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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, environmental quality, civic engagement, housing, subjective well-being, education and skills, jobs and earnings, and social connections but below average in income and wealth, work-life balance, and personal security. These rankings are based on available selected data.

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 lower than the OECD average of USD 30 563 a year.

In terms of employment, 76% of people aged 15 to 64 in New Zealand have a paid job, above the OECD employment average of 67%. Some 81% of men are in paid work, compared with 71% of women. In New Zealand, 15% of employees work very long hours, more than the OECD average of 13%, with 22% of men working very long hours compared with 8% of women.

Good education and skills are important requisites for finding a job. In New Zealand, 77% of adults aged 25-64 have completed upper secondary education, higher than the OECD average of 74%. This is slightly truer of men than women, as 77% of men have successfully completed high-school compared with 76% of women. In terms of the quality of its educational system, the average student scored 506 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 486. On average in New Zealand, girls outperformed boys by 6 points, wider than the average OECD gap of 2 points. 

In terms of health, life expectancy at birth in New Zealand is 82 years, two years higher than the OECD average of 80 years. Life expectancy for women is 83 years, compared with 80 for men. The level of atmospheric PM2.5 – tiny air pollutant particles small enough to enter and cause damage to the lungs – is 4.9 micrograms per cubic meter, considerably lower than the OECD average of 13.9 micrograms per cubic meter. New Zealand also does well in terms of water quality, as 90% 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 95% of people believe that they know someone they could rely on in time of need, more than the OECD average of 89. Voter turnout, a measure of citizens' participation in the political process, was 77% during recent elections, higher than the OECD average of 69%. Voter turnout for the top 20% of the population is an estimated 86%, whereas the participation rate of the bottom 20% is an estimated 75%. 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 on average, higher than the OECD average of 6.5.

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


OECD in Action

OECD Economic Surveys: New Zealand 2017

New Zealand is enjoying strong economic growth, driven by booming tourism, high net immigration, solid construction activity and supportive monetary policy. The fiscal position is sound, with low public debt and a balanced budget.

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New Zealand in Detail