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Across many measures, New Zealand appears to be doing well: Its people are relatively healthy, well educated, and socially connected; material standards of living are high; and the unemployment rate is trending downward and is just below 4 percent.
But the country still faces significant challenges: Tens of thousands of children are living in poverty; young people in particular are struggling with their mental health; the rates of family violence are among the worst of Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) nations; and its Māori and Pacific populations face inequalities in health, education, and employment.
When Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern came to power two years ago, she committed to tackling these problems. In May, she and Finance Minister Grant Robertson announced their first Wellbeing Budget, as the national budget. Instead of simply pegging the country’s success to traditional economic measures, like GDP, they want policymaking to be driven by what will make the biggest difference to the well-being of people, their communities, and the environment. It’s been dubbed the “well-being approach.”