Professor Marilyn Waring - 2014 Economics Award winner


The winner of the NZIER Economics Award for 2014 career spans politics, government and academic life, teaching, writing, and research. That career has been particularly marked by the winner’s unusual courage and persistence in campaigning for full recognition of the economic worth of contributions made outside of the formal labour markets, which had for decades been regarded as too hard to measure accurately, and thus had not been measured at all. It is a measure of the winner’s achievement, over more than 37 years, that her written work, most notably her book published in 1988 and issued in a second edition in 1999, but also her writing in journals and contributions to collected works in economics and related disciplines edited by others, is now cited by researchers, policy-makers, and practising economists throughout the world, with a frequency that is exceptional for a New Zealand academic.

The winner of the Award was appointed a member of the Public Expenditure Committee of the New Zealand Parliament only a year after her election as a Member of Parliament in 1975. From 1979 to 1984, she was the chairperson of that committee, just at the time when New Zealand’s National Income and Expenditure Accounts were being reformed, using standards set by the United Nations System of National Accounts. She took a strong interest in these standards, particularly in the way in which their production boundary excluded, and still excludes, work performed within a household, mostly by women, for its own consumption. Following her retirement from active politics in 1984, and a period of research, she published in 1988 a book which captured attention across the world, entitled “Counting for Nothing: What Men Value and What Women Are Worth”.

That book, including its second edition published in 1999, has had an extensive international impact. It has been the subject of a documentary film produced by the National Film Board of Canada, and has appeared in French, Japanese, Norwegian and Spanish translations. Its 25th anniversary inspired a tribute volume published this year. Further books and articles have sustained the writer’s arguments and reasoning, and have extended them to the discussion of the recognition in economic assessments of the worth, and if possible measurement, of voluntary, in the sense of unpaid or only notionally paid, work of all kinds. Such work occurs in many situations, including charitable work, old-age care, physical and economic disasters, and in many humanitarian concerns which are constant in even a relatively modern society such as New Zealand’s.

There can be no doubt that the winner of the Award is a tireless, and brilliant, communicator of her arguments, and that she has been persuasive in drawing attention to problems and concepts that have been inadequately catered for in New Zealand and elsewhere. One of the objectives of the annual NZIER Economics Award is to recognise and reward specific contributions in the fields of applied economics, economic dissemination, and economic policymaking affecting New Zealand, if these are of relevance to the economic welfare of New Zealand. The Award Panel is clear that those objectives, and those criteria, apply to the winner’s research, writing, and advocacy of her conclusions.

The NZIER Economics Award for 2014 is therefore given to Professor Marilyn Waring.