For more Cramptony goodness….

By Eric Crampton 08/11/2014

I’ve not been good about copying over to the blog the bits I contribute to the NZ Initiative’s weekly Insights newsletter. Here’s my piece from last week’s newsletter. You can subscribe here. Enjoy!

We moved to New Zealand over a decade ago because I reckoned it the world’s least mad country: the Outside of the Asylum. It tops my informal ranking on this important metric.

It’s been a week of many alternative rankings and a couple of judicial decisions that threaten our coveted “Outside of the Asylum” status.

Expats rank New Zealand as the best place to raise a family, albeit with more constrained economic opportunities than elsewhere. The HSBC’s “Expat Explorer” is well worth checking out.

In another international ranking this week, the World Economic Forum ranked New Zealand 13th in the world on a Gender Gap Index. Checking the index sub-components, it is a bit odd that New Zealand ranks below Belize, Ecuador, Guyana and Mongolia on women’s “health and survival” and below Rwanda and Bangladesh on women’s “political empowerment”. Further, New Zealand ranked second in Asia-Pacific to the Philippines. Statistics New Zealand reports that 233 people left here for the Philippines in the year ended September 2014 and 3646 moved in the opposite direction; perhaps migration choices provide us a somewhat more informative ranking.

Finally, UNICEF notes that New Zealand is roughly middle-of-the-pack when it comes to changes in child poverty rates. Child poverty rose in 23 of 41 countries and fell in 18. New Zealand’s 0.4 percentage point drop in child poverty rates places it 16th out of 41, despite national headlines here suggesting the country has done terribly. If the government is successful in encouraging increased housing supply, our ranking on this measure should rise: poor families will have more to spend on food when the rent goes down.

Most important for me remains our world-leading “Outside of the Asylum” ranking. As the rest of the world goes mad, we generally don’t follow along. Two court rulings this week might jeopardise that status.

First, as Rodney Hide noted in last week’s National Business Review, the courts decided that if you choose a religion that precludes you from doing your job, your employer just has to deal with it. I’m still pondering what new religion I might develop to best take advantage of the new legal situation while Oliver considers the modifications to his beliefs that might counter such opportunism. 

Second, the courts have decided that normal supply, demand, and marginal productivity should not determine wage rates but rather some judicial assessment of which jobs, across wildly different industries, require comparable skills. We will have gone utterly mad if this ruling stands on appeal.

Ultimately, the metric that matters most is whether you’d be happier living anywhere else. In a world with freer immigration, it would be easier for everyone to say, as I do, that they couldn’t be happier anywhere else.