Total public expenditure on education
What We Have Found
In 2014/2015, government spending on education amounted to 5.4% of GDP.
Date Updated: December 2015.
Total government investment in education.
Why This Is Important
The level of the public expenditure in education provides a measure of the government's commitment to education. Evaluating how governments in different countries invest in education provides important context for examining how education participation and outcomes vary between these countries. Investment in education is greatly influenced by supply and demand factors such as demographic structure, enrolment rates, income per capita, and prices for educational resources.
How We Are Going
The data are sourced from The Treasury and include expenditure on programmes outside Vote Education such as student loans and student allowances. Government expenditure on education as a percentage of GDP (gross domestic product) remained relatively stable between 1997/98 and 2004/05 at around 5% of GDP. In 2014/15, government spending on education had risen to 5.4% of GDP and 17.8% of total government spending.
Increases in expenditure in 2005/06 and 2008/09, were caused by student loans re-evaluations.
Figure 1: Expenditure on educational institutions as a percentage of GDP and total government expenses (1996/97 to 2014/15)
The source of data for international comparisons of public expenditure on education is the annual OECD data collection. The definition of the public expenditure on education differs from that used by The Treasury.
In 2012, New Zealand's public expenditure on education as a proportion of GDP (6.1%) was above the OECD average (4.8%) and was also higher than Australia (4.6%), Ireland (5.7%), the United Kingdom (5.4%), and the United States (4.8%).
Figure 2: Total public expenditure on education as a percentage of GDP, by level of education (2012)
- Source: OECD Education at a Glance 2013 (Table B4.1)
Broken down by level of education, New Zealand's public expenditure on primary, secondary, and post secondary, non-tertiary education institutions as a proportion of the GDP was above the OECD average (3.5%), at 4.4% in 2012. This was also higher than in Australia (3.4%), United States (3.3%) and the United Kingdom (4.0%), but lower than Ireland (4.5%).
New Zealand's public expenditure on tertiary education as a percentage of GDP (1.7%) was above the OECD average of 1.3%, and also higher than in Australia (1.1%), Ireland (1.3%), United States (1.5%) and the United Kingdom (1.4%).
Student loans in New Zealand play an important part of the public expenditure on tertiary education. When we exclude the public subsidies to households, which include student loans, scholarships and grants, New Zealand's public expenditure on tertiary education as a percentage of GDP (1.2%) was equal to the OECD average (1.2%). The percentage was lower than that of the United States (1.4%), equal to the United Kingdom (1.2%), and higher than Australia (0.9%) and Ireland (1.0%).
Figure 3: Total public expenditure on tertiary education as a percentage of GDP (2012)
- Source: OECD Education at a Glance 2015 (Tables B2.3 and B4.1)
- New Zealand Treasury. Financial Statement of the Government of New Zealand for the Year Ended 30 June 2015. Wellington: New Zealand Treasury.
- OECD (2015). Education at a Glance 2015: OECD Indicators. Paris: OECD.
- Crossan, S. (2015). How does New Zealand's Education System compare? OECD's Education at a Glance 2015. Wellington: Ministry of Education.
Where To Find Out More
For more publication-related information, please email the: Information Officer Mailbox