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New Zealand General Social Survey: 2012
Embargoed until 10:45am  –  13 August 2013

About the New Zealand General Social Survey

The objectives of the New Zealand General Social Survey (NZGSS) are to:

  • complement other measures of societal progress by providing information on the well-being of New Zealanders aged 15 years and over across a range of aspects of life
  • provide a view of how well-being varies across different groups within the population
  • understand the relationships between different aspects of life and to overall well-being.

Government departments, researchers, regional and community organisations, and the wider public all use survey information. The survey helps to identify key well-being issues, enables international comparisons to be made, and contributes to better-informed public debate about how we are faring.

The NZGSS 2012 is the third survey in the series. The first NZGSS was carried out in 2008/09 and the information released in October 2009 (see New Zealand General Social Survey: 2008). The second NZGSS was carried out in 2010/11 and the information released in November 2011 (see New Zealand General Social Survey: 2010).

General social surveys and surveys of a similar nature are a regular feature of statistical programmes in countries that include Australia, the United Kingdom, and Canada. Statistics Canada undertook their first GSS in 1985 and the Australian Bureau of Statistics started theirs in 2002.

The data collected in the NZGSS is similar to GSS data collected in other OECD countries. Where international comparisons are made, data from the NZGSS is broadly comparable with data from other countries although some questions, scales, or survey populations may vary between countries.

See Related links for the GSSs for Australia and Canada. 

More definitions

Here are definitions of the main measures included in this release.

Adequacy of income to meet everyday needs: is based on the respondent’s self-assessment of their income (and their partner’s if applicable). The respondent rates whether they had more than enough money, enough money, just enough money, or not enough money to meet their everyday need for such things as accommodation, food, clothing, and other necessities. This measure is an element of the Economic Living Standard Index (ELSI), and is not asked of respondents who are under 18 years of age.

See Direct measurement of living standards: The New Zealand ELSI scale for more information.

Contact with family and friends: measures social connectedness. It refers to contact with a person in another household. Face-to-face contact does not include electronic forms of contact such as using a web cam or video conferencing. The survey also measures non-face-to-face contact such as by telephone, cellphone (calling, texting, video calling), Internet (emails, instant messenger), postal mail, and fax.

Ethnicity: is the ethnic group or groups that respondents identify with or feel they belong to. Ethnicity is self-perceived and people can belong to more than one ethnic group. 

Ethnicity is a measure of cultural affiliation, as opposed to race, ancestry, nationality, or citizenship.

See New Zealand Standard Classification of Ethnicity 2005 for more information.

This release uses level 1 of the ‘total response’ classification. The single and combination ethnicity classification is also included in the NZGSS dataset and will be available in the confidentialised unit record file (CURF) dataset.

Experience of discrimination: is a self-reported measure of perceived discrimination. Respondents were asked if they felt they had been treated unfairly or had something nasty done to them in the last 12 months because of the group they belong to or seem to belong to. This includes things such as: age, skin colour, disability or a health issue, family status, or sex.

Family type: is family composition within households. Measurement is based on level 1 of the New Zealand Classification of Family Types 2008. This release uses the three categories in the classification and a fourth category for people not in a family. 

  • couples without children – couples who don’t have children as well as couples whose children have left home
  • couples with child(ren) – couples and their child(ren) who live with them.
  • one-parent with child(ren) – one adult with child(ren) who live with them
  • not in a family – someone living by themselves or people who are flatting.

Feeling of safety when walking alone in the neighbourhood at night: is the respondent’s feeling of safety walking alone at night in their neighbourhood. Respondents chose from:

  • very safe
  • safe
  • unsafe
  • very unsafe.

Felt lonely: is a respondent’s subjective perception of the difference between desired and achieved levels in the quality and quantity of social contact. Respondents were asked how often, in the last four weeks, they had felt isolated from others. Respondents chose from:

  • all of the time
  • most of the time
  • some of the time
  • a little of the time
  • none of the time

Household income: is derived by aggregating the total personal gross annual incomes of all members of the household. The measure is based on the New Zealand Standard Classification of Income Bands 2009. It combines the 16 categories into four summary groups: $30,000 or less; $30,001–70,000; $70,001–$100,000; and $100,001 or more.

Household storage of emergency water: whether respondents had stored water for three days in preparation for natural disasters such as earthquakes.

Housing tenure: is the type of occupancy of a household in a private dwelling at the time of the survey. The measure is based on the New Zealand Standard Classification of Tenure of Households 2008. The three categories at level 1 of that classification are combined into two: rented or owner-occupied.

Owner-occupied dwellings include dwellings owned or partly owned (with or without a mortgage), and dwellings held in a family trust. It does not refer to the tenure of the land on which the dwelling is situated.

Labour force status: a respondent’s position in the labour-force in one of three groups: employed, unemployed, or not in the labour force. This measure is based on the New Zealand Standard Classification of Labour Force Status 1999 and refers to the respondent's circumstances in defined time periods.

Level of education: measures a person’s highest level of formal education, based on the New Zealand Register of Quality Assured Qualifications (2003). For this release, the 13 level 1 categories in the register are combined into four groups. Examples of the types of qualification in each group are:

  • no qualification – no formal qualifications
  • level 1–4 certificate – eg school certificate, sixth form certificate, university entrance, NCEA or national certificate 1, 2, 3, or 4, trade certificates, and also people with any overseas secondary school qualifications
  • level 5–6 diploma – eg nursing or teaching diplomas, or advanced trade certificates
  • level 7 / bachelor's degree and above – eg qualifications from university, such as bachelor's degree, post-graduate diplomas and certificates, master's degree, and doctorate. 

Life stages: age groupings to focus on different experiences at different points in people’s lives (eg growing up, learning, working, family formation, child rearing, and retirement). For this release, life stages are: 

  • young adults – 15 to 24 years
  • prime working age – 25 to 44 years
  • middle-aged people – 45 to 64 years
  • older people – 65 years and over.

Major problems with house: is whether respondents reported major problems with their house or flat. The types of problems include: too cold/difficult to keep warm, too small, damp, poor condition, or too expensive.

Migrant status: is whether or not a respondent was born in New Zealand, and if not how long they had been here. For this release, the three groups are: 

  • recent migrants – those who arrived to settle in New Zealand in 2007 or later
  • long-term migrants – those who arrived in New Zealand in 2006 or earlier
  • New Zealand-born – people born in New Zealand.

Overall life satisfaction: is a self-reported measure. Respondents were asked, in a single question, how they felt about their life as a whole (at the time of the interview). Respondents chose from: 

  • very satisfied
  • satisfied
  • neither satisfied nor dissatisfied
  • dissatisfied
  • very dissatisfied.

Personal income: is the respondent’s before-tax income in the previous 12 months. It is collected as an income range rather than an actual dollar income. 

Region: is based on regional council areas, and grouped where necessary for analysis.

Comparing NZGSS regional groupings with regional council areas
NZGSS grouping Regional council area
Auckland Auckland
Northland/Bay of Plenty/Gisborne Northland
Bay of Plenty
Rest of North Island Waikato
Hawke's Bay
Wellington Wellington
Canterbury Canterbury
Rest of South Island West Coast
Self-rated general health status: is based on a respondent's own perception of their health status and functioning. This measure is an alternative to the more traditional objective measures of health (eg hospitalisation rates and disease prevalence). Self-reported health measures introduce subjectivity into health status measurement, which is useful for providing a more person-centred view of health, and for placing more emphasis on quality of life and well-being.
Respondents summarised their perception of their overall health by indicating whether, in general, their health was excellent, very good, good, fair, or poor.

Support in a time of crisis: is whether respondents felt they could access support or help from people outside their household if they really needed it. 

Examples of support people may require are: 

  • help during a serious illness or injury
  • help maintaining family responsibilities
  • emotional support or a place to stay.

Unpaid work: is whether the respondent has provided help to people outside their household without payment in the previous four weeks. This does not include activities done for, or through, a group or organisation. 

Voluntary work: measures whether the respondent has undertaken voluntary activities for a group or an organisation in the previous four weeks.

The NZGSS definition of voluntary work differs slightly from the definitions used in the Time Use Survey and in the New Zealand Census of Population and Dwellings. The Time Use Survey does not define voluntary work as such. Instead, it is measured in terms of ‘unpaid work for any organisation’. The census definition is ‘other help or voluntary work for or through any organisation, group or marae’. 

For a full list of variables used in the survey see the NZGSS data dictionary.

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