Around 10% of individuals account for 60% of the country’s net worth according to Stats NZ

Inequality is on the rise in New Zealand.

Around 10% of individuals accounted for 60% of the country’s net worth last year, up from an average of 55% between 2003 and 2010, according to new figures released by Statistics New Zealand.

The median net worth of individuals was $87,000 in the year to June 2015. The median value of an individual’s assets was $160,000, while the median value of their liabilities was $28,000.

At $114,000, Europeans had a higher net worth than other ethnic groups; Maori $23,000, Pacific $12,000, Asian $33,000.

This graph shows how the concentration of wealth held by the top 1%, 5% and 10% of individuals has gradually increased over the past decade.

Looking at households, as opposed to individuals, Stats NZ reports the average New Zealand household was worth $289,000 in the year to June 2015. The median value of household assets was $400,000, and the median value of liabilities was $51,000.

Yet once again this wealth was not evenly distributed, with the top 10% of households accounting for around half of total wealth. In contrast, the bottom 40% held 3% of total wealth.

Five percent of households had negative net worth, and the largest proportion of households (25%) had a net worth between zero and $100,000. At the higher end of the distribution, 8% of households had a net worth above $1.5 million. 

Stats NZ reports the distribution of New Zealand’s wealth is on par with that of other OECD countries.

“The top 1% of New Zealand households had 18% of total net worth – the same as the OECD average, but slightly higher than in Australia (where the top 1% has 13% of net worth),” it says.

Looking at the distribution of assets, it’s interesting to note wealthier households had much greater shares of their assets held in financial assets (cash and deposits, shares, equity in trusts and businesses and other financial investments).

“Approximately two-thirds of household assets for the top quintile were accounted for by financial assets; for other quintiles, the figure was around 20%.” Stats NZ says.

“The difference reflects the ability of the higher quintile households to invest in financial assets, due to their lack of debt (relative to lower quintile households), as shown in the graph below.”

The most-valuable asset held by Kiwi households was the house they lived in, which made up 59% of all non-financial assets. One in two households owned the house they lived in. Housing also contributed the most to debt levels – mortgage debt was over 60% of household liabilities.

“Nearly three in five New Zealand households living in their own home had a mortgage, with a median mortgage value of $172,000,” says Stats NZ.

“Overall, for every $1 of assets they have, New Zealand households have 12 cents of debt.”

Yet as expected, households in the lowest net worth quintile had a lot more debt on their houses than those in the higher quintiles.