Social capital: Our connections
This social capital refers to the connections between people and the places where they connect. It includes the attitudes, norms and formal rules or institutions that contribute to wellbeing by helping prevent and solve societal problems.10
Social capital has a direct link to many areas of wellbeing, including social connection, civic engagement and subjective wellbeing. Societal understandings can encourage social connections and strengthen institutions.
Our civic engagement is strong and we have a strong sense of belonging...
Overall, New Zealand does well on various aspects of social connection, including trust, civic engagement and areas of social cohesion (Figure 13). We have very low rates of perceived corruption, particularly in comparison to OECD countries. We are also in the top performing OECD tier for indicators like trust in others, trust in police and trust in government institutions.
Figure 13 – Trust in public sector services
Source: State Services Commission
Note: Data not available for 2008, 2010 and 2011
Our civic engagement is strong. Voter turn-out is high (79 per cent) and has been gradually increasing, while our broader stakeholder engagement in developing laws and regulations is higher than the OECD average.
We also have, on average, strong social connections and a strong sense of belonging. For example, 77 per cent of adults had face-to-face contact at least once a week with friends who did not live with them. However, there is always room for improvement.
...but areas of social cohesion and safety need our attention
Areas of social cohesion, like discrimination and loneliness, also need attention. In 2016, 17 per cent of New Zealanders reported they had experienced discrimination in the past 12 months and 17 per cent of New Zealanders had felt lonely most/all or some of the time in the last four weeks (Figure 14). There are also clear ethnic disparities in these indicators. Asian and Māori people experience greater levels of discrimination and loneliness than the rest of the population.
Figure 14 – Felt lonely in last four weeks
Source: Stats NZ
Rising homelessness in New Zealand is also a major issue. The exact scale of the problem is unknown and likely underestimated. Those who are homeless are likely to experience a number of significant life challenges, including mental health problems, drug and alcohol issues and domestic violence. Based on the 2013 Census, one in 100 New Zealanders are homeless.11
Personal safety is also a significant issue in New Zealand (Figure 15). We have high rates of family violence. According to the New Zealand Crime and Victims Survey 2018, almost 80,000 adults experienced more than 190,000 incidents of family violence over the last 12 months. However, it has been estimated that only 27 per cent of family violence crimes are reported to police.
Figure 15 – Feelings of safety, 2016
Source: Stats NZ
We know that a lack of safety at home can have a considerable impact on many or all areas of wellbeing, including physical and mental health and self-worth. Children's exposure to family violence can severely impact areas of their wellbeing and leave lasting impacts throughout life. These children are more likely to attempt suicide, become youth offenders and are less likely to succeed in the education system and beyond. The Budget 2019 priority Improving child wellbeing is a step towards addressing this issue.
A significant proportion of children in New Zealand need further support
The experiences we have as children lay the foundations for healthy development and positive outcomes throughout life. Many of our children are doing well and achieving positive outcomes – they live in supportive homes and receive the care they need. Unfortunately, a significant proportion of children in New Zealand need further support. Around 150,000 children in New Zealand live in households experiencing material hardship. Many children in our country are hospitalised each year for conditions associated with deprivation and live in crowded houses. Household crowding is associated with a number of infectious diseases, such as rheumatic fever. Children need homes that are healthy, nurturing and safe in order to thrive and grow. Improving child wellbeing is an important part of improving New Zealand's wellbeing.
10. Additional sources used in this subsection: New Zealand Crime and Victims Survey 2018.
11. University of Otago research using Stats NZ official statistics.
Note: Homelessness is defined by Stats NZ as "living situations where people with no other options to acquire safe and secure housing are: without shelter, in temporary accommodation, sharing accommodation with a household or living in uninhabitable house".