Downshifting in New Zealand


Recently, social scientists have recorded and researched a number of individual and social ‘trends’ in modern societies (e.g., ‘voluntary simplicity’, ‘downshifting’, ‘slow living’) that involve people, individually or collectively, reducing their participation in economic activity (e.g., Andrews, 2006; Etzioni, 1998; Hamilton & Mail, 2003a; 2003b; Iwata, 1999; Juniu, 2000; Parkins and Craig, 2006; Schor, 1991; 1998;  2005). Given the reported rates of ‘downshifting’ in various modern societies (somewhere between 20 and 30% of working age adults in Australia, the UK and USA), this represents a significant productive ‘loss’ from the economy. Research has suggested that individuals make downshifting and related decisions for a range of reasons. Predominantly, however, they do so for ‘lifestyle’ reasons, which include perceived social, interpersonal and psychological benefits. This study seeks to discover the extent to which the practice of downshifting is present in New Zealand and to understand the particular motives and characteristics of its expression. To a limited extent, this should allow informed reflection on the government’s social development approach and notions of wellbeing in that context. More conceptually, it is hoped that the study will advance theoretical accounts of the links between social, psychological and economic wellbeing.

Page last updated on: 11/05/2011