State of the Nation 2024 shows ongoing, deepening pressures on individuals and families across Aotearoa | The Salvation Army

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State of the Nation 2024 shows ongoing, deepening pressures on individuals and families across Aotearoa

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Posted February 15, 2024

The deepening cost-of-living crisis, increasing rental costs, lack of affordable housing, and wage inequality for women, Māori and Pasifika people are some of the many increasingly difficult challenges facing people across Aotearoa highlighted in The Salvation Army’s State of the Nation 2024 report, titled Ngā Tukunga Iho – The Things We Inherit.

“The theme of the 2024 report reflects the fact that the new government inherits both the achievements and the challenges from the previous government,” says Lt-Colonel Ian Hutson, director of the Social Policy and Parliamentary Unit at The Salvation Army. “It also reminds us that the actions taken today will affect future generations and how they will live.”

Now marking its 17th year, the report pulls together existing data to provide an annual snapshot of our social progress as a nation. The report looks at five specific areas: Children and Youth, Work and Incomes, Housing, Crime and Punishment, and Social Hazards. A section of the report called Māori Wellbeing uses He Ara Waiora wellbeing framework to look at those five areas specifically for Māori.

The report shows progress made in recent years includes: reductions in child poverty levels, nearly 14,000 more social housing units, sustained low unemployment, increases in real incomes for households on the lowest incomes, reduced income inequality, declines in alcohol and drug consumption, and reduced reimprisonment rates.

However, some indicators are worsening: the rising cost of living impacting lower-income households, rents in lower-income communities rising ahead of inflation, increasing food insecurity and financial hardship, rising trends in violent offending and victimisation, worsening education outcomes, and higher rates of moderate- to high-mental distress among young people.

Says Hutson of the report: “The new government needs to build on the progress made … and learn from what works.”

Key findings in the report include:

Māori Wellbeing - There has also not been enough progress to reduce inequities affecting Māori. There continue to be large barriers impacting Māori educational outcomes, housing, employment, imprisonment and harm from alcohol and other drugs.

Resourcing kaupapa Māori approaches is crucial for whanau, hapu and iwi wellbeing. For instance, there is minimal variation between NCEA results achieved by students in schools and kura where te reo Māori is the main language of instruction compared to results for all school students. This shows equity is achievable when kaupapa Māori and Māori-centred approaches are a valued feature of our social, health and education service delivery.

Children and Youth - Child poverty reduction is a key achievement of the past five years. But large, unequal impacts of poverty on Pasifika, Māori and children living with disabilities means there’s much work to do to in the coming years to achieve government targets for poverty reduction.

There were declines in both the number of suicides among young people under 25 years old, as well in the proportion of young people reporting moderate- to high-mental distress – but rates are still too high. Education achievement rates fell for all students in 2022, with Pasifika and Māori students experiencing larger declines in achievement.

Housing - Unaffordable housing and homelessness continue to haunt people on low incomes. A combination of the decline in number of new housing consents and record high inward migration means housing supply is once again falling behind what is needed to meet the large population growth of the past year.

Rents in lower-income communities are rising faster than overall inflation, and median house prices were increasing again by late 2023, forcing more people into housing need as the number waiting for government-subsidised public housing increased again in 2023. Public housing supply has grown considerably – the past six years saw just under 14,000 additional public housing units added. But more than 25,000 are still needed.

Crime and Punishment - The level of reported and unreported crime has risen overall in the past year. Reported violent offences such as assault and family violence are increasing. Recent government strategies to counter family violence have led to more reporting and more police and justice action. But the people and communities most affected by crime include victims and offenders, where access to adequate housing, employment, education, health and social services will do more to reduce crime than harsher punishment.

Social Hazards - There were declines in per capita consumption of alcohol and in overall rates of hazardous drinking, with rates for Māori showing the biggest reduction. The indicators also showed lower rates of illicit drug use in 2023, and fewer convictions for supply or possession of illicit drugs. Gambling losses on pokie machines increased to more than $1 billion this year, even as the number of pokie machines has continued to reduce. Signs of financial hardship, such as KiwiSaver hardship withdrawals, were on the increase.

Work and Incomes - High levels of employment continued during 2023, but during the year unemployment began to rise again. There is evidence of reducing income and wage inequality, but gender and ethnic earning inequities are not closing fast enough. Although fewer households were reporting in mid-2022 that they don’t have enough income to meet daily needs, higher inflation since then has been putting more pressure on low-income households. Food insecurity for households with children increased in 2023.

The full report can be found at:

The Salvation Army Territorial Media Officer, 021 945 337, email: (The Media Officer responds to enquiries from media outlets and journalists. If you would like to donate, are in need of help, or have some other non-media-related enquiry, please call 0800 53 00 00.)