How Kiwis stack up

06:19, May 13 2009

We sleep, eat and drink more than most. We are fatter, a bit shorter and watch less television. And we are generally happy despite our relatively slim pay packets.

However, our image as a sports-mad nation is under threat. And our streets are no longer as safe as we thought they were.

A report from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development paints a picture of life in close to 30 developed countries.

Pitted against other OECD members, New Zealand appears to be a relatively happy place. People are satisfied with their lot and able to find a balance between work and play. Most of us rate our life satisfaction at 7.5 out of 10 the OECD average was 6.7.

"Clearly you don't have to have a really high average income to be pretty satisfied with life," Massey University sociologist Paul Perry said.

We watch the least amount of television, and place behind only France when it comes to how much time we spend eating and drinking.

Advertisement

However, there is a dark side. We are second only to Ireland in terms of "conventional crime", including robbery, sexual offences against women, assaults, consumer fraud and thefts from cars. Thirty per cent of us feel unsafe or very unsafe on the street after dark.

The study also shatters several national stereotypes we play the least amount of sport, we have a problem with obesity and we have less leisure time than many other countries.

"The stereotypes are wrong," said Chris Brown, author of 8 Tribes: The Hidden Classes of New Zealand. "But people clearly have these myths to explain themselves. There is no one single theory that dictates a national archetype, but still people cling to it. That's just what we do."

The study, out yesterday, gives an overview of social trends and policy developments in OECD countries.

Published every three years, it shows how societies have changed, particularly in comparison with other countries.

It finds that the French sleep the most an average of nine hours a day Norwegians play the most and Mexicans and Japanese watch the most television.

Despite the moderate amount of time Americans spend eating each day about an hour and a quarter US obesity rates are the highest in the OECD, with 34 per cent of the American population having a body mass index, or BMI, over the critical 30 mark.

Young British girls drink the most for their age. Austrian teens smoke the most.

We have the sixth highest rate of obesity, worse than three years ago.

AT A GLANCE

* We are the sixth happiest OECD country in terms of life satisfaction, behind only Norway, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Finland and Denmark.

* Eighty per cent of us are completely, very or fairly satisfied with our jobs, ranking us 11th out of 20 countries. Mexicans are most satisfied, and Koreans least satisfied.

* We are second only to Ireland in terms of vehicle theft and "contact" crimes. Twenty-two per cent of Kiwis experienced such a crime within a 12-month period. Japan and Spain are the safest countries.

* We sleep about 8 1/2 hours each day, the fourth longest in the OECD. Only the French, Americans and Spanish sleep longer.

* We spend an average of two hours 10 minutes a day eating and drinking, second only to the gastronomically proud French. Mexicans spend the least time eating and drinking, half the amount of time we spend filling our stomachs.

* Which leads to . . . 20 per cent of us are obese. Australia, Greece, Britain, Mexico and the US are worse.

* Kiwi men are a little shorter than the OECD average and Kiwi women are quite a bit shorter. The Netherlands has the tallest men, and Israel the tallest women. Mexicans - both male and female - are the shortest.

* The average Kiwi spends 24.3 per cent of their day in leisure time, slightly less than the OECD average.

* Kiwi men have about 15 minutes more leisure time than women; however, the difference is the second smallest in the OECD. Italian men have almost 80 more minutes of leisure than Italian women.

* New Zealanders spend a quarter of their leisure time watching television, the lowest of anyone in the OECD. Mexicans watch the most.

* We are not that sporty: just 5 per cent of our leisure time is spent playing sports, the lowest in the OECD along with the US, Belgium and Mexico.

* But we are very friendly: A quarter of our leisure time is spent visiting or entertaining friends, the second highest after Turkey. Aussies are the least social.

Source: OECD Society at a Glance 2009.

The Dominion Post