Matthew Backhouse

Matthew Backhouse is an APNZ news reporter based in Wellington.

NZ housing costs high, pay low

Housing costs include rent, mortgage payments, power, water, gas and maintenance costs. Photo / Hagen Hopkins
Housing costs include rent, mortgage payments, power, water, gas and maintenance costs. Photo / Hagen Hopkins

New Zealanders spend more of their income on housing than any other developed country in the OECD apart from heavily indebted Greece, a report reveals.

And although income disparities have decreased slightly, household disposable incomes in New Zealand remain below the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development average.

The findings are part of the OECD's wellbeing report - titled How's Life? - which ranks the group's 34 countries across 11 indicators.

The report, released yesterday, shows the cost of housing as a proportion of income in New Zealand is the second-highest in the OECD, with 26 per cent of the average household's income going towards housing.

Housing costs include rent, mortgage payments, power, water, gas and maintenance costs.

New Zealand was topped only by Greece, whose economy has been hit hard by the global financial crisis and a huge sovereign debt burden. There, 27 per cent of incomes goes towards housing.

The report also found that despite New Zealand having the seventh-highest employment rate, the average household's disposable income was below the OECD average.

There was some good news, however, with the report finding income disparities in New Zealand had decreased slightly.

And when it comes to overall wellbeing, New Zealand was among the best-performing countries in the OECD. New Zealand was ranked among high-performers including Switzerland, Australia, Canada, Britain and the Nordic countries.

The country outranked average performers including the United States, South Korea, Japan, Germany and France, and low performers including Turkey and Greece.

Wellbeing was determined by indicators including income and wealth, job availability and earnings, housing conditions, health, work-life balance, education and skills, social connections, civic engagement and governance, environmental quality, personal security and subjective wellbeing.

New Zealanders have relatively equal distribution when it comes to life satisfaction, but happiness has been in decline since the global financial crisis hit - average life satisfaction falling by 5 per cent in the four years to 2012. The report said that could be because of factors other than the economy, citing the recent earthquakes.

New Zealanders did well in terms of health - almost 90 per cent reporting they were in good or very good health.

New Zealand also had the second-lowest difference in self-reported health status between socio-economic groups out of all OECD countries.

The gender divide in both life expectancy and health was comparatively narrow, and women and men were nearly equally represented among the unemployed.

The report noted the gender pay gap was narrowing, but men were more likely than women to be satisfied with their job.

The OECD aims to promote policies that improve the economic and social wellbeing of people around the world.

- APNZ

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