Inequality: New Zealand's rich getting richer while poor remain static

While the rich have seen their household net worth rise by nearly $400,000 in the last three years, the less well-off aren't having much luck.

The median net worth of the typical Kiwi household has increased $51,000 since 2015, from $289,000 to $340,000, according to Statistics NZ, which it says mainly reflects rising property values.

The top 20 percent of surveyed New Zealand households have seen their median net worth increase about $131,000 per year - almost $360 a day for three years.

But on the flip side, the net worth of the bottom 40 percent hasn't increased.

"Household net worth in New Zealand is concentrated in the top 20 percent of Kiwi households surveyed in the past year. That group collectively holds about 70 percent of total household net worth," said Statistics NZ labour market and households senior manager Jason Attewell.

"These net worth statistics tell us that wealth is unevenly distributed across the population, and this is unchanged from three years ago."

He said this information is important to obtain because it provides an understanding of how well households are prepared for retirement, or how well they can withstand financial hardship, such as losing their job. 

"However, we also know the survey may not gain a representative picture of a small number of the extremely rich."

The blame for New Zealand's inequality has been put on housing, with an October report highlighting that more than half of renting households receiving the Accommodation Supplement are spending more than half their income on housing.

New Zealand's growth in inequality is relatively flat compared to the US, however, where the share of income going to the top 1 percent has risen from about 12 percent in 1985 to more than 20 percent last year.

New Zealanders' individual net worth increased with age until around retirement, according to the Stats NZ report. 

People tend to build net worth throughout their lives, it says. 

In 2018, people aged 15 to 24 had the lowest median individual net worth ($2,000); while people aged 65 to 74 had the highest ($416,000).