Canterbury University's Tom Coupé looks at NZ from an international perspective, including, the country of volunteers, a good place for minorities, (un)affordable housing, treating women with respect & more

Canterbury University's Tom Coupé looks at NZ from an international perspective, including, the country of volunteers, a good place for minorities, (un)affordable housing, treating women with respect & more

Today's Top 10 is a guest post from Tom Coupé an Associate Professor in the Economics and Finance Department at Canterbury University.

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One way to discover the world and become ‘globally aware’ is to travel. An alternative (admittedly an imperfect alternative) is to look at comparative international statistics. In this Top 10, I compare New Zealand to other countries on the basis of the Gallup World Poll. The Gallup World poll surveys about 1,000 individuals in over 100 countries, using a standard set of core questions that cover a wide range of issues. This year, thanks to the support of the University of Canterbury foundation, students and staff of the University of Canterbury have access to the Gallup World Poll.

1. A country of volunteers.

Let’s start with things New Zealand excels at. ‘It is, what it is’ is a popular expression, but many people in New Zealand are trying to make New Zealand a better place. Out of all OECD countries [OECD countries are the richer countries in the world and hence a reasonable benchmark for New Zealand], New Zealand respondents were most likely to answer ‘yes’ on the question ‘Have you done any of the following in the past month? How about volunteered your time to an organization? In 2017 in New Zealand, 40% of respondents said ‘yes’, compared to the OECD average of 26%.

Source: Gallup World Poll New Zealand Country Report. Comparison countries are OECD countries.

Similarly, New Zealand scores 2nd in the group of OECD countries in terms of indicating they ‘helped a stranger or somebody who needed help’ in the past month and 3rd in terms of ‘having donated money to a charity’ in the past month.

The economic value of all this volunteering is substantial. Here is an example of an estimate for the UK:

‘The Office for National Statistics reckons that frequent, formal volunteering produces about £24 billion of economic output for Britain. That’s equivalent to 1.5% of GDP. Volunteering produces twice as much value as the agriculture sector and about the same amount as the telecoms sector. Informal volunteering—different kinds of mutual help and co-operation between individuals—might add another £19 billion of output. Add in infrequent volunteering and you're looking at around £50 billion, roughly the size of the British energy sector.’

2. A good place for minorities.

New Zealand respondents were also very likely to agree that ‘the city or area where you live a good place to live for racial and ethnic minorities’. 90% of New Zealand respondents agreed with this, compared to a 74% OECD average, making New Zealand the second highest scoring country among OECD countries.

Source: Gallup World Poll New Zealand Country Report. Comparison countries are OECD countries.

Consistent with this, the 2018 World Happiness report shows that New Zealand is in the top 5 of countries where migrants are the most happy.

3. Troubles with Public Transportation.

    While on the vast majority of indicators New Zealand scores well or very well compared to other countries, there are exceptions. One of these is the satisfaction with public transportation. When asked ‘In the city or area where you live, are you satisfied or dissatisfied with the public transportation systems?, only 47% of the New Zealand respondents indicated they were satisfied, which is low compared to the OECD average of 61%. At 47%, New Zealand does worse than Afghanistan (48%) and equally good/bad as Libya. The world top 5 in 2017 for this indicator consists of Singapore, Uzbekistan, Switzerland, Hong Kong and Luxemburg.

    Source: Gallup World Poll New Zealand Country Report. Comparison countries are OECD countries.

    If you are unhappy about the public transport, you might want to read this:

    “Apparently commuting by public transport makes you happier. It must be the fresh air and fascinating aromas that help Lauren to unwind”

    4. (Un)Affordable Housing.

    Few will be surprised by another indicator on which New Zealand scores badly. The Gallup World Poll asks “In the city or area where you live, are you satisfied or dissatisfied with the availability of good, affordable housing? In 2017, only about 40% of the New Zealand respondents agreed, which is substantially less than the OECD average of 54%. Other countries that have 40% satisfaction score are Chad, Lithuania, Tanzania and Ukraine. The world top 5 in 2017 for this indicator consists of Thailand, Kosovo, Nepal, Uzbekistan and Cambodia.

    Source: Gallup World Poll New Zealand Country Report. Comparison countries are OECD countries.

    New Zealand’s score is not only bad, it also has been deteriorating quickly over the last 7 years. But maybe things are changing?

    “Housing affordability is improving for first home buyers in most parts of the country but the improvements are so small most aspiring first home buyers probably wouldn't notice the difference, according to's latest Home Loan Affordability Reports.”

    5. Treating women with respect and dignity.

    The Gallup World Poll is not only great to identify what New Zealand is excelling at, or what New Zealand is not doing so well, it also helps to put some ‘hot topics’ in a comparative perspective.

    This year, New Zealand celebrates that women won the right to vote 125 years ago. A gender-related question in the Gallup World Poll asks respondents whether they “believe that women in this country are treated with respect and dignity, or not?” In 2017 in New Zealand, about 80% agreed with this statement, with men (82.6%) somewhat more likely to agree than women (78.6%). Not a bad score, though one might be surprised by the top 5 of countries where women are most likely to agree with this statement (from first to fifth): United Arab Emirates, Singapore, Uzbekistan, Norway and Cambodia.

    Source: author calculations based on Gallup World Poll.

    There is a large academic literature on how economics affects women empowerment and vice versa, how female empowerment affect the economy. Esther Duflo (2012), professor at the MIT, concludes her review of this literature as follows:

    “This suggests that neither economic development nor women’s empowerment is the magic bullet it is sometimes made out to be. In order to bring about equity between men and women, in my view a very desirable goal in and of itself, it will be necessary to continue to take policy actions that favor women at the expense of men, and it may be necessary to continue doing so for a very long time. While this may result in some collateral benefits, those benefits may or may not be sufficient to compensate for the cost of the distortions associated with such redistribution. This measure of realism needs to temper the positions of policymakers on both sides of the development/empowerment debate”.

    6. Satisfaction with Educational system.

    While the NZ teachers might be unhappy about their pay, the New Zealand public is clearly satisfied with its teachers. When asked ‘In the city or area where you live, are you satisfied or dissatisfied with the educational system or the schools?’, 72% of New Zealand respondents indicated they were satisfied, compared to the OECD average of 65%.

    Source: Gallup World Poll New Zealand Country Report. Comparison countries are OECD countries.

    For some recent research on the impact of (long) teacher strikes on students, check out this paper on Argentina or this paper on Canada.

    7. Business and Consumer Confidence.

    Another hot topic is the confidence of businesses and consumers in the New Zealand Economy. The Gallup World Poll asks ‘Right now, do you think that economic conditions in the city or area where you live, as a whole, are getting better or getting worse?’ From 2010 onwards, the New Zealand respondents have been substantially more optimistic than the typical respondent in the OECD. Unfortunately, the 2018 data for New Zealand are not yet available.

    Source: Gallup World Poll New Zealand Country Report. Comparison countries are OECD countries.

    A good NZ focused read on whether one actually should care about business confidence can be found here:

    “The business community’s confidence in the economy – and therefore the government – seems to have hit a new low recently. There have been dozens of articles published in the last couple of weeks highlighting business concerns. So how seriously should politicians take the constant surveys about business confidence?”

    And maybe it makes sense to start thinking of creating a News sentiment index for New Zealand.

    “In the following paper, we use a topic modeling algorithm and sentiment scoring methods to construct a novel metric that serves as a leading indicator in recession prediction models. We hypothesize that the inclusion of such a sentiment indicator, derived purely from unstructured news data, will improve our capabilities to forecast future recessions because it provides a direct measure of the polarity of the information consumers and producers are exposed to. We go on to show that the inclusion of our proposed news sentiment indicator, with traditional sentiment data, such as the Michigan Index of Consumer Sentiment and the Purchasing Manager’s Index, and common factors derived from a large panel of economic and financial indicators helps improve model performance significantly.”

    8. Confidence in Government.

    Overall, New Zealand respondents have lots of confidence in their institutions. Compared to respondents in other OECD countries, they have been much more likely to trust the national government. In 2017, 61% of New Zealand respondents answered yes to the question whether they trust the national government (2018 is not available yet).

    Source: Gallup World Poll New Zealand Country Report. Comparison countries are OECD countries.

    9. Trust in financial institutions.

    And while trust in the government in New Zealand has been high relative to other countries, this is even more true so for the financial sector. When asked whether they have confidence in ‘financial institutions or banks’, 75% of New Zealand respondents agreed, which is not only substantially higher than the 51% OECD average, but also substantially higher than the share or New Zealand respondents who have confidence in the national government (see previous graph).

    Source: Gallup World Poll New Zealand Country Report. Comparison countries are OECD countries.

    Trust, both in the government and in financial institutions is important for economic development. A recent survey of the literature on this topic concludes:

    “This survey documents two main findings. First, trust has a causal impact on economic development, through its channels of influence on the financial, product, and labor markets, and with a direct effect on total factor productivity and organization of firms. Second trust and institutions strongly interact, with causality running in both directions.”

    10. Well Being.

    The New Zealand government is now thinking about how to include ‘wellbeing’ in its policy decision making. The Gallup World Poll asks people about their life satisfaction on a scale from 0 (worst possible life) to 10 (best possible life).

    Source: Gallup World Poll New Zealand Country Report. Comparison countries are OECD countries.

    The Gallup World Poll also asked people about whether, in the day before they were interviewed, they smiled or laughed ( 80% yes, 11th out  of 35 OECD countries), felt well-rested (66% yes, 23rd ), learned something new (65%, 7th) , were treated with respect (93%, 12th) or felt enjoyment (81%, 12th) . Or experienced negative emotions like sadness (16%, 23rd), physical pain (22%, 30th),worry (26%, 33rd ), anger (9%, 30th), or stress (34%, 22nd).

    Clearly, New Zealand has been scoring well on well-being, even without well-being being an explicit policy goal.

    StatsNZ is still “seeking your feedback on the development of wellbeing indicators called Indicators Aotearoa New Zealand” until September 30, 2018.

    We welcome your help to improve our coverage of this issue. Any examples or experiences to relate? Any links to other news, data or research to shed more light on this? Any insight or views on what might happen next or what should happen next? Any errors to correct?

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    Makes one feel good , this piece .

    And of course makes you realize its not perfect , but we have much to be thankful for

    Excellent observations , and one of the things I really like about our little nation is that we are able to pick something and then be the best at it .

    For a country of just under 5 million we are the masters of rubgy , milking cows, growing food , being really good yachtsmen and rowers .

    That ability to identify and use our competitive and natural advantages really sets us apart .

    We are recognised as the least corrupt place to do business , which is something we dont really use to our advantage ( We could become the home of reputable asset managers Pension fund managers and widows and orphans funds for example )

    The other thing is our ability to stand up for our principles even against super-powers .

    And of course being leaders in striving for equality .

    When I arrived home at Christmas 1980 I knew most of the above, but not in the formal way presented, obviously. I fell in love with NZ on a smelly train from Calcutta to Madras (as they were known then) and couldn't quite understand all the grumpiness going on here when I arrived home. I walked into the 1981 Springbok tour fiasco which shocked me to be honest, but as for NZ being the place to live, a no brainer after 5 years on the road. It still is one of the great small nations on planet Earth, and Boatman is right, we over-deliver/achieve in many ways. The sad part is that the people here who do not have much (often because they don't do much) still have something, but they are unable to see that, because they haven't seen worse. Well, there's plenty of worse out there and you don't have to go far to see it, I can assure you.
    Every day I am very grateful that I am a New Zealander.

    NZ does well at so many levels. It could well be that the country heads into a golden period while the rest of the world loses their heads -Trump, Euro crisis, Brexit.... But it does not surprise me that NZ compared to overseas has problems relating to housing and transport. That is what I found when I returned to NZ in 2012.
    I have been writing about it in a blog titled -'New Zealand needs an urbanisation project'. Fortunately has republished many of the articles and in general NZ is having a constructive and lively debate on how to best move forward. We are a good country and even our problems we are addressing in an inclusive and positive manner.

    Housing and transport really do matter. But inequality and unnecessary child poverty matter more. So does being wealthy enough to thumb our noses at bully countries and we are losing that freedom - what price do you put on integrity? Your choice of 3 examples of the world losing its head is interesting - I would choose quite different ones mainly related to devastation to our globes ecology which in the medium and long term humanity depends on. One of ten thousand examples How dumb are we?

    Today I got out of bed checked the weather forecast and decided that “blue skys bugger all wind” meant it was time to fishing. I rang up work and let them know I was taking a day off). Jumped in the boat and was catching my bag limit of snapper. On the way into the boat ramp I saw a pod of dolphins chasing Kawhai. Had a few craft beers at the local brewery and right now I’m taking photos of the Milky Way in my backyard. Next week I’m partipating in a community run bee keeping course.

    Yes I know I’m privileged and I recognise this but for those who have taken their chances and worked hard NZ has a lot to offer compared with other not so fortunate countries. We should work hard to keep it that way.

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