New Zealand's ranking as one of the world's most developed nations has dropped, but the country still remains in the top 10.

On the plus side though Kiwis born today can expect to live on average over eight years longer now than those born in 1980.

In the annual Human Development Index (HDI) released by the Helen Clark-led United Nations Development Programme, New Zealand is ninth, equal with Canada and behind the United States. Last year the country was ranked seventh, between Germany and Canada.

PM: Drug abuse fuelling poverty in NZ
Child poverty needs more direct action


The index measures and ranks the average achievement of 187 countries in three basic dimensions of human development - life expectancy, access to education and gross national income per capita.

New Zealand's HDI rank is above the average for countries in the "very high human development" group and above the average for countries in the OECD.

Norway has again topped the list, followed by Australia, Switzerland, Denmark, and the Netherlands. Ireland and Germany are ranked sixth equal.

The ranking comes as New Zealand's Children's Commissioner released a report suggesting that poverty in New Zealand is much worse now than it was in the 1980s.

Between 1980 and 2014, New Zealand's HDI value has increased 15.2 per cent, from 0.793 to 0.913.

Over the same period, life expectancy increased by 8.7 years, mean years of schooling increased by 0.9 years and expected years of schooling increased by 5.7 years.

New Zealand's gross national income (GNI) per capita increased about 59.6 percent between 1980 and 2014.

According to the report, global improvements in health and education and reductions in "extreme poverty" helped move 2 billion people out of low human development levels in the past 25 years.

But there are still 830 million people classified as working poor who live on less than $2.00 a day, and more than 200 million people, including 74m youth, are unemployed, while 21 million people are currently in forced labour.

The report also found that women did three of every four hours of unpaid work, and 52 per cent of all global work. Men account for two of every three hours of paid work
Globally, when women are paid they earn, on average, 24 percent less than men, and occupy less than a quarter of senior business positions worldwide.

UNDP boss Helen Clark said to reduce inequality, societies needed new policies, including better access to paid care services.

"Ensuring equal pay, providing paid parental leave, and tackling the harassment and the social norms that exclude so many women from paid work are among the changes needed.

"That would enable the burden of unpaid care work to be shared more widely, and give women a genuine choice on whether to enter the labour force"

The report's author, Selim Jahan, said though there was never a better time to be a highly skilled worker, it was not a good time to be unskilled: "This is deepening inequalities."

New work opportunities have been brought about by improvements in and access to technology, and there are seven billion mobile phone subscriptions, 2.3 billion people with smartphones, and 3.2 billion with internet access.

"This has brought about many changes in the world of work -for example, the rise of e-commerce and the mass outsourcing of banking, ICT-support, and other services," Mr Jahan said.

"Despite new opportunities, however, more jobs are now becoming vulnerable and a wide digital divide remains. In 2015, 81 per cent of households in developed countries have internet access, but only 34 per cent in developing regions and 7 per cent in the least developed countries have that access."

Certain jobs are expected to be replaced by computers, while 61 per cent of people work without contracts and only 27 per cent of the global population is covered by comprehensive social protection.

Though New Zealand ranks 9 by HDI, the country is 32 by Gross National Income per capita and 32nd on the gender inequality index.

In comparison, Australia and Ireland are ranked at 19 and 21 respectively on this index.

Top 10 HDI Countries and ranks, 2014:
1. Norway
2. Australia
3. Switzerland
4. Denmark
5. Netherlands
6th equal. Ireland, Germany
8. United States
9th equal. Canada, New Zealand