The traditional New Zealand welfare state has
undergone major changes in recent decades. In the early
1990s, grants and allowances were lowered and citizens
were expected to take greater responsibility for their
social security. The Labor government strengthened
social benefits in part in the early 1990s. At the end
of the 2010s, the Labor-led coalition government
continued on the same track.
Society is unequal. Maoris and immigrants from island
states in the Pacific are over-represented in
unemployment, poverty, alcohol abuse, violence against
women and other crimes. The problems are greatest in the
suburbs of big cities. The life expectancy of the Maoris
is ten years lower than that of the rest of the
population. But there are also poor New Zealanders of
European descent. In 2017, 300,000 children in the
country - about every third child - were estimated to
live below the UN Children's Fund Unicef's poverty line
in New Zealand, that is, households that earned less
than 60 percent of median income for New Zealanders at $
550 a week. There were twice as many children as in
1984. At the end of 2018, a new law on combating child
poverty was passed with almost unanimous support in
Countryaah Official Site:
Official statistics for population in New Zealand, including population growth, density, and estimation in next 50 years.
New Zealand's welfare system has its roots in the
19th century. The country introduced old-age pension as
early as 1898, then from the age of 65 and tested for
needs. Four decades later, the retirement age was
reduced to 60 years for worn-out and poor bodyworkers,
while general public pensions were paid at 65 years.
Today there is no fixed retirement age, but compensation
starts to be paid at the age of 65.
In 2001, a special investment fund was formed to help
finance future pensions for the growing number of
elderly people in the population. By the end of the
2020s, about one fifth of the population is expected to
be older than 65 and by 2050 the proportion is predicted
to have grown to one quarter. During the period 2009 to
2017, the right-wing governments canceled payments to
the fund. However, these were resumed by the Labor-led
coalition government in 2018.
Health care is mainly tax-financed, but nearly a
quarter is covered by private insurance. Needs testing
was introduced in the 1990s for unemployment benefits
and sickness benefits. Parental benefit was introduced
in 2002. It is now paid for only 18 weeks, but parents
are entitled to longer leave that is unpaid.
Maori's protests and demands have led to increased
investment in education and work opportunities for
ethnic minorities. However, immigrants from Pacific
nations often live segregated in poor conditions, and
the major cities have been aware of ethnic conflicts.
Chinese and Indian immigration have also been
accompanied by some ethnic tensions. There have also
been gang conflicts between Maoris and white motorcycle
gangs with racist signs.
The law prohibits gender discrimination, and the
position of women has gradually improved, although
society is still male-dominated. Women have lower wages,
but many women have reached leading positions. For a
period (2005–2006), the head of state, the head of
government, the Governor-General, the President of
Parliament and the President of the Supreme Court were
all women. In the fall of 2017, the country got its
third female prime minister with Jacinda Ardern. After
the election, as many as 46 percent of MPs were women,
the highest proportion so far.
Divorce is allowed only when it can be shown that
marriage has broken down and reunification is not
possible. Therefore, in order to apply for divorce,
spouses must have lived separately for two years. During
that time, you can live together for three-month periods
or shorter, if you try to save the relationship.
Parliament changed the country's strict abortion
legislation in spring 2020, which was over 40 years old.
According to it, abortion was permitted only if the
woman's life or health was in danger, or if the fetus
was damaged and abortions had to be approved by two
doctors. The new law means that abortion is no longer
criminal. Until week 20, it is up to the woman herself
and her doctor to decide on abortion. Thereafter, an
investigation needs to be conducted.
A law that opened for same-sex marriage came into
force in 2013. A partnership law in 2004 gave gay and
heterosexual couples the same rights with regard to
child custody, tax rules and social welfare.
Prostitution was legalized in 2003. The law requires
licenses for brothels that must give their employees the
same rights as other occupational groups when it comes
to health care, safety and working conditions.
Exploitation of women from Asian countries occurs. New
Zealanders who commit sexual abuse against children
abroad can be prosecuted in their home country.
FACTS - SOCIAL CONDITIONS
5 per 1000 births (2018)
Percentage of HIV infected
0.1 percent (2018)
Proportion of HIV infected among young women
0.1 percent (2018)
Proportion of HIV infected among young men
0.1 percent (2018)
Proportion of population with access to clean
100.0 percent (2015)
Proportion of the population having access to
100.0 percent (2017)
Public expenditure on health care as a
percentage of GDP
9.3 percent (2015)
Public expenditure on health care per person
US $ 3,745 (2016)
Proportion of women in parliament
38 percent (2018)