Asia Minute: New Zealand Measuring Quality of Life

Jun 28, 2019

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern
Credit Governor - General of New Zealand / CC BY 4.0 / Wikimedia Commons

Government figures out this week show the U.S. economy grew a little faster than 3% in the first quarter of this year. For the United States and most other countries, Gross Domestic Product is the accepted way to measure economic health. But one country in the Asia Pacific is taking a different approach.

Like every other country in the world, New Zealand tracks its Gross Domestic Product. Academics call that the broadest measure of a country’s economic output. But for New Zealand’s Prime Minister it is no longer that country’s most important statistic.

Jacinda Ardern has told parliament that the top priority of the government is the well-being of its citizens. She says the measures to judge that include mental health services, child poverty, homelessness and domestic violence.

The New Zealand Herald quotes Ardern as saying, “I have always said that politics is all about priorities. You have a limited budget and you have to try and balance the need to grow the economy, create jobs, balance the books and look after our people and our environment.”

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development says the well-being of New Zealanders is generally high, but there are disparities.

This week, the OECD wrote that the biggest challenges for New Zealand include inequality among groups — especially indigenous people — as well as single parents across all racial and ethnic lines.

The report also said the government can do more to deal with rising housing prices and an increase in homelessness by deregulating rules about land use and boosting the amount of government housing.