New Zealand: The Well-Being State

27 June, 2019 Share socially

Following months of speculation and curiosity, New Zealand’s government, led by rising global political star Jacinda Ardern, recently unveiled its next progressive move with a budget guided by ‘well-being’. It is a step beyond measuring national rates of well-being (as the UK does and indeed was one of the first to do so), instead basing the entire budget on five well-being priorities – at least one of which all government spending must adhere to. They are:

  1. Improving mental health
  2. Reducing child poverty
  3. Addressing the inequalities faced by indigenous Maori and Pacific islands people
  4. Thriving in a digital age
  5. Transitioning to a low-emission, sustainable economy

    Ardern’s government is seen internationally as one defined by progressive and compassionate policy making, but her opponents have been quick to question whether the unveiling is style over substance, amounting to a slick branding campaign for the government. Time will tell in New Zealand’s quick political climate how much impact it will deliver, but $200 million has already been earmarked for services to support victims of domestic and sexual abuse – the largest investment ever by a NZ government on that particular issue.

    The announcement comes at a time when economists, activists, politicians and environmentalists are questioning the way we look at growth and consumerism, with measures beyond profitability becoming increasingly salient and important in many societies. In particular, countries are beginning to reassess whether economic measurements such as GDP (Gross Domestic Product) are the best metric of a nation’s success, and beyond that, if the actual notion of growth is something all economies should be aspiring to as the ultimate performance measure.

    This debate is at the heart of our FutureBrand Country Index, where we examine what transforms a country from a spot on a map to a place our people ultimately want to invest in, live in, visit, and buy goods and services from. Countries have traditionally been measured and ranked by measures of might – including GDP, population size, even a sovereign’s nuclear arsenal. However, in the current day when our world is defined by rapid change, do these measures continue to make sense in the ranking of nations?

    New Zealand: The Well-Being State

    In this year's report, New Zealand ranks 11th overall and performed very strongly for perceived associations of ‘Value System’ (including ranking 4th for its Political System up 3 places from 2014, for Environmental Standards it was ranked at 7th place and came in at 8th position for Tolerance, a rise of 1 place from 2014). This year New Zealand topped the ranking for people that would like to live or study there, up from 6th position in 2014 which perhaps also contributed to a high ranking for perceptions related to ‘Quality of Life’.

    Our findings correlate with those of the World Happiness Report produced by the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network, where New Zealand was reported to be one of the happiest nations in the world, sitting in the top 10 in 8th place after the Nordics and Switzerland. Indeed we have found that the Quality of Life dimension averaged highest of all among the top 10 countries in the Index, and lowest in the bottom 10 countries – a clear signal of the power of well-being as a new indicator of strength.

    Although several countries including France and the UAE have embraced metrics related to well-being, none have linked the prioritization of welfare policies to the extent New Zealand has. Following the New Zealand Government’s announcement and in advance of the Treasury’s three year spending review due this summer, ex-civil service chief Gus O’Donnell called on the UK Government to increase its funding for mental health services, teaching in schools and social care by an extra £10bn within five years to raise the wellbeing of citizens and make well-being the primary aim.

    Whether other countries follow suit remains to be seen but as our world becomes more connected and complex, countries that take decisive action to prioritize Quality of Life are likely to prevail. These forward-looking policies will not only safeguard New Zealand’s people, but are likely to attract future visitors, investors, and citizens. The future will be about living richly, not just living a rich life.

    Download the FutureBrand Country Index 2019