Unaffordable housing, wage inequality key issues facing Aotearoa in State of the Nation 2024 report

Child poverty and public housing has improved, but fast-rising rents and wage inequality remain two key issues facing people in Aotearoa.
Child poverty and public housing has improved, but fast-rising rents and wage inequality remain two key issues facing people in Aotearoa. Photo credit: Getty Images.

The State of the Nation 2024 report has been released labelling the housing market and wage inequality as two of the biggest issues facing New Zealanders.

'Ngā Tukunga Iho/The Things We Inherit' was published by The Salvation Army/Te Ope Whakaora on Thursday.

It looks at five areas:

  1. Children and youth
  2. Housing
  3. Crime and punishment
  4. Social hazards; and
  5. Work and incomes.

Lieutenant-Colonel Ian Hutson of The Salvation Army said the report's purpose is simple: "It is about people - beyond the economy, GDP or inflation. It is about how our people are doing."

It's also about how the Government's actions today will affect future generations, he said.

"This report is a marker. Let us work for social progress for our whānau and keep our eyes on how our people are doing," said Hutson.

Some metrics saw improvement including lower drug consumption (including alcohol) as well as a drop in reimprisonment.

But most went backwards, such as food insecurity, violent crime, and education outcomes.

"Will the new government build on this progress, or will we see renewed increases in inequality?" Hutson asked.


Unaffordable housing and homelessness continue to bite those on low incomes, despite public housing supply increasing significantly in the past six years.

A drop in new consents and record-high net migration means housing supply isn't keeping up with the huge jump in our population.

"By late 2023 the surge of inward migration renewed the pressures on supply and affordability of rentals and housing prices," the report said.

Rents are rising faster than inflation and average wage growth in low-income communities.

Along with rising house prices, this is "forcing more people into housing need", the report said.

On the upside, nearly 14,000 public housing units were completed under the previous Government.

"But more than 25,000 are still needed," the report said.

Just over half of people on the public housing waitlist (50.4 percent) need a one-bedroom home.

Māori Wellbeing

The report's Māori Wellbeing section noted inequities haven't reduced much for Māori.

It said funding kaupapa Māori approaches is crucial for whānau, hapū, and iwi wellbeing.

"Equity is achievable when kaupapa Māori and Māori-centred approaches are a valued feature of our social, health and education service delivery."

Children and Youth

There were improvements in child poverty overall and rangatahi mental health, but most other factors got worse.

The report noted by mid-2022 "significant reductions in child poverty had been achieved since 2018".

Child poverty reduction was a big focus of the previous Labour-led Government.

"But large, unequal impacts of poverty on Pasifika, Māori and children living with disabilities means there’s much work to do."

School achievement suffered across all students, but again it was worse for Pasifika and Māori students.

In positive news, among rangatahi under 25, suicides fell and so did the number of young people in moderate-to-high mental distress.

Crime and Punishment

The report said overall crime has gone up in the past year, particularly assault and family violence. However, recidivism has dropped.

The previous Government's family violence policies led to higher levels of crime being reported, therefore more police and court interventions too.

Reported victimisations, victims, arrests, legal proceedings and violent crime all increased.

The report said harsher punishments don't work.

"Access to adequate housing, employment, education, health and social services will do more to reduce crime than harsher punishment."

There was a rise in estimated offences (20 percent), and convictions (12 percent).


The report noted employment and incomes had improved, but income support, welfare and food security had deteriorated.

The unemployment rate is currently at 4 percent after it began rising last year, although it's still at historically low levels.

"There is evidence of reducing income and wage inequality, but gender and ethnic earning inequities are not closing fast enough," the report said.

In addition, the surge in net migration to Aotearoa across 2023 came at a cost, pushing up rents and crowding the labour market.

"The impacts of the increase in unemployment did not fall evenly, with Māori and Pacific workers experiencing larger increases than others in their unemployment rates."

Food insecurity rose sharply last year among households with children, including 40 percent of Pasifika households with kids.

GDP per capita also dropped in the 12 months to September.

"The challenge for our society continues to be how fairly these [export earnings] resources are shared."

Social Hazards

Alcohol consumption per capita dropped, along with hazardous drinking, with rates for Māori falling the most.

In 2023, rates of illicit drug use also dropped, and so did convictions for illicit supply or possession.

But gambling losses rose to more than $1 billion in total, despite the number of pokie machines declining.

"Signs of financial hardship, such as KiwiSaver hardship withdrawals, were on the increase."