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Can the census give us information on fuel-poor households?

Why is information about fuel use from the census useful?

Census data can tell us whether a dwelling did not use heating, which can be used as an energy hardship indicator. Without additional information about the energy efficiency of the dwelling, we don’t know whether lack of heating is because of the cost or whether it is due to not needing heating. However, we do know that not using heating is much more prevalent among low-income households.

This section looks at households who said they did not use heating in order to see whether the information from the census provides a useful addition to sample survey information.

We are currently limited to one indicator, but the 2018 Census will collect housing quality information about dampness and mould. We will be able to combine indicators and gain a better picture of energy hardship at a small-area level. The addition of information about heating appliances will provide an additional indicator, as we will be able to see whether people use portable gas heaters. Portable gas heaters can emit moisture and gases, and are particularly dangerous for children and unborn babies, elderly people, and people with respiratory or heart problems (Consumer, 2014). They tend to be used by low-income households as it is easier to control heating expenditure, but Consumer Magazine testing showed these were the most expensive to run (Howden-Chapman, 2012; CHDB, 2015).

The census allows us to look at small populations and small areas, and it is possible to generate a long time series. Therefore, while it does not contain the depth of information available from HES, it can provide a useful context to the experience of energy hardship.

While it is important to note that some households who did not use heating may live in dwellings where heating is not required, most would require heating. Research on New Zealand housing indicates that New Zealand dwellings, even in the Far North, tend to be under-heated and have median temperatures for living rooms and bedrooms below the World Health Organization guidelines (HEEP, 2004, O’Sullivan et al, 2016).

The census allows us to trace changes in fuels used for heating dwellings

The census has collected information about fuel types used to heat dwellings since 1961. We have included information here on fuel types used to heat dwellings from 1971. The data shows a decline in solid fuels, particularly coal, but also wood. We know from the HEEP study that the use of solid fuels resulted in the highest living room temperature levels in winter, resulting in warmer housing. Increasing concern about the effects of home heating by solid fuel burners on the environment (particularly coal) has led to increasing regulation around use. Electricity use has fluctuated over time, but in 2013 just under 8 out of 10 private dwellings used electricity to heat their dwelling.

Table 9

 Fuels used in private occupied dwellings
Census 1971–2013
 Census year  Percentage of households using fuel type (total response)1

 Electricity

 Mains gas

 Bottled gas

 Total gas

 Wood

 Coal

 Solid fuel (wood, coal, etc)

 Oil, kerosene, etc

 Solar power

 Other fuels

 No fuels used

 1971  42.2  ..  ..  1.4  40.0  24.0  50.0  5.6  ...  0.1  0.7
 1976  81.4  ..  ..  4.0  ..  ..  49.4  9.6  ..  0.3  0.9
 1981  72.6  ..  ..  6.2  ..  ..  52.9  8.1  ..    2.6
 1986  77.8  ..  ..  8.6  49.2  16.7  ..  2.7  ..  0.6  0.8
 1991  76.9  ..  ..  16.0  47.2  12.9  ..  1.7  ..  0.8  1.4
 1996  77.2  11.6  22.3    48.7  13.0  ..  ..  0.7  0.9  1.9
 2001  72.0  13.5  28.3    44.7  9.3  ..  ..  0.9  1.1  2.8
 2006  74.8  13.2  27.7  ..  40.9  7  ..  ..  1.1  2.1  2.4
 2013  79.2  12  15.4  ..  36.8  4.1  ..  ..  1.6  1.6  3.0
 % change 2001–13  10.0  -11.1  -45.6  ..  -17.7  -55.9  ..  ..  77.8  45.5  7.1
 % change 1986–2013  1.8  ..  ..  ..  -25.2  -75.4  ..  ..  ..  ..  275
 1. In 1986 and 1991, data was collected for gas only and solar power was not collected as a separate category. Solar was included in the ‘other’ category.
Notes:
1971, 1976, and 1981 figures have been collated from published data.
.. No values in this category.

Proportion of households not using heating in their dwelling has increased since 1986

The number of dwellings where no means of heating was used has increased from under 1 percent to 3 percent of dwellings. However, over time the difference in low-income households has become more marked, as figure 12 shows.

Figure 12
Graph, Percent of dwellings that did not heat their dwelling, by equivalised household income decile, 1986–2013 Censuses.

This increase occurred in all types of dwellings, and was therefore not just an effect of more multi-unit dwellings, which may not require as much heating as separate dwellings. The category of ‘other’ private dwelling had the highest percentage of households who did not use heating. This category includes improvised dwellings or shelter, private dwellings in motor camps, and mobile dwellings. These types of dwelling are associated with severe housing deprivation (Amore, 2014). In 2013, there were 828 ‘other’ private dwellings that did not use heating.

Figure 13
Graph, Percent of households not heating their dwelling by private occupied dwelling type, 1986–2013 Censuses.

Households where no heating was used had lower incomes

While we do not know whether all households that recorded a response of ‘no heating used in this dwelling’ were experiencing energy hardship, results of analysis show that these households tended to have other characteristics associated with deprivation. This concurs with research carried out both in New Zealand and overseas (Lawson et al for example), where fuel poverty is associated with deprivation. The characteristics of these households are also similar to households experiencing energy hardship, as identified in HES. Results from the BRANZ survey (White & Jones, 2017) showed that around 7 percent of rental households did not heat living rooms at all in the winter.

Households that did not heat their dwelling were more likely to:

  • rent (74.1 percent of households where no fuel was used did not own their dwelling, compared with 25.9 percent of those who owned their dwelling)
  • live in a dwelling joined to another dwelling (43.1 percent compared to 17.7 percent of all households)
  • experience crowded living conditions
  • receive a means-tested benefit
  • have low incomes (both equivalised and total household incomes).

Table 10 shows these characteristics.

In 2013, 43,782 households (3.0 percent) stated that they did not heat their dwellings, and, as table 9 showed, this was a steady increase from 1986 when it was less than 1 percent. Around one-fifth (20.7 percent) were children under 15. Just under 8 percent (7.7) were under five. In total, 125,334 people lived in these households. Personal characteristics of people in households where no heating was used will look at some of the characteristics of people in these households.

Table 10

 Selected characteristics of households that used no fuels
2013 Census of Population and Dwellings
 Selected characteristic

 Number of households that used no fuels

 Percentage of total households that used no fuels

 Percentage of total households that stated a fuel type

 Household composition
 Couple only

 6,441

 14.7

 26.5

 Couple only and others

 1,716

 3.9

 2.2

 Couple with child(ren)

 7,218

 16.5

 27.1

 Couple with child(ren) and others

 1,368

 3.1

 2.3

 One parent with child(ren)

 5,232

 12.0

 9.0

 One parent with child(ren) and others

 1,743

 4.0

 2.2

 Two or more families (with or without others)

 2,835

 6.5

 3.4

 Other multi-person household

 5,391

 12.3

 4.7

 One-person household

 11,787

 27.0

 22.6

 Total stated

 43,731

 100.0

 100.0

 Household composition unidentifiable

 51

 ..

 ..

 Total

 43,782

 ..

 ..

 Tenure
 Dwelling owned or partly owned

 9,081

 21.2

 50.1

 Dwelling held in a family trust

 2,037

 4.8

 14.9

 Dwelling not owned and not held in a family trust

 31,758

 74.1

 35.0

 Total stated

 42,879

 100.0

 100.0

 Not elsewhere included

 906

 ..

 ..

 Total

 43,782

 ..

 ..

 Crowding (Canadian National Occupancy Standard)
 Crowded  6,700  15.4  4.9
 Not crowded  36,750  84.6  95.1
 Total stated  43,450  100.0  100.0
 Not stated  330  ..  ..
 Total  43,780  ..  ..
 Sector of landlord
 Private person, business, or trust 20,835  80.0  84.0 
 Local authority 564  2.2  2.7 
 Housing New Zealand Corporation  4,377 16.8  12.1 
 Other state-owned  264  1.0 1.3 
 Total landlord stated  26,037 100.0  100.0 
 Rented, landlord not stated 3,594  ..  .. 
 Total dwelling not owned, rent payments made  29,631  .. .. 
 Access to telecommunications (households may have access to more than one)
 Households with no access 3,555  8.2 1.6 
 Access to a mobile phone 32,172   74.3  83.8
 Access to a telephone  24,429 56.4   85.7
 Access to a fax machine 1,974   4.6  14.6
 Access to the internet  24,978  57.7 77.0 
 Total stated 43,290  100.0  100.0 
 Percentage of households by occupied dwelling type that did not heat their dwellings
 Occupied separate house  23,589  53.9 80.2 
 Joined dwellings  18,087  41.3  17.7
 Other occupied dwellings  828  1.9  0.6
 Occupied private dwelling not further defined  1,284 2.9   1.6
 Total  43,785  100.0  100.0
 Households with dependent children that did not heat their dwelling
 No dependent children  29,016  66.6  65.8
 One dependent child  6,255 14.4  13.8 
 Two dependent children  4,419  10.1 13.3 
 Three dependent children  2,067  4.7  5.0
 Four or more dependent children  1,818  4.2  2.1
 Total stated  43,572 100.0  100.0 
 Number of dependent children unknown  213 ..  .. 
 Total 43,782   .. .. 
 New Zealand Deprivation Index (1)
 1 (least deprived) 1,230  0.8  10.1 
 2  1,940 1.3 10.5 
 3  2,410  1.6  10.5
 4  3,010  2.0  10.3
 5  3,580  2.4  10.3
 6  4,130  2.7  10.3
 7  4,890  3.3  10.2
 8  6,040  4.1  10.0
 9  7,270  5.2  9.6
 10 (most deprived)  9,160 7.6   8.3
 Total  43,650  3.0  100.0
 Selected source of household income (2)
 No source of income  855 2.0   0.7
 Receiving means-tested benefit  13,398 31.3  15.6 
 Receiving student allowance  4,533  10.6 4.6 
 Receiving New Zealand superannuation 4,314   10.1  24.3
 1. The deprivation index is calculated for small areas. It was not possible to calculate the deprivation index for all meshblocks. Just under 8,000 households were in meshblocks where it was not possible to calculate the deprivation index. See appendices for more information about the deprivation index.
2. People can receive income from multiple sources, so percentages will add up to more than 100 percent. Means-tested benefits include sickness, invalids, domestic purposes, and unemployment benefits.
Note: Percentages calculated vertically, eg from total households that did not heat their dwelling.

We are also able to look at the proportion of households who used no heating by the level of deprivation of the area they lived in (using the New Zealand Deprivation Index). We found that 7.6 percent of households in decile 10 (most deprived) used no heating, compared with less than 1 percent in decile 1 (least deprived). The contrast was particularly marked in Auckland where 14.8 percent of households (around 1 in 7) in decile 10 did not use heating, compared with 1.8 (1 in 56) in decile 1.

Personal characteristics of people in households where no heating was used

When we look at the personal characteristics of people who lived in a dwelling where no heating was used, we find that the population was younger (peaking between 15 to 29 years of age) and were more likely to be unemployed. Figure 14 shows the age distribution.

Figure 14
Graph, Living in a dwelling where no heating was used, by age group, 2013 Census.

Table 11

 Selected characteristics of people in households that used no fuels
2013 Census of Population and Dwellings
 Characteristic  Number  Percentage of people in dwellings where no fuels were used  Percentage of all people in households who stated a fuel type
 Sex
 Male 64,038  51.1   48.7
 Female  61,296 48.9   51.3
 Total  125,334  100.0  100.0
 Age
 0–14 26,007  20.8   20.9
 15–24  32,190  25.7 13.5 
 25–44  37,092  29.6  25.7
 45–64  22,857  18.2  26.1
 65+  7,188  5.7  13.7
 Total  125,334  100.0  100.0
 Ethnicity (grouped total responses) (1)
 European 49,452  41.9   74.5
 Māori  23,610 20.0   14.7
 Pacific peoples  30,789 26.1   7.0
 Asian  26,289  22.3 11.8 
 Middle Eastern /
Latin American / African
 1,827  1.5  1.2
 Other ethnicity 1,299  1.1  1.7 
 Total stated  117,891 100.0   100.0
 Not elsewhere included  4,002 3.4   1.8
 Total  121,893  103.4  101.8
 Highest qualification
 No qualification  21,585  24.9 20.6 
 School  44,514  51.4 49.7  
 Vocational  6,039  7.0  9.4
 University  14,388  16.6  20.4
 Total stated  86,526 100.0  100.0 
 Labour force status
 Employed 51,480  54.6   63.8
 Unemployed  9,393  10.0  4.7
 Not in the labour force  33,375  35.4  31.5
 Total stated 94,248   100.0 100.0 
 1. People may give more than one response, so totals add up to more than 100 percent. Total excludes absentees.

The information included here shows that information from the census provides a useful context to understanding energy hardship in New Zealand, and that households that did not use heating in their dwelling had similar characteristics to fuel-poor households in HES. For example, around half did not own their dwelling, and they had much lower incomes than total households.

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