On Ardern’s age and experience

Any new leader will attract comment on what makes them a bit different. John Key’s solo parent state house upbringing was a talking point, as was his international career in foreign exchange.

Two things about Jacinda Ardern have been talking points, her gender and her age. That she is New Zealand’s third female Prime Minister, who did part of her political apprenticeship in the office of the second, means that’s not a stand out.

Ardern’s relatively young age for a New Zealand Prime Minister – she is one of the youngest – has raised some questions about whether she is up to the job, but that is based on nothing of importance.

Ardern is now 37 years old, but has a long political history. She joined the Labour Party as a teenager, and was recruited by an aunt to help with a campaign for an MP in 1999, when she was 19. A couple of years later she graduated with a Bachelor of Communication Studies (BCS) in politics and public relations. Since then:

  • Worked in the offices of Minister Phil Goff and Prime Minister Helen Clark
  • Volunteered in a soup kitchen in New York
  • Worked as an adviser in UK Prime Minister Tony Blair’s 80-person policy unit
  • Seconded to the UK Home Office assisting with a review of policing in England and Wales
  • Elected President of the International Union of Socialist Youth and spent time in a number of countries including Jordan, Israel, Algeria and China
  • Ranked 20 on Labour’s 2008 party list (a remarkable placement at that stage)
  • Returned to New Zealand to campaign in the Waikato electorate, which she lost but became an MP through the list, becoming the youngest sitting MP at the time (28 years old)
  • Appointed to Labour’s front bench in her first term
  • Stood unsuccessfully in the Auckland central electorate in 2011 and 2014
  • Ranked 4th in Labour’s shadow cabinet in 2011 under David Shearer’s leadership
  • Ranked 5th in the shadow cabinet in 2014 under Andrew Little as spokesperson for Justice, Children, Small Business and Arts & Culture
  • Won the Mt Albert (Clark’s old electorate) by-election in February 2017
  • Elected Labour’s deputy leader in March 2017
  • Elected Labour’s leader in August 2017, which resulted in a dramatic turn-around for Labour in polls
  • Re-elected in Mt Albert in the September election, and helped Labour recover to a reasonable election result
  • Led Labour’s negotiation team to successfully form a government with NZ First and Greens
  • Sworn in as Prime Minister on 26 October 2017, aged 37.

So Ardern has extensive experience in politics, more than many MPs including John Key. She has been a Member of Parliament for nine years.

How does her age compare to others? Here’s some for comparison:

  • Hatshepsut – Pharoah of Egypt at age 29 (ruled for 20 years)

  • Alexander the Great – King of Macedonia at age 20, Pharoah of Egypt at 24, King of Persia at 26, King of Asia at 25
  • Qin Shi Huang – Emperor of China at age 13

  • Cleopatra – Queen of Ptolemaic Kingdom at age 39 (jointly ruled prior to that)
  • Constantine the Great – Roman Emperor at age 34
  • Alfred the Great – King of the Anglo-Saxons at age 22
  • Saladin – Sultan of Egypt and Syria at age 37
  • Akbar the Great – Moghul Emperor at age 14
  • Elizabeth I – Queen of England at age 25
  • Catherine the Great – Empress of Russia at age 33
  • Napoleon Bonaparte – First Consul of France at age 30, Emperor at at 35
  • Victoria – Queen of England at age 18
  • Sirimavo R.D. Bandaranaike – Prime Minister of Sri Lanka at age 44
  • Isabel Perón – President of Argentina at age 43
  • Benazir Bhutto – Prime Minister of Pakistan at age 35

Ardern’s age is not out of the ordinary for a leader of a country. She has a lot of background experience.

No one is experienced at being a country’s leader until they become one.

Ardern has stepped up to leadership roles successfully and looks capable of doing very well. Of course she is yet to prove herself, and that will take time as well as expertise, personality and a bit of luck. Her experience so far is useful, but her age should be immaterial.

I say ‘should be’, but it may depend on others, for example how well Winston Peters accepts being overshadowed by someone young enough to be his grandchild. If he is happy to serve the country under Ardern’s leadership this won’t be a problem.

I don’t see any potential problems with Ardern having age issues within the Labour caucus and Cabinet, and Greens are unlikely to have any problem with her age.

Now Ardern is Prime Minister and leading the country there should be plenty for people to comment about without bothering about her age or her past experience. What happens now is what is important.

Votes by age and income

Interesting charts showing voting patterns for parties based on the average age and income of the area they voted (most probably live in the same vicinity) – from Age, income, and votes

This gives us an approximate indication of the age and income of those voting for different parties.

Might as well say it: the older and the richer your area, the more likely you are to vote National, and the less likely you are to vote Labour. At the same time, even in their weakest spot, National still score 22%, which indicates just how favourable the ‘baseline’ is to them.

If Grandma is pulling in six figures, odds on she’s not pulling for Winston.

We call it the Swarbrick quadrant.

While Greens have put a lot of emphasis on speaking and advocating for the poor that’s a demographic with a low vote turnout. Perhaps it’s environmentalists who are their well off supporters.

About that concentration of the Green’s in the bottom right… This is not saying most of the Greens vote comes from the young and rich (see health-warnings below). What it’s saying is that the Greens do comparatively better in areas where the population is on average both young and richer.

The specific places captured in those boxes are for the most part Wellington Central and Auckland’s inner west (Grey Lynn, Kingsland).


There is also relatively strong support in Dunedin North for the Greens, but I suspect that is less from scarfies and more from staff and their families.


Each of these heat maps shows the relationship between: the percentage of the party vote each party received at each polling place in 2014, and the average age (for the total population, not just eligible voters) and average household income of the StatsNZ Area Unit (read: suburb) the polling place is located in, according to the 2013 Census.

I did the analysis at an area-unit and polling place level because that’s as granular as you can get. But I can’t stress this enough, this is a guide only. All the polling places and suburbs here have a lot of internal diversity, so don’t make too much of the trend. As a helpful tweep pointed put, there’s a lot of ecological fallacy risk here

The underlying data comes from a database I’ve rigged up using information published by the Electoral Commission.

More details, plus heat maps for the minor parties (Maori and Mana tend towards poor,  ACT towards rich and leaning young) in Age, income, and votes.

Dunedin North

I have checked the votes per polling booth for Dunedin North in 2014 and it roughly matches these heat maps.

National did best in more affluent suburbs like Maori Hill (52%), and in rural areas like Hampden, Palmerston, Dunback and Waikouaiti. They did poorly in lower decile areas like Brockville (22%), Port Chalmers (about 15%) and strong university areas.

Labour did well in South Dunedin, Pine Hill, Halfway Bush, Bradford and particularly Brockville. They did poorly in rural areas like Moeraki, Dunback and Herbert.

Greens did well in university polling booths and suburbs popular with university staff like Opoho and St Leonards, and also in alternative living areas like Waitati, plus at Age Concern They did poorly in poor areas like South Dunedin and Brockville, and also in rural areas.

NZ First oddly did poorly at Age Concern, and in university areas and affluent suburbs. They had stronger pockets of support in Brockville, Halfway Bush and Hampden, Moeraki and Long Beach.



Super age change unlikely

It looks unlikely there will be any change to the age of eligibility for national superannuation despite Bill English saying he wouldn’t continue John Key’s commitment to not change it – see English open about superannuation.

English said there could be small changes to National’s Super policy but nothing drastic.

David Seymour has taken the opportunity to push for raising the age, but ACT are unlikely to be in a position to demand it in any coalition negotiations.

Winston Peters has confirmed that no age change is a bottom line for NZ First – Winston Peters’ coalition hinges on retirement age.

Mr Peters has promised the age would stay the same, at 65, and has made it one of his top bottom-lines going into any post-election deals.

“Not reneging on promises made to the retired and soon-to-retire people of this country is very important,” he told Newshub.

While “one of his top bottom-lines” doesn’t sound definite it would be a big shock if Peters agreed to an age increase. This is one policy he has remained consistent on.

The Maori Party is also unlikely to support any increase.

With Māori life expectancy rate lower than that of the general population, the Māori Party wants Māori and Pasifika to be exempt from any increase.

One of its policies is to reduce the superannuation age to 60 for Māori and Pasifika people.

So it is unlikely that National will push for an increase in election policy unless it looked like they could get a majority on their own, and it would be a huge surprise if they did have a majority on their own.

And Andrew Little has scrapped Labour’s Super age increase policy so if they form the next government it is unlikely to be considered.

This makes all the conjecture and political posturing a bit pointless.

UPDATE: English has just said on RNZ that there will be “no change to the entitlement” but it wasn’t clarified exactly what that refers to eg age or amount or universality.

On RNZ  Peters has just said that it’s not a bottom line for NZ First but that people could trust their consistency on the Super age for the past 25 years. “We’re not going to compromise”.

Variations to marriage age

Surprising to see this change in marriage law in Spain:

Legal age for marriage raised in Spain

The legal age for marriage is being raised in Spain.

At the moment, people as young as 14 can get married in Spain. The minimum age is being raised to 16, in an effort to protect minors from sex abuse.

Interesting to see the variations in marriage ages around the world: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marriageable_age

They range mostly between 15 and 21, with some countries having different ages with parental consent, and many having a younger marriage age for females. There’s also some leniency for younger ages.

Indonesia: 19 for males and 16 for females. Marriage at younger ages is legal with parental consent

There are many variations to marriage law around the world.