State of the Nation – 15 Years of Social Change | The Salvation Army

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State of the Nation – 15 Years of Social Change

Drawing pins on a map
Posted April 1, 2022

The Social Policy and Parliamentary Unit (SPPU) of The Salvation Army 15th report Whakatere Ana I Ngā Tere Navigating the Rapids’, right in the midst of the continuing rough waters of the Covid-19 pandemic. The first State of the Nation report in 2008 began by asserting that social progress has priority because it is about people. It drew on values based on two key elements - priority to families and to the poor, and addressing the widening gap between rich and poor.

It is right to ask what has been achieved in our nation over the 15 years, as we (to paraphrase Martin Luther King) seek to bend of arc of history towards God’s kingdom of love and justice? The changes in statistics help us understand something about our progress towards justice as a nation.

Big Changes





Gambling losses per adult (2021 dollars)




Pokie machines per 10,000 adults




Gambling losses per adult[1] have decreased by nearly a third since 2007. Pokie machine gambling is included in the total gambling figures above but looking at just these losses, with nearly 5,500 fewer pokie machines in the country, losses were down 37% to $249 per adult.

This shows the effect of advocacy and law changes restricting access to the most harmful forms of gambling. As we try to further reduce harm, especially in lower income communities where pokie machines are concentrated, we can draw hope from this significant change.





Youth Court charges




Youth court charges were down to under 1500 in 2021, a 70% decrease part of a long-term trend of change in the way our society responds to youth offending.









Reimprisonment rate (24 month) was 55% in 2006 but in 2021 this was down to 39.6%, a 28% decrease. This means fewer people are ending up back in prison after being released than 15 years ago, but the past 5 years have not seen further reduction in this rate.





Pregnancies among 15-19 year-olds




Teenage pregnancies among 15-19 year-olds fell by 62% since 2006 to 3,200 in 2020, as social change brings access to more effective contraception and young people delay becoming sexually active.

Some things got better but not as much as we might hope for.





Women’s average hourly wage as percentage of men’s




We are still a long way from gender equality when it comes to wage earnings. The wage gap between female and male earnings has closed somewhat. But this progress for women is too slow.





ECE enrolment rate




Early childhood education (ECE) enrolment rate is higher in 2021 than in 2006, but down from a peak in 2017 of 65.7%.

Child Poverty




AHC50 fixed 2018




BHC50 relative 




Child Poverty has continued to decline in 2021 despite the Covid-19 pandemic measuring incomes relative to a fixed base year from 27% in 2007 to 16.3% in 2021. More income is going to the lowest income families, but it is not closing the income gap on middle income households. As a result, there has been no real change to the relative poverty rate, still much the same in 2021 as it was in 2007.

Some things did not change

Some things did not change much, but in a good way. The unemployment rate was at an historic low in 2007 and is back at this level in 2021 at 3.2%. The imprisonment rate in 2007 (per 100,000 total population) was 184 per 100,000 total population, in 2021 it was down to 170 per 100,000, a 7.6% decrease, but still far too high for a wealthy and safe country like New Zealand.  Other things have not changed, but in a bad way. Alcohol availability per person has not changed much at 9.4 litres person in 2006 compared to 9.24 in 2021

But housing just keeps getting worse….





Median house price




Rent index 




Public housing per 1000 population

15.5 units

14.6 units


It seems almost everything about housing has become much worse over the 15 years, representing an enormous transfer of wealth and entrenching the social and economic divide between asset owners and the rest of the population. The median house price in 2021 of $905,000 was 2.6 times higher than in Dec 2007 $345,000, while rents increased by 52%, faster than average wages at 43%.

We should not be surprised that we are critically short of affordable housing when the supply of government subsidised social housing has failed to keep up with population growth. 15 years ago, in 2007, there were 65,000 public housing units or 15.5 units per thousand population (pop. 4.2 million), fewer than in 1993 when there were 70,000 or 21 units per thousand population

In 2021 there are 75,000 14.6 per thousand, still fewer than 15 years ago. If the current rate was the same as in 1993, there would be 107,000 units – more than enough to house all the 25,000 people currently waiting for a public housing unit.


[1] Between 2006 and 2021 New Zealand’s total population increased by nearly one million to 5.12 million (22%) and the adult population increased by 820,000 (26%) to 3.96 million.