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Census 2013: glossing over the divides

Written By: - Date published: 12:21 pm, December 3rd, 2013 - 17 comments
Categories: cost of living, education, employment, housing, Maori Issues, newspapers, spin, wages - Tags:

The latest census data is being revealed, and there’s a guide available to some of the main findings on Stuff and the NZ Herald’s sites.  The information is presented in pretty much the same format, indicating that both sites have mostly just re-published Stats NZ’s package.  There’s some interesting information there, but also some curious ways of packaging the information.

The headlines for both are focusing on the aging population. The overall increase in the 50-69 age group is significant.  NZ Herald article on it states that this amounts to an increase of 2 years in the median age.


However, the more telling statistics of socio-economic differences come lower down in the article, and they are packaged in a distorted way.  The stats are packaged as for a representative village of 100 people (i.e. indicating a percentage):

Census 2013 income

Better view of the graphic in the NZ Herald article.

The misleading part is the way it organises incomes into bands:

$30,000 and less per year- 38 people (38% of labour force)

$30,000 to $70,000 – 25 people (25% of labour force)

That adds up to 63% of the labour force.  So the median (mid point with 50% above and below that income level) is obscured somewhere between $30-$70 thou per year.

It doesn’t state whether this is net or gross income. *

The graphic shows that there’s a $13,400 difference between the median income for men and women.  It also shows that the median income for Maori is $22,500 ($27,200 median for Maori men; $19, 900 median for Maori women).


The graphic breaks down the occupations into general groups.  It’s also a bit misleading because it has one category for “professionals” (10) and “managers” (8) making them look like the biggest group (18), while breaking workers into a variety of groups:

clerical and admin workers (5);

technicians and trades workers (5);

labourers (5);

community and personal service workers (4);

sales workers (4);

machine operators and drivers (2).

Total workers (non-professional or managers), 25 workers.

Overall total of sample included is 43 (strange number).

“Professionals” and one for “managers”.  These could overlap and also include a pretty diverse range of incomes: from the top 5% of earners to the lower middle income in the lower end of the $30,000-$70,000 range.


Another significant finding is in relation to housing.  We are in the midst of an (un)affordable housing crisis, especially in Canterbury and Auckland.

The country’s total number of dwellings, both occupied and unoccupied, increased by just over 118,000 since 2006, to top 1.7 million.

Nearly 30 per cent of this increase was in the Auckland region.

While there were more dwellings, a lower proportion of households owned their homes.

“The rate of home ownership fell to just under 65 per cent at the 2013 census, compared with almost 67 per cent at the 2006 census,” Ms MacPherson said.

The number of unoccupied dwellings increased sharply since 2006, up more than 26,000 or 16.4 per cent.

“Almost 40 percent of this increase was in Canterbury, probably because of people leaving their dwellings after the 2010 and 2011 earthquakes,” Ms MacPherson said.

The amount of dwellings increased by $118,000, but the population increased by 214,101.  So they increase in dwellings meant one for about every 2 people.  As I recall, past stats showed there was an ongoing increase in one person households.

The most worrying stat is that there has been a big increase in unoccupied dwellings.  Canterbury accounts for 40% of this, but where are the other 60% of the increase?  Is this land bankers buying up proprty and sitting on it in the hope of some big dividend in the future?

The stuff report on it is here.

I don’t see anything on those struggling to live on benefits.

This is just my first look at the reports of the stats released today.  I am pretty sure you all will have further observations to make as some people dig further into the statistics.

* [Update] The income stats are based on “total income”: i.e. gross amount.

Stats NZ reports that the median income was $28,500

census 2013 male female personal-income


17 comments on “Census 2013: glossing over the divides”

  1. Greg 1

    Just to clarify, surely the village of 100 people aren’t all assumed to be in the work force (specifically, the young and the old). Therefore the percentages quoted (e.g. 38 % on under $30k) are incorrect?

    Also, 118,000 dwellings for 214,101 people doesn’t seem that bad (it’s an average of 1.8 people per household). If anything I would have thought that number would be higher? May be 2-3 people per household?

    • tricledrwown 1.1

      this housing stat is skewed by rural housing alot of rural towns and cities have an oversupply of housing while the 2 main cities have an under supply just putting the overall housing supply up is the Herald covering up the truth.

  2. Rosie 2

    Hi karol.

    “It doesn’t state whether this is net or gross income”.

    I’m not sure how they report on income at Statistics NZ, whether income is gross or net but my assumption is that it is gross, based on the way salaries and wages are referred to within businesses, unions and organisations, and when jobs are advertised they are advertise the gross remuneration figure.

    • karol 2.1

      Thanks, Rosie. Yes it is the gross amount. I have found the relevant stuff on the Stats NZ website and updated the post accordingly.

      And now I’m confused. The NZ and Stuff reports say 38/100 earn less than $30,000, but stats NZ puts median income as $28,000. Is it that the latter figure includes people not in paid employment, while the first one includes only employed people?

      • Rosie 2.1.1

        The Stats NZ section “education and employment” under work status, within the stuff link you provide has four categories, full time, part time, unemployed and not in labour force so once again with my assumptions I’d say the median income of $28K includes employed and those unemployed who are receiving a benefit.
        That 38/100 of those earning under $30K is the median isn’t it? (I say with some uncertainty, because I’m a little confused now)

        • karol

          Well, it makes sens to have $30,000 as a cut off point as $28k is the median. Maybe the NZ Herald graph excludes those with zero income – according to the Stats NZ link, a bit over 10% of people: around 7% of men and 8% of women. What do they live on? The stats are for people over 15 yrs – so some will be dependent on their parents, and some women (maybe some men also) dependent on their partner or children.

          • Rosie

            “What do they live on?”

            You’re quite right when you say some will be dependant on their partner. Thats me, unemployed but with no access to a benefit because my husband has a salary that is more than the peanuts minimum wage. The same goes for an unemployed male friend who is dependant on his wife’s income. So, I am part of the 8% and he part of the 7%. This is not a fun statistic zone to live in.

            • karol

              Agreed, Rosie. I don’t think it’s a fun place to be. And if the NZ Herald has omitted that group they are distorting the stats. Furthermore, they are masking the unemployment numbers.

        • Puddleglum

          Hi Rosie,

          Median weekly income for all people from all sources was $575.

          “Median weekly income from wages and salaries (for those receiving income from this source) was $844, up $38 (4.8 percent). ”

          These are the New Zealand Income Survey figures for the June 2013 quarter.

          $575 is $29,900 per year (gross). $844 is $43,888 per year.

  3. weizguy 3

    I know they’ve done it for ease of reading, but the second income graph distorts the picture horribly, by changing the size of the brackets at $70K. If you’re going to change the brackets, at least split it off slightly, or do something obvious to make it clear that the curve breaks for a reason.

  4. ghostwhowalksnz 4

    Also glossed over , in a lot of provincial census ” sub districts” or what ever they call them , there is a drop in population. With most of the rest stable or a slight increase.

    Provincial NZ and rural areas are dying. I would have thought that was BIG news

  5. Ad 5

    More than 60% of women earn $30,000 or less!
    Socialism has a serious gender weighting task.

  6. binders full of women 6

    Regions are being ‘hollowed out’ ie even when they aren’t decreasing and are remaining static.. numbers wise.. the workers are leaving and the population is becoming older & younger (less middles). No surprises re the incomes… until we go Scandinavian and harness the oil (with a higher royalty) we’re screwed.

  7. This article in the Herald has more of a focus on the income parts of the census.

    Growing inequality since 2006 is the central theme.

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