Facts & Figures

Tomtit, Arthur's Pass

Our alternative statistic

The statistics in the April 2019 MSD paper “NZS Reform Package” give an indication of how many pensioners do not receive any NZ Super at all. The General Manager J. C. writes that 766,500 people were receiving NZ Super, and that this was 95% of the population. This would mean that 100% were 806,842 people over 65. This would leave 40,342 people of pension age without NZ Super.

From MSD’s NZ Super statistics we know that they deducted 93,760 overseas pensions (at the value of NZ$ 396,112,359 million) in March 2019, and we also know that these statistics only count the pensions of people who receive some form of NZ Super. It does not count those who do not receive anything.

Not regarding the negligible number of over 65s who don’t receive NZ Super because they are in prison or do not qualify because they have not fulfilled the residency requirement, we just have to add these 40,342 individuals to the MSD count of 93,760 pension(er)s who receive a few dollars of NZ Super after the deductions, and get to the number of 134,102 pensions that are deducted.

As MSD has started counting the number of deducted pensions and not pensioners affected by the Direct Deduction Policy a while ago, the March 2019 number was a bit lower, let’s just say 130,000. (And this is the department that says it cannot do certain things because it wants to keep things simple!)

But count the savings on NZ Super which are listed as NZ$ 396,112,359 million in March 2019. If these more than 40,000 people received full NZ Super, this would save the Government another 40.000 x NZ$ 17,000 (the lower couple rate of NZ Super after tax) = NZ$ 678,080,000! Add this to the savings through deductions, the Government is saving more than $1billion by indirectly confiscating overseas pensions. They can correct me if I am wrong.

But back to the official statistics:

After rising to 98,923 pensions and savings on the cost of NZ Super of NZ$ 440,128,105 in June 2019 due to the high NZ dollar, the official numbers fell in accordance with the lower-valued NZ dollar to 95,160 pensions and NZ$ 429,872,123 in March 2020. The real savings are far beyond this amount, as shown above.

Facts & Figures

  • People with overseas pensions living in New Zealand

In September 2021 the Ministry of Social Development (MSD) deducted 100,086 overseas pensions from NZ Super. This saved the Government NZ$ 486,981,599 in NZ Super payments. Nearly half a billion! Not counted those who don't even apply for NZ Super because they know they would not receive a cent.

You find the latest official numbers on our Home page. More statistics on the statistics archive page.

The numbers are published quarterly and can be found in the Excel tables on MSD's website:


Go to Excel tables and click the link to: New Zealand Superannuation and Veteran's Pension data tables; then, in the Excel file, click on: Overseas pension information - last sheet)

As of October 2017, 89,336 pensioners were affected by the Direct Deduction Policy and 588 by the Spousal Provision - which was abolished on 9 November 2020. (But significantly more people are affected, see next point "Misleading statistic".) According to MSD, this saved the NZ government more than NZ$ 336 million in NZ Super payments. (In the end, discontinuing the Spousal Provision cost the Government just NZ$ 2 million.)

The next statistic from March 2018 (95,863) and then March 2019 (98,586) counted pensions and not pensioners. But the numbers should not be dramatically different. The total amount the New Zealand government saved was more than NZ$ 400 million. By March 2019 the amount had risen to more than NZ$ 427 million, and in September 2021 it stood at NZ$ 486.9 million. The official number of deducted pensions was 100,086.

When we started this website in 2010, we had to use the statistic of the Ministry of Social Development from 2008. According to this statistic, 52,756 people received overseas pensions in New Zealand. Until July 2012 this number had risen to 63,989, and at the end of December 2015 it already stood at 83,754.

Most were from the UK (56,745, compared to 47,898 in 2012 and 41,359 in 2008), Australia (15,309, compared to 8,953 in 2012 and 4,918 in 2008), and the Netherlands (4,120, compared to 3,588 in 2012 and 3,324 in 2008). Number four was Canada with 2,060. All other countries provided overseas pensions for less than 1,000 people. The total number has been increasing steadily, from 42,336 (2004) to 46,996 (2005), to 51,464 (2006), and after a slight drop in 2007 to 50,019 up again to 52,756 in 2008 and 63,989 in 2012.

According to information given to the "Sunday Star Times" in mid July 2012, 24 per cent of those 64,000 retirees had deductions higher than NZ$ 5000 a year. At the end of 2015, 247 people had weekly (!) deductions of NZ$ 400 and more, this is more than NZ$ 20,000 per year!

  • Misleading statistic

The MSD statistic is misleading, as only overseas pensions of people are counted who receive a portion of NZ Super (and if it is only one dollar) because their overseas pensions are lower than NZ Super. Immigrants and returning Kiwis who miss out on NZ Super completely are not counted. Therefore the number can be dramatically higher. We happen to know the number of German pensions paid into New Zealand. As of June 2010 exactly 802 people in New Zealand received a German pension. The MSD statistic of June 2008 listed 200 German pensions. This means that 75% of people with German pensions did not receive any NZ Super thanks to the Direct Deduction Policy - and that the total number of all nationalities missing out completely is several thousands higher than the numbers that are published by MSD.

in 2015 the German Pension Insurance (Deutsche Rentenversicherung) paid out 961 employer/employee-funded pensions to New Zealand residents, 645 of those were paid to German citizens. 381 individuals received various amounts of NZ Super, that's roughly 40%. "Only" 60% missed out completely. The higher percentage of people receiving NZ Super payments was the result of the high NZ dollar.

  • Spousal Provision policy

124 people were affected by Spousal Provision in 2009. Numbers here were also rising, in 2010 it was at about 200 and 588 in October 2017. Several couples affected by this policy have sued the Ministry of Social Development. After many delays the case was heard by the Human Rights Review Tribunal (HRRT) in March 2018. Our report about the hearing is available in the "The Fight" section on this website, and directly via this link: Welcome to the World of Millionaire Beneficiaries. As it seemed impossible that the HRRT would decide in their favour and justify the unjustifiable, the New Zealand government changed the law and ended the Spousal Provision with effect on 9 November 2020. Had they known that the HRRT would make an outlandish decision!

  • NZ Super overseas

At the end of June 2008, 13,825 people living overseas were receiving New Zealand Superannuation (and 38 Veteran's Pensions) - at the time all at drastically reduced rates. Pensions overseas were paid at a rate of 50%; since 2010 they are proportional to time spent in New Zealand under the so-called Portability rules. So a total of 66,581 people did not get full NZ Super and many more none at all. And it is only paid to people who are ordinarily resident in New Zealand when applying for NZ Super.

  • Pensions similar to NZ Super

Only eight other countries and one city pay a universal pension with no test other than citizenship, residence and age, comparable to NZ Super: Mauritius, Namibia, Botswana, Bolivia, Nepal, Samoa, Brunei, Kosovo and Mexico City.

The English language doesn't help to distinguish state pensions and employer/employee-funded overseas pensions. In e.g. French and German there is a clear distinction: you have "rente" and "Rente" for contributory pensions and "pension"/"Pension" for the tax-funded pensions for civil servants. The term "rente"/"Rente" is derived from the Latin verb reddere (French: rendre, English: render). This means: to give back, to return. It implies that people receive a "rente" (or: render) only if they have been a contributory member of an insurance or investment scheme; it is a revenue from an asset or a capital. Contrary to that, a pension is granted to pensioners from a fund they did not have to contribute to, as is the case with civil servants.

  • Ministerial mind twist

In its 2005 Review the Ministry of Social Development stated that only overseas pensions that are similar to NZ Super should be deducted, and that earnings-related second tier overseas pensions have little resemblance to NZS. In the 2007 Review the deduction of "fundamentally different" pensions was justified with the following mind twist: "Both pensions are nevertheless state social security pensions that are paid for the same purpose." This states that both kinds of pensions are - pensions.

The Chief Executive of the Ministry of Social Development has the almighty power to decide which overseas pensions can be deducted from NZ Super. We urge the Government to take this overwhelming power off this one single civil servant and stop deducting overseas pensions that are not similar to NZ Super. Read more about the findings of the famous Reviews.

  • The Government's justification of the injustice

Paying a person NZ Super and not deducting his/her overseas pension would place him/her in a better position than a New Zealander who has never left the country - says the Government. The truth is that until the end of the Spousal Provision in November 2020 a lifelong New Zealander married to someone with an overseas pension might not have received any NZ Super at all. He was worse off. People who have spent 50% of their working life in New Zealand might get 0% NZ Super. Parliamentarians, civil servants and others enjoy special treatment at taxpayers' cost. More about this on our Offenders & Actors in Wellington pages (subpages in the column under picture 4 on our homepage).

(Last update: 24.11.2021)

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