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16 Jul, 2013

Wealth gap eroding New Zealand’s egalitarian society: study


WELLINGTON, July 15 (Xinhua) — New Zealand’s widening wealth gap is having a major impact on the country’s sense of “wellbeing, ” according to the country’s first social index.

The survey of 9,962 adult New Zealanders found that compared with 22 European countries using the same measures, New Zealand ” consistently ranks near the bottom” in both personal and social wellbeing.

AUT University, which developed the index with the Sovereign insurance company, claimed it was an alternative to measuring a country’s success through economic indicators such as GDP.

“A good GDP is great, but it’s a means to an end. That end result is wellbeing. The challenge is to enable a society where people lead purposeful and meaningful lives,” study leader Professor Grant Schofield said in a statement.

New Zealand’s worst comparative result was in connecting within communities, and it ranked at the very bottom in terms of people feeling close to others in their local area.

“I hadn’t expected New Zealand to be the best, but I hadn’t expected we’d do as badly as we did. I think it comes down to our comparative lack of social connectedness and the fact that the gap is growing between the haves and the have-nots. We’re not the even and fair society we once thought we were,” said Schofield. “We need to start having discussions about the New Zealand we want to be, and how we can start to achieve that.”

The main opposition Labor Party said the survey confirmed that the country’s “current economic conditions” were leading to the exclusion of the poor.

“It proves what we all instinctively know: that New Zealand, which used to pride itself on its egalitarian spirit, has changed, ” Labor social development spokesperson Jacinda Ardern said in a statement. “One of the biggest predictors of how well a country and its people are doing is its income gap. Right now, New Zealand’s is wider than at any other time since detailed records began.”