Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Social Report 2009

The 2009 Social Report has finally been released. Normally it would have come out by August, but this year was unaccountably delayed, Cabinet not signing off on it until last week. I guess they just didn't view it as a priority. Unfortunately, it has also fallen victim to some extent to the government's drive to cut costs, so instead of it being published as a hardcopy (and available for future researchers in libraries), it is now a web-only publication. Which is so much more fragile. Important government data like this should not be published only in a digital medium.

Most of the data in this report dates from 2006-2008, so its Labour's legacy that is being reported on: lower (though now rising again) income inequality, increased median hourly earnings, and the stubborn persistence of ethnic gaps in life expectancy. It also shows the consequences of their education policies, with decreased participation in tertiary education (particularly among Māori and Pacific Peoples) thanks to their racist stomping on the wānanga. Meanwhile, housing unaffordability is at an all time high, with a flow-on effect on child poverty which has unravelled all the good work done by Working For Families. But you won't read any of this in the key findings: their focus is relentlessly long-term, concentrating on improvements since the 80's and 90's rather than recent (and politically attributable) changes.

Next year's report - if it happens - will begin to show the effects of National's policies. Unfortunately, the 2009 data in this one on unemployment, employment participation and incomes is not good. In their first year, the standard of living of the average New Zealander has dropped. While they're not responsible for the recession, they are responsible for dealing with it and reducing the impact on New Zealanders - and by these statistics, their reaction has so far been a failure.

You can download the full report here [PDF].