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Consumer Price Index turns 100

As the Consumer Price Index (CPI) turns 100, a look back at the information it has collected makes for an interesting insight into how we’ve changed.

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Statistics NZ has been using the CPI to track what we buy and how much we pay for it since 1914.

Items have been added as they’ve become popular and taken off when they fall out of favour. This year’s additions included packaged leaf salad, frozen prawns, breakfast food drinks and cider, while camcorders were taken off the list.

The index shows how our eating habits have changed – in 1914 the main products it measured were basics like bread, flour, sugar, coffee and tea. Soft drinks were added in 1949, frozen fish fingers in 1965, takeaway soups in 1993 and energy drinks in 1999.

Washing boards were first added in 1924, along with clothes wringers, but taken off in 1949 – the same year washing machines were added. Hair perms were added in 1949 but taken off in 2006 and water beds were popular enough to be added in 1988, only to be taken off again five years later.

A basket of goods and services that would have cost £1 in 1914 would now cost about $151. Annual inflation was at an average of 4.4 percent over the last 100 years but peaked at 18.9 percent in 1987, soon after GST was introduced.

The CPI is used by the Reserve Bank to guide monetary policy, by government to adjust welfare benefit rates and by employers and employees in wage negotiations.

Statistics NZ has released a CPI visualisation tool that shows the changes in the prices and relative importance of the goods and services in the CPI basket.