NZ's top 10 per cent hold more than half of the wealth

Most of New Zealand's wealth is in the hands of the few. Photo / iStock
Most of New Zealand's wealth is in the hands of the few. Photo / iStock

Wealth distribution in New Zealand is at its most uneven in more than a decade.

Statistics New Zealand shows the top 10 per cent of people have almost 60 per cent of wealth.

The figures are for the year to June last year.

Labour market and household statistics manager Diane Ramsay said it was the biggest divide between the rich and poor since 2003.

It may even be bigger than it was then, she said, but when records began in 2001, slightly different questions were asked of slightly different groups.

What was evident was the inequality of net worth distribution continued to grow.

People aged 15 to 24 had the lowest median net worth of any age group at just $1000. Most young people have no assets but do have debt -- most commonly student loans.

Labour's finance spokesman Grant Robertson said inequality was getting worse under National.

"Reducing inequality should be the number one priority of this Government. It is taking away opportunity and undermining the economic and social security of our country.

"The ramifications of inequality have become clear in recent days in the Brexit vote and also in the way the US presidential primaries have played out. One of the consequences of inequality is that it creates a large group of disenfranchised people who feel forgotten and alienated. They then become easy targets for peddlers of fear and hate."

Mr Robertson said New Zealand's inequality was worse than in the UK, Australia and Canada. Here, the net worth of the bottom 20 per cent was less than a quarter of the net worth of the top 20 per cent.

"And it's only going to get worse. The bottom 20 per cent owe more than they own, while the top 20 per cent own more than 20 times what they owe. This presents a risk to low-income households if interest rates rise."

Prime Minister John Key said the figures were "largely consistent with what we have seen over the last 20 or 30 years".

"It is not surprising it is getting a little bit more that way because, in reality, better-off New Zealanders will own assets, particularly houses, and those house prices have been rising. So that's what will be driving that."

Wealth gulf - individual median net worth

$114,000 European New Zealanders

$33,000 People of Asian descent

$23,000 Maori

$12,000 Pacific people

Over half the country's wealth belongs to the top 10 per cent of households.

40 per cent The bottom 40 per cent of households hold just 3 per cent of total wealth.

$289,000 The average household worth

- Newstalk ZB

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