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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 79

Inquiry into the Cost of Living in New Zealand.*

Inquiry into the Cost of Living in New Zealand.*

Nature of Inquiry.—For some rears past the Department has been looking for guiding principles to enable it to present to the public reliable data as to the cost of living. As to whether or not the inquiry should be one of personal visitation to householders by departmental officers, or whether it would be best to obtain statistics from those who volunteered to help by keeping a record of weekly receipts and expenditure, was decided finally in favour of the latter method. This decision was largely influenced by the fact that the Commonwealth of Australia had put in hand an inquiry with the object of gaining comprehensive and reliable information in regard to the cost of living in Australia. Copies of small account-books were distributed among 1,500 householders throughout the Commonwealth, in which provision was made for weekly records to be kept of all receipts and expenditure for the twelve-monthly period 1st July, 1910, to 30th June, 1911.

The Commonwealth Statistician (Mr. G. H. Knibbs) very courteously supplied this Department with full information concerning the method employed, and, with some modifications, the same system was eventually followed in New Zealand. The Department, however, proposed to limit its inquiry to the four chief centres of New Zealand, and to endeavour, as far as possible, to seek the co-operation of bona fide workers only. The agents at Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch, and Dunedin were therefore instructed to eliminate as far as possible from the inquiry all persons such as (a) those who kept boarders, (b) those where there page break were breadwinners outside the father of the family, (c) those not paying rent, and (d) those whose incomes exceeded £250 per annum. Every publicity was given to the fact that such an inquiry was about to be made, and the Department received evidence of hearty support by trade-unionists and workers generally.

Distribution of Account-books.—A total of 2,000 books were sent to the agents in the four chief centres to distribute. The then Secretary for Labour (Mr. E. Tregear) issued the following instructions to the agents of the Department at the centres named:—

* Published first in the April number of the Journal of the Department of Labour. Since publication in that journal, the figures in some of the returns have been subject to minor amendments.