At its core, economics is about choice. What do we value? How do we choose between competing priorities? How do we balance the needs of different groups? How do we balance the needs of current and future generations? The purpose of Te Tai Waiora: Wellbeing in Aotearoa New Zealand 2022 is to inform those choices – Caralee McLiesh, Secretary to the Treasury.
Today Aotearoa New Zealand published its first national wellbeing report – Te Tai Waiora – an independent big-picture stocktake into the state of wellbeing in New Zealand, produced by the Treasury.
It’s a deep and detailed look into the country’s collective wellbeing – from its people’s health, income, relationships to its cultural and natural environmental wealth. It’s incredibly important that the New Zealand Treasury and Government inquire into more than just GDP or other traditional economic metrics. Asking a wider range of questions where the country is at and where it needs to improve leads to more and better answers how collective wellbeing can be improved.
Te Tai Waiora is a fair and comprehensive report built upon voluminous data and numerous studies but it is only a snapshot in time. Under the Public Finance (Wellbeing) Amendment Act, the Treasury is required to provide an independent report at least every four years which will allow wellbeing to be traced better over time.
The report finds that in some areas New Zealanders wellbeing is improving in terms of incomes and health, and in comparison to other OECD countries we have high life satisfaction and levels of social cohesion and trust. However, in other areas such as housing, education and mental health we do less well and the situation is especially stark for young New Zealanders. This intergenerational wellbeing gap is a major challenge identified in the report as well as the risks from climate change and other natural shocks.
It highlights critical areas where the country needs to improve. Like a map, Te Tai Waiora can tell us where things are, but decisions need to be made where the direction of travel will be. If the country is going to tackle the systemic and long-standing problems like intergenerational inequity, poor quality and unaffordable housing & transitioning to a low-carbon, resilient economy it is going to take decision makers and the public making deliberate choices to act. While the report doesn’t contain policy recommendations it is going to take concrete policies to tackle the problems. Better yet this report offers us a reminder that by redesigning our economy and systems to prioritise dignity, purpose, nature, fairness and participation we can deliver wellbeing by default.
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