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COVID-19 Evidence

The COVID-19 pandemic has had an impact on almost all aspects of life. Our COVID-19 Evidence work, often produced rapidly to meet the pace of New Zealand’s response to the virus, provides insights into the pandemic’s effects on New Zealand’s people, society and economy. These can help support the government’s welfare, service and policy decision making around the crisis.

Latest publications

Wage Subsidy Scheme evaluations

August 2023

These reports evaluate the Wage Subsidy Scheme, which supported employees and businesses as a key part of the Government’s response to COVID-19.

Why are benefit numbers still high, relative to the low unemployment rate?

June 2022

This report explores why Jobseeker Support – Work Ready numbers remain relatively high (above pre-COVID-19 levels) in the context of a low unemployment rate. This report uses data up to March 2021.

Who received the COVID-19 Income Relief Payment?

May 2022

The COVID-19 Income Relief Payment was a time-limited payment introduced to provide temporary income relief for people who lost their jobs or small businesses because of the impacts of COVID-19. It was available between 8 June 2020 and 4 February 2021.

The report describes the COVID-19 Income Relief Payment and those who accessed it. Drawing on Integrated Data Infrastructure (IDI) data, the report looks at key characteristics of recipients including their connection to the labour market. Differences between COVID-19 Income Relief Payment and Jobseeker Support – Work Ready recipients are also considered.

Who received the 2021 COVID-19 wage subsidies?

May 2022

This report looks at how the 2021 COVID-19 wage subsidies were distributed across the population and the kinds of jobs that were supported. The report is the final in a series of three reports that consider uptake of COVID-19 wage subsidies (see below for 2020 wage subsidies reports in July and September). Integrated Data Infrastructure (IDI) data to January 2022 is used to inform the analysis and compare 2021 uptake to the previously reported uptake of 2020 COVID-19 wage subsidies.

COVID-19 vaccination uptake for working age MSD clients

February 2022

The following updates examine vaccine uptake among working-age main benefit clients of MSD.

Benefit System Update

Benefit System Update

July to December 2022

This report is the fourth to be published in the Benefit System Update (BSU) series. The BSU takes a longer-term and high-level view of key trends across the benefit system. This includes exploring trends for MSD’s priority groups, policy changes and the broader influence of the economy. This report focuses on the period between July and December 2022.

Benefit System Update

October 2021 to June 2022

This report is the third to be published in the Benefit System Update series. This series explores key trends in the economy, labour market, and benefit system, including the impact of COVID-19. This report builds on earlier reports and focuses on the period between October 2021 and June 2022.

Benefit System Update

June 2020 to June 2021

The Benefit System Update examines longer term trends in the benefit system, including the impact of COVID-19, along with the broader influence of the economy and labour market.

This report summarises a range of existing reports and insights to provide a description of trends throughout the 12 months to June 2021. Following the Delta outbreak in August 2021, we extended our analysis to also include trends seen following these changes.

Benefit System Update

March 2020 to August 2020

This report seeks to explain what effect COVID-19 has had on New Zealand’s economy, the subsequent income support policy responses, and the insights we have gained about how those factors have affected demand for benefit payments (up to August 2020).

This report draws on a number of other analyses to tell a cohesive and comprehensive story on what has happened in the benefit system and why.

Please note: This report does not cover events after the second outbreak in New Zealand announced on 11 August 2020.

Evidence Briefs

Social, psychosocial and employment impacts of COVID-19 in New Zealand: Insights from the New Zealand Attitudes and Values Study 2020/2021

September 2021

This report provides insights into the impacts of the four COVID Alert Levels on New Zealanders’ social wellbeing. Five areas were studied: health and well-being, personal relationships and social connections, employment and financial outcomes, perceived discrimination, and institutional trust and national identification.

Fact-sheet: what’s happening to the number of sole parents on benefit?

September 2021

Over the past 20 years, there has been a general decline in the number of sole parents on benefit, however since 2019, we saw slight growth in this population, which increased with the impact of COVID-19. MSD has done more work to understand the drivers for these changing trends.

Trends in Jobseeker Support – Work Ready and the COVID-19 Income Relief Payment during 2020

September 2021

The third report in this series, it extends the analysis of trends already published to the rest of 2020.

Community resilience — what matters and what works

May 2021

MSD commissioned a rapid evidence review about what could work in the context of COVID-19 to strengthen community resilience in Aotearoa New Zealand in the next 3-5 years. The aim is to support all-of-Government thinking aimed at strengthening community resilience during periods of significant adversity.

The immediate and medium-term social and psychosocial impacts of COVID-19 in New Zealand

August 2020

Produced at speed during New Zealand’s Level 4 and 3 lockdown periods, this rapid evidence review identifies and summarises the expected social and psychosocial impacts of COVID-19 in the short to medium terms. It also looks at what mitigation responses could reduce the adverse social and psychosocial impacts for population, whānau and community groups across Aotearoa New Zealand.

The Impact of COVID-19 on Benefit Numbers in an Historic Context

August 2020

This paper compares rates of benefit receipt in New Zealand following COVID-19 with rates observed during significant economic downturns since the Depression.

Comparing New Zealand’s current and historic benefit numbers helps contextualise the relative scale and pace of the social and economic impacts of COVID-19.

Jobseeker Support Work-Ready grants and cancellations during and after lockdown in NZ - impacts to the seventh week of Alert Level 1

July 2020

This report explores the size and composition of recent Jobseeker Support Work-Ready grants to the seventh week of COVID-19 Alert Level 1, and the changes in the number and composition of those leaving a benefit (benefit cancellations), particularly cancellations from recipients moving into employment.

The Impact of COVID-19 on one-off hardship assistance grants

July 2020

The number of one-off hardship assistance grants made during the lockdown period was unlike anything MSD has experienced before. The analysis in this paper focuses on trends in Special Needs Grants (the most common type of hardship assistance) to understand the impact of COVID-19 in the short to medium term.

Jobseeker Support Work-Ready grants to end of April 2020

May 2020

This report explores the composition of Jobseeker Support Work-Ready grants since the start of New Zealand’s lockdown, by comparing to the same period a year ago.

Benefit Numbers and the Labour Market

May 2020

This report seeks to explore how benefit numbers can be one of a range of useful data sources that can provide a timelier indication of the state of the labour market for decision-makers and the public.

Wage Subsidy, Leave Support, and Short-Term Absence Payments

Support for Businesses – Leave Support Scheme and Short-Term Absence Payments

February 2022

As part of the continued response to COVID-19, the government launched the Leave Support Scheme (LSS) and Short-Term Absence Payments (STAP). These are available to businesses with staff (or people who are self-employed) to pay employees who need to stay at home due to COVID-19 isolation rules and cannot work from home. These dashboards show the number of jobs supported by each payment with breakdowns by age, gender, ethnicity and region. They also provide information on the size of the businesses (the number of employees) and the industries they belong to.

Leave Support Scheme and Short-Term Absence Payment Overview

Leave Support Scheme and Short-Term Absence Payment Analysis

Who received the COVID-19 wage subsidies?

September 2020

This report updates all the information provided in our initial report from July 2020 (see below) while adding additional information using data to 11 September 2020. All wage subsidies were closed to new applications by this date and the vast majority of applications had been completed.

Who received the Wage Subsidy and Wage Subsidy Extension?

July 2020

Initial work on the Wage Subsidy has been supplemented with anonymised information from the Integrated Data Infrastructure (IDI). This has allowed us to create a more complete understanding of who received support by age, sex, ethnic group, industry and region based on data to 24 July 2020. This report describes the volume and proportion of jobs supported by the Wage Subsidy and Wage Subsidy Extension.

Wage Subsidy Business Survey Findings

June 2020

A survey of businesses receiving the Government Wage Subsidy has been run to understand the impact of COVID-19 and the Wage Subsidy scheme on businesses. The information collected will be used to inform decisions about future policy development and decisions.

Support for Businesses – Wage Subsidy by Industry Type and Size

May 2020

These dashboards show a snapshot of the number of businesses receiving COVID-19 support payments (like the Wage Subsidy), and the value of these payments. The data is as at 15 May 2020 and provides breakdowns by business size and industry. Background data can be found in the supporting data table.