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Inequality in Aotearoa New Zealand – update 2020

The Ipsos New Zealand Issues Monitor reported in December 2019 that Poverty / inequality is the second highest ranking issue in Aotearoa with 29% considering it as a top issue. It has been in the top 5 issues since measurement began. Housing is the top issue. Read more here .

But there has been little improvement in lowering economic inequality. Max Rashbrooke comments that the report on Household incomes in New Zealand: Trends in indicators of inequality and hardship 1982 to 2018, by Bryan Perry for the Ministry of Social Development’s key annual report makes for depressing if not surprising reading.

Economic inequality remains at the very high level the country was left with in the late 1990s following 15 years of market-based reforms. Poverty rates for the general population and children remain high. Relative poverty rates virtually all increased 2008-17. In contrast, material deprivation decreased. Nonetheless, the overall story is the continuing absence of substantial action against economic inequality and poverty, both of which damage individuals and the social fabric alike. For more details refer here .

Progress Towards Equality – this paper is the latest in a series by the Salvation Army Public Policy Unit highlighting housing, the criminal justice system and income and tax rates as areas where not enough is being done to promote equality in Aotearoa. The report can be accessed at: or on Facebook

Global economic inequality and women’s unpaid/underpaid care

Oxfam’s new report, Time to Care, shows that global inequality is out of control. A handful of billionaires have more wealth than they will ever be able to use, while 4.6 billion people around the world struggle to stay afloat, particularly women and girls.

The wealth of New Zealand’s billionaires has increased from US$4 billion in 2006 to over US$12 billion in 2019, but New Zealand currently has no form of wealth tax.

Just 0.5% of the wealth of New Zealand’s richest person would provide our government $68 million dollars to invest in things like teacher aides and after-school care, to support women in the huge amounts of care work they contribute to our society. The summary, full report and methodology can be seen here.


We need to fundamentally reframe our systems settings to address the drivers causing and underpinning inequality; structural change in systems especially financial.

The Equality Network Hui was held in Wellington on 27 June 2019.  The hui covered important topics such as child poverty; a living wage; taxation; public health; mental health; education; welfare, housing and the environment.  Read the Report, 2019 Hui, here.


Oxfam International and Development Finance International launched the second version of their Commitment to Reducing Inequality Index. Covering 157 countries, the Index measures governments’ actions in 2017 on social spending, tax and labour rights – three policy areas that are critical to preventing and reducing inequality. This year’s Index sees new indicators on harmful tax practices and women’s rights. New Zealand is ranked 27 out of 157 countries. Amongst high-income OECD peers, New Zealand is ranked at 25 out of 35 countries. New Zealand does reasonably well globally on social spending, ranked at 17, and on labour rights, with a global rank of 25. Yet while satisfactory on social spending, during 2017 New Zealand’s expenditure on education as a share of all social spending decreased. Our taxation regime is also regressive. When compared to all other countries across the world, New Zealand is ranked at 100 for the progressivity of its tax system, compared to one for Australia, and 76 for Kiribati. Our government is taking action, some of which was captured in this year’s Index, some of which will be measured next year. Yet, there is still more work to be done to make New Zealand a society where we all get a fair go.

In New Zealand, income gaps have widened faster in the last 30 years than almost anywhere else in the developed world. That makes the country more divided and less healthy, and strikes at the idea of equal opportunities or the ‘fair go’ for everyone. And the public knows it: the polling depicted above shows inequality is the number one issue for New Zealanders.

According to May  2017 research from Roy Morgan, poverty and the gap between rich and poor is the single biggest issue of concern to New Zealander’s at present. New in-depth research exploring the concerns of New Zealanders both in New Zealand and globally found New Zealanders, like Australians, are concerned about war and terrorism on the global front. But at home in the run-up to this year’s election it’s all about the economy especially housing affordability, housing shortages, cost of living, inflation, unemployment and homelessness. (Roy Morgan New Zealand, 3 July 2017)

Source: Roy Morgan survey May 2017.
Source: Roy Morgan survey May 2017.
Source: Roy Morgan survey May 2017.
Source: Roy Morgan survey May 2017.















The Equality Network brings together the groups who are responding to this concern by campaigning to reduce income inequality and create greater well-being and life chances for all. Our profound belief is that in a more equal society, everyone is better off.

This site has everything you need to know about our vision, our members’ successes to date, and the actions our members are taking. We’d love you to join us and help make New Zealand a fair and healthier place for everyone.

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