New Zealand

A presentation on poverty measurement in New Zealand was made by Bryan Perry, Ministry of Social Development, at the Second Peter Townsend Memorial Conference, Measuring Poverty: The State of the Art, in 2011.

The Ministry of Social Development in New Zealand has developed an Economic Living Standards Index (ELSI). This index is used to compare the material wellbeing of individuals and population subgroups but, in contrast to both the Townsend deprivation approach and the Mack and Lansley consensual method, the ELSI measures the full range of living standards rather than being just hardship-focused.

In 2008 the Ministry of Social Development commissioned a nationwide face-to-face survey of 5,000 households, the New Zealand Living Standards. The aims of the survey were to:

  • gather the necessary information to enable the further development of the Economic Living Standards Index (ELSI) instrument (and other full-scale measures)
  • the construction of a suite of deprivation indices reflecting different dimensions of deprivation
  • international comparisons using non-monetary indicators
  • update the information on the living standards of the population and subgroups within it to 2008, comparing the findings with those from 2000 and 2004, using an improved ELSI and other instruments
  • contribute to the Working for Families evaluation
  • improve and expand the technology available for tracking and better understanding trends in poverty and material hardship.

Full details of the New Zealand Living Standards Survey 2008 and the development of the ELSI can be found on the Ministry of Social Development website.