5. Stats NZ launches well-being research

Stats NZ launches national consultation on definitions of 'well-being'. Photo: John Sefton

The government's policy of making measures of national well-being as important as traditional economic growth indicators took another step forward with the launch of a formal consultation process by the national statistics agency, Statistics NZ, on the public views of how well-being is defined and should be measured. Thomas Coughlan reports.

Statistics Minister James Shaw, also co-leader of the Green Party, launched the Indicators Aotearoa New Zealand, or Nga Tutoho Aotearoa, at Parliament, saying it delivered one of the requirements of the party's confidence and supply agreement to support the Labour Party-led government.

"The government is expanding beyond traditional measures of economic success to reflect the wellbeing of New Zealanders, including environmental well-being that sustains us," said Shaw.

The work will feed into already well-advanced thinking by the Treasury and other lead policy agencies on how to implement measures of well-being across four broad areas: natural, financial/physical, human and social capital in developing a Living Standards Framework, which in turn will inform the government's first "Well-being Budget", scheduled for next year.

Shaw said the government expected the Stats NZ project would help develop perhaps as many as 110 indicators of well-being across those four strands, feeding into perhaps 20 key statistical indicators, some of which would be developed to Tier One status, meaning they would become among the most important indicators the government would monitor.

As well as key economic data, examples of existing Tier One statistics include health, education voting and criminal justice records, and environmental measures such as air and water quality.

Statistics NZ said it would draw on existing international work to develop well-being indicators, including the Conference of European Statisticians' recommendations that the foundations for well-being should be measured across three dimensions: 'here and now' measures of the current generation: a 'later' dimension for impacts on later generation of the current generation's decisions; and 'elsewhere', for the impact of decisions in New Zealand on other countries.

The final list will be internationally peer-reviewed.

The consultation process would help selection of indicators based on "a collaborative process involving a wide range of stakeholders, including central and local government, non-government organisations, and external experts such as Maori experts, academics, and technical advisory groups".

A social media outreach campaign would seek submissions from the wider public.

Shaw said that while not all well-being measures would be bedded down by the time of the 2019 Budget, due in just 10 months' time, the process would be under way, meaning that public input at this point still had the potential to influence the eventual make-up of the finalised indicators.