More than half of all beneficiaries now owe Work and Income money, and their debts have increased in every region over the last year.
Figures released to Checkpoint With John Campbell show 60 percent of beneficiaries had a debt, up from 49 percent in 2008.
The debt includes money owed for overpayments, one-off grants for living costs, and some fraud.
Regionally, Auckland had the most indebted beneficiaries, with 51,000 people owing an average of $2800 each.
In Northland, 11,000 beneficiaries owed an average of $2700.