Think tank the New Zealand Institute has given the country a C grade on 16 economic, environmental and social measures.
In its online NZahead report card, the NZI assessed a range of quality-of-life factors including health, education, environmental quality and income equality, compared with others in the OECD.
Director Dr Rick Boven said these were long-term measures that took time to respond to strategy change, policy responses and implementation.
"Since the September 2010 release two trends have improved while three worsened.”
Overall our performance relative to other countries remains generally poor.
The trend for net migration of citizens was downgraded from improving to deteriorating – in the year to June 2011 almost 30,000 Kiwis departed, double the number of departures in the previous year.
The educational achievement trend was also downgraded from improving to stable, which the NZI said was due to an improved understanding and not because of any significant decrease in education scores. New Zealand scores well for educational achievement at age 15 but is not improving relative to the performance of other countries; the serious disadvantage experienced by Māori and Pacific students persists and in 2006 New Zealand had the lowest median age of leaving initial education in the OECD.
On three measures the country performs relatively well, with a grade of B for life expectancy, educational achievement and agricultural land per capita. But in six areas performance is average with a grade of C, and on seven measures performance is poor with a grade of D.
Real GDP per capita remains lower than the 2007 figure and New Zealand is ranked 22nd of 34 OECD countries. The low GDP ranking results from low labour productivity. According to the NZI, there is no convincing evidence yet that New Zealand is on a path to catch up with Australia, nor is there a convincing plan explaining how New Zealand will be able to grow its economy faster than other OECD countries.
While the gross national savings rate has been consistently below the OECD average since 2004, it increased in 2009 and 2010.
Innovation and business sophistication also rated a D, at 21st out of 34 countries.
The trend of carbon dioxide emissions per capita was reassessed as improving rather than stable, though the improvement resulted mainly from good weather and a poor economy, not from policy or behavior change.
New Zealanders’ average life expectancy continues to improve, at a rate of three to four months per year.
When releasing the latest figures the Chief Coroner identified the country’s suicide rate has remained “stubbornly the same”. The trend based on that data has been downgraded from improving to stable. New Zealand’s 15-19 year old suicide rate remains the highest among the OECD countries.
Assault mortality in New Zealand is much higher than in the best performing OECD countries and there is great concern about violence affecting families. Latest figures for 2010-11 reveal a decline in family violence offences which is a marked reversal of what had been a steady upward trend in recent years. The lowest number of murders since 1986 occurred in 2010-11 but the 25 year murder trend remains flat.
Income inequality has reduced in New Zealand over the last year, mainly because the recession reduced the wealth of many wealthy people through lower investment returns.
See the full report, including graphs and trends, at http://www.nzahead.org.