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indicator value unit
Population 4.5 mil.
Visitors per year 2.6 mil.
Renewable energy 38.3 %

How’s Life?

New Zealand performs well in many measures of well-being relative to most other countries in the Better Life Index. New Zealand ranks at the top in health status. It ranks above the average in environmental quality, civic engagement, personal security, housing, subjective well-being, education and skills, and jobs and earnings, but below average in income and wealth.

Money, while it cannot buy happiness, is an important means to achieving higher living standards. In New-Zealand, the average household net-adjusted disposable income per capita is USD 23 815 a year, less than the OECD average of USD 25 908 a year. But there is a considerable gap between the richest and poorest – the top 20% of the population earn five times as much as the bottom 20%.

In terms of employment, 73% of people aged 15 to 64 in New-Zealand have a paid job, above the OECD employment average of 65%. Some 78% of men are in paid work, compared with 68% of women. In New Zealand, around 14% of employees work very long hours, more than the OECD average of 13%, with 20% of men working very long hours compared with 7% for women.

Good education and skills are important requisites for finding a job. In New-Zealand, 74% of adults aged 25-64 have completed upper secondary education, close to the OECD average of 75%. This is truer of men than women, as 75% of men have successfully completed high-school compared with 74% of women. In terms of the quality of its educational system, the average student scored 509 in reading literacy, maths and science in the OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA). This score is higher than the OECD average of 497. On average in New-Zealand, girls outperformed boys by 5 points, lower than the average OECD gap of 8 points. 

In terms of health, life expectancy at birth in New-Zealand is 82 years, two year higher than the OECD average of 80 years. Life expectancy for women is 83 years, compared with 80 for men. The level of atmospheric PM10 – tiny air pollutant particles small enough to enter and cause damage to the lungs –is 10.8 micrograms per cubic meter in large urban areas, considerably lower than the OECD average of 20.1 micrograms per cubic meter. New-Zealand also does well in terms of water quality, as 89% of people say they are satisfied with the quality of their water, higher than the OECD average of 81%.

Concerning the public sphere, there is a strong sense of community and high levels of civic participation in New-Zealand, where 94% of people believe that they know someone they could rely on in time of need, higher than the OECD average of 88%. Voter turnout, a measure of citizens’ participation in the political process, was 77% during recent elections, higher than the OECD average of 68%. Voter turnout for the top 20% of the population is an estimated 84%, whereas the participation rate of the bottom 20% is an estimated 77%. This difference is lower than the OECD average difference of 13 percentage points.

In general, New Zealanders are more satisfied with their lives than the OECD average. When asked to rate their general satisfaction with life on a scale from 0 to 10, New Zealanders gave it a 7.3 grade, higher than the OECD average of 6.6.

For more information on estimates and years of reference, see FAQ section and BLI database.


OECD in Action

OECD Economic Surveys New Zealand 2015

This 2015 OECD Economic Survey of New Zealand examines recent economic developments, policies and prospects. Special chapters cover sustaining the economic expansion and making growth more inclusive.

Read this report

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New Zealand in Detail