Level of income is one of the most important contributors to people’s life satisfaction and overall wellbeing. So that means looking at the changes in income for people, especially those on lower incomes, is an essential part of our State of the Nation report.
High levels of employment and workforce participation meant that 2022 was another strong year, despite the continuing pressures of the pandemic and the conflict in Europe. The unemployment rate remained around record lows throughout the year, but youth unemployment, while decreasing slightly, remains too high. Pasifika workers faced an increased unemployment rate and they, along with Māori workers, continue to experience much higher unemployment rates than other ethnic groups.
Jobless, unemployed, Jobseekers December quarter actual (thousands)
The impact of rising inflation meant that the wage rises that continued in 2022 largely did not represent real gains in purchasing power. Increased welfare benefits helped lower-income households, but they too faced rising living costs. Indicators of the distribution of income did not change greatly, with little change for gender equity or reduction in the earnings gaps between ethnic groups. Fewer people were needing income support at the end of 2022 compared to the previous year, although numbers are still well above pre-Covid-19 levels in 2019.
Gender pay gap—median hourly earning—2012–2022
The rise in inflation that began in late 2021 looked to have peaked in mid-2022, but remained high at the end of the year, putting pressure on household budgets. The number of government hardship grants paid out to people needing support remained around the same in 2022, but the total amount paid out increased. Fewer families with children reported not having enough food and food assistance provided by The Salvation Army foodbanks over the year reduced compared to 2021, but 2022 finished with signs of increasing need in late November and December.
Number of food parcels provided by The Salvation Army (December years)
Data: Interactive Dashboard