues.

Q Why doesn’t the Social Report cover specific population groups such as people with disabilities?

A The Social Report covers the entire population and is not a measurement tool which can monitor specific issues facing every group or community. As such, it cannot easily accommodate special interests not shared by the wider population. However, the report does provide breakdowns of data, where appropriate, by certain demographic cuts (eg age, sex, ethnicity, socio-economic status, family type, etc).

Q Why are some topic areas missing from the Social Report? Eg environment, domestic violence, child abuse, etc.

A If indicator areas are comprehensively covered in other reports, they have not been included in the Social Report.

The Social Report covers the entire population and is not a measurement tool which can monitor specific issues facing every group or community. There is also a lack of robust data in some areas, such as for child abuse, which makes it difficult to develop indicators that meet the selection criteria.

Q Why is there no composite measure (ie an overall score of social wellbeing) in the Social Report?

A A composite measure is not suitable for the Social Report. In order to produce a composite index, indicators would need to be weighted and thus valued. However, in the authors’ view, social wellbeing is a multi-dimensional concept and cannot be expressed in one number.

Q Will there be a regional Social Report available as in previous years?

A Yes, a regional report will be published in 2016. It will also be available on the Social Report website.

Q Why is there a gap in publication between The Social Report 2010 and The Social Report 2016?

A The Social Report was published annually by the Ministry of Social Development from 2001 until 2010, at which time Cabinet rolled the report onto a three-year cycle. A report was not produced in 2013, owing in part to the impact of the postponement of the 2011 Census. In December 2013, the Minister for Social Development agreed a new edition of the Social Report would be produced.

Q Have any indicators been changed since the last Social Report?

A Given the time since the previous report (The Social Report 2010) was published, almost all indicators have been updated or revised and six new indicators have been added. The only indicator which has not been updated is Adult literacy and numeracy skills, as the data source has not been updated since The Social Report 2010.

Q Why is 2014 data used in some indicators, while other indicators use data from earlier years?

A Available data which is closest to 2014 has been used for all indicators. For some indicators, the most recent data will depend on when surveys are undertaken, for example, annually or less regularly like the New Zealand General Social Survey or census.

For indicators based on mortality statistics, such as suicide and assault mortality, there is a lag in the availability of the data because of the time it takes to establish cause of death.

Q Has any data been released since The Social Report 2016 was finalised?

A Information and data are constantly being released by agencies as it becomes finalised. In order to allow for an extensive external review, the Social Report was completed a number of months before being published. This report is based around the 2014 year and uses the most recent data up to this point.

Q Can information in The Social Report 2016 be compared against information in previous reports?

A Events such as the Global Financial Crisis and the Canterbury earthquakes have resulted in significant movements in the outcomes reported. As a result, it is better to look at comparisons in the latest report rather than refer back to earlier editions.

Q How reliable/accurate are the indicators?

A The Social Report uses data sourced from high-quality and reliable surveys and publications, and from reputable agencies. These include:

  • Census of Population and Dwellings
  • New Zealand Health Survey
  • New Zealand General Social Survey
  • Household Labour Force Survey
  • New Zealand Income Survey
  • Survey of Working Life
  • Household Economic Survey
  • Youth2000 Survey series
  • Statistics New Zealand
  • Ministry of Education
  • Ministry of Health
  • Ministry of Transport
  • Department of Internal Affairs
  • Electoral Commission
  • Parliamentary Library
  • NZ On Air
  • Creative New Zealand
  • OECD.

Although the data has been through a rigorous quality assurance process, including a review by Statistics New Zealand, there is always the chance that errors have occurred.

Q How were the indicators chosen for inclusion in The Social Report 2016?

A The Social Report framework guided the selection of indicators and their data source. The well-established and robust selection criteria helped to derive a balanced and manageable set of indicators from the mass of statistics available. The criteria used are:

  • relevant to the 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.

Q How were the data sources chosen? Why have some data sources changed since the last report?

A The Social Report framework guided the selection of data sources used in the Social Report. Data is sourced from high-quality and reliable surveys, publications and agencies. Where indicators could be drawn from more than one data source, the selection criteria (above) were used to determine which source was more suitable.

Data sources may have changed since the last Social Report because either data is no longer available (eg the survey is no longer being run), or a more suitable source is now available. The gap since the last report means this is more likely than in previous reports.

Q Why is the Social Report organised by domains? Could some indicators sit under more than one domain?

A The use of domains gives the report structure. Some indicators do overlap between domains, but the most suitable domain has been chosen. In The Social Report 2016, participation in physical activity has moved from the Leisure and Recreation domain to the Health domain.

Q Has The Social Report 2016 been independently reviewed?

A The indicators within the Social Report have been reviewed by the agencies who supplied the data for the indicator(s) or whose data was used from their publications. The entire Social Report was reviewed by Statistics New Zealand before being finalised.

Q How does the Social Report relate to the New Zealand General Social Survey?

A The New Zealand General Social Survey (NZGSS) provides data on important social and economic outcomes of New Zealanders aged 15 years and over that is not available from other sources.

The main difference between the NZGSS and the Social Report is that the NZGSS is a survey which collects specific social data, whereas the Social Report is a report which presents a wider set of information and analysis from a range of surveys, the census and administrative data collected by government agencies. The Social Report 2016 includes 12 indicators drawn directly from the NZGSS. While some of this data is already published by Statistics New Zealand, the indicators in the Social Report provide more expansive breakdowns and information.

Q Are hard copies of The Social Report 2016 available?

A No hard copies of The Social Report 2016 will be published. However, the report is available on the Social Report website for printing.