The mental health of the working-age population is becoming a key issue in labour market and social policies in many OECD countries. It is an issue that has been neglected for too long despite the high and growing cost of poor mental health to people and society. Now, however, OECD governments increasingly recognise that policy has a major role to play in improving the employment opportunities for people with mental health conditions. Workplace and employment policies need a stronger focus on worker’s mental health, and health systems a stronger focus on peoples’ working lives.

A first OECD report on this subject published in 2012 (Sick on the Job? Myths and Realities about Mental Health and Work) identified OECD countries’ policy challenges by broadening the evidence base and questioning some of the myths that surround the links between mental health and work. A synthesis report published in 2015 (Fit Mind, Fit Job. From Evidence to Practice in Mental Health and Work) provided a framework for better policy and a range of promising policy examples from OECD countries, which fulfil the criteria of the proposed framework.

This report on New Zealand is one a series of reports that looks at how selected OECD countries address mental health and work policy challenges. Through the lens of mental health, it discusses the transition from education to employment, workplace policies and practices, employment services for those seeking a job, the drift into long-term sickness and permanent disability, and the capability and capacity of the health system.

This is the first report reviewing policies against the OECD Council Recommendation on Integrated Mental Health, Skills and Work Policy. This recommendation was endorsed by health and employment ministers from all OECD countries, including New Zealand, in early 2016. The other reports in this series which were prepared before 2016 consider the situations in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom.

At the time of completing this review, the New Zealand Government Inquiry into Mental Health and Addiction was underway. To help inform this inquiry, the OECD review team presented preliminary findings to the Inquiry Panel in July 2018 and, at the same time, provided the Panel with a copy of a draft report. An embargoed copy of the final report was also shared with the Panel to continue aligning the two review processes.

This review was carried out by OECD’s Directorate for Employment, Labour and Social Affairs. Christopher Prinz (OECD) and Helen Lockett (consultant to the OECD) prepared the report, with contributions from Marko Stermsek and Iris Arends, who both formerly worked with the OECD. Dana Blumin provided the statistical work and Katerina Kodlova provided project assistance. The report includes comments from several New Zealand ministries and authorities and it benefited from a specific review conducted by Māori advisors to inform the drafting of the report. The review team would also like to thank the many people who participated in interviews in December 2017, as part of OECD‘s study visit to conduct this report, and the information provided to the team after the visit.

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