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Selected Issues in the Measurement of New Zealand's Saving(s)

Conclusions

This paper has presented and compared alternative measures of saving from flow and stock perspectives, and has compared and contrasted aggregate and unit level data statistics. The national accounts HIOA encompasses a much broader definition of income and consumption than does the household survey-based HES, and provides a superior measure of saving when measured as a flow. Nonetheless, when adjusted to a comparable basis, the analysis overall demonstrates greater conformity between these measures than it does differences between them. Some issues in the HIOA’s income coverage were identified, whereas we established that it is necessary to adjust HES expenditure upwards if it were to be used for saving analysis.

Unit level and aggregate data measures of household net wealth were also examined, with strengths and weaknesses identified. Given the differences in concepts and coverage between the HSS and SoFIE surveys and the aggregate administrative sources, they compare reasonably well which gives us confidence in the robustness of the survey findings. In addition, the survey data provides some results that are not available in the aggregate data, and of course they permit distributional and microeconomic analyses not possible from the aggregate data.

Significant improvements have been made in measuring New Zealand’s overall and household saving over the past six years, particularly with the household wealth statistics now available and improved measures of New Zealand’s interactions with the rest of the world. Further possible statistical developments were reviewed, with some earmarked for immediate action and others put forward for future consideration and action. Preliminary assessment suggests these initiatives would impact more on the sectoral allocation of income and saving than on the aggregate levels, but given the intense interest in household sector behaviour the enhancements proposed would be a significant contribution to critical policy debates around New Zealanders’ saving.

Paper prepared for Reserve Bank of New Zealand Workshop on Saving 14 November 2006.

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