Working paper

The comparative wellbeing of the New Zealand Maori and Indigenous Australian populations since 2000

10 Aug 2017

Some researchers have argued that strong periods of economic growth and economic downturns have a greater impact on the economic position of the Indigenous population than the non-Indigenous population in settler societies such as Australia and New Zealand. Māori have significantly higher levels of wellbeing than Indigenous Australians.

The 2007-08 global financial crisis negatively affected economic growth in New Zealand in the two years after 2009, whereas the Australian economy experienced a reduction in economic growth but did not enter recession. This difference in macroeconomic conditions in countries with a similar colonial past provides an opportunity to explore the potential for differential effects of economic growth on Indigenous wellbeing.

This paper argues that Indigenous economic wellbeing can be partly improved by addressing broader macroeconomic factors (as evidenced by the outcome for employment and equivalised household income). However, institutional differences, cultural contexts and other societal factors are probably more important for explaining country-specific differences in observed trends in other measures of wellbeing such as psychological distress, incarceration rates and even suicide. There is no room for complacency among policy makers, who need to involve Indigenous people in the design of policies to address some distressing trends and to identify the groups who are missing out in both growing and stagnant economies.

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