Household Incomes Report: Inequality at highest level ever

Household Incomes in New Zealand: Trends in Indicators of Inequality and Hardship 1982 to 2011, a report by the Ministry of Social Development, was released this past week. It shows that, in 2011, inequality in New Zealand was at its highest level ever.


  • Inequality decreased significantly from 2009 to 2010, then rose from 2010 to its highest level ever in 2011.
  • The latest figure for OECD comparisons is from 2009, when New Zelaand was a little above the median inequality level.

Household incomes

  • From 2010 to 2011, median household incomes fell 3% in real terms.
    • This followed a long and strong rise from the mid 1990s to 2008-09, when growth in median household incomes averaged 3% annually.
  • From 2010 to 2011, incomes fell for deciles 3-6, but rose for the top decile especially.

Income poverty for children

  • In 2011, the child poverty rate was between 16% and 25% (depending on which measurement method is used).
  • Child poverty rates were flat from 2009 to 2011, but the rates remain high relative to other age groups.
  • 22% of all children are in beneficiary families.
  • 25% of all children are in households with no full-time worker.
  • 40% of poor children come from families where at least one adult is in full-time work or is self-employed.
  • 70% of poor children live in rental accommodation.
  • Poverty rates for younger children are generally higher than for older children.

Hardship rates for children

  • Hardship rates for children rose from 15% in 2007 to 21% in 2011.

Working-age adults

  • Income poverty rates for single person working-age households rose from 10% in the 1980s to 30% in 2011.
  • 1 in 9 poor children are from this group.
  • 1 in 4 poor households are from this group.