State of the Nation – some successes but escalating challenges too

State of the Nation

In the midst of the country’s escalating cost-of-living crisis, the Salvation Army’s State of the Nation 2024 report spotlights the growing socio-economic challenges confronting New Zealanders.

The report, Ngā Tukunga Iho – The Things We Inherit, offers an annual assessment of the country’s social progress – this year especially –

  • children and youth
  • housing
  • crime and punishment
  • social hazards
  • work and incomes

Lt-Colonel Ian Hutson, The Salvation Army’s Social Policy and Parliamentary Unit director, notes the new government has inherited a mix of successes and obstacles from its predecessor.

He emphasises the impact current policies will have on future generations and the responsibility to foster a better living environment for all New Zealanders.

While the report acknowledges significant progress has been made in recent years – reductions in child poverty, an increase in social housing units, sustained low unemployment – it also points to worrying trends.

These trends include the deepening cost-of-living crisis hitting lower-income households hardest. Rising rental costs are outpacing inflation and there are overall increases in food insecurity and financial hardship.

The State of the Nation report is unequivocal in its call for the new Government to take decisive action.

Hutson stresses the need to build upon the progress achieved and to adopt successful strategies to navigate the challenges ahead.

Concerns for Māori wellbeing

One of the report’s key findings pertains to Māori wellbeing.

Persistent inequities affecting Māori in education, housing, employment and the criminal justice system need to be addressed, it says.

To achieve this, the report advocates for the importance of resourcing kaupapa Māori approaches to enhance well-being for whānau, hapū and iwi.

Children and Youth

The report’s Children and Youth section has both positive and negative news.

On the plus side, it rates child poverty reduction as a significant achievement.

However, it also notes poverty’s disproportionate impact on Pasifika, Māori, and children living with disabilities. It stresses the need for targeted efforts to meet Government poverty reduction targets.

The report also states that young people continue to tell of high levels of mental distress.


The report’s Housing section paints a grim picture of unaffordability and homelessness. This is exacerbated by a decline in new housing consents and a surge in inward migration, it says.

The report calls for an urgent increase in public housing supply to address the growing backlog.

Crime and Punishment

In terms of Crime and Punishment, the report indicates an overall increase in reported and unreported crime and notes that violent offences are increasing.

Enhancing access to housing, employment, education and social services would be more effective in reducing crime than implementing harsher punishments, the report suggests.

Social Hazards

The Social Hazards section notes a positive decline in alcohol and drug consumption.

At the same time, it points to rising gambling losses and signs of increased financial hardship. One such indicator is the increasing number of calls for early KiwiSaver withdrawals on the grounds of financial hardship.

Work and Incomes

Under the heading Work and Incomes, the Salvation Army State of the Nation report highlights the continued high levels of employment but raises concerns about the rising unemployment and the persistent wage inequality affecting women and ethnic minorities.

It says high inflation is putting pressure particularly on low-income households. Furthermore, food insecurity for households with children has increased.


Additional reading

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