Why is the Reserve Bank happy with low wage growth?
“There seems little prospect for better wage growth if the Reserve Bank is to be believed”, says CTU Economist Bill Rosenberg. “It says the slow wage growth is because of more people wanting jobs, rapid immigration growth, and the high unemployment rate.”
“This is a circular argument. People are being forced into the job market because stagnant wages mean more people have to work for the needs of their households. At the same time harsher rules on social welfare benefits and the low level of those benefits force people into a job market where as the bank says, there is ‘elevated unemployment’. In these circumstances, immigration should not be used to undermine workers rightly asking for wage increases.” Rosenberg said.
“There is a high risk that growth peaks this year without most people seeing any sign of it in their pay packets.” Rosenberg said.
“The Reserve Bank’s rhetoric is not encouraging. It seems to see wages as just another price and it will rally against any significant rise in them. There is no recognition of the needs of workers who depend on wages for their livelihoods, nor of their productivity, which has risen much faster than real wages since 2009. The implication is that if wages do rise faster the Reserve Bank will clamp down with higher interest rates.” Rosenberg said.
“At the same time the Reserve Bank acknowledges the longstanding problem with the overvalued exchange rate. It seems to think it is a mystery, and just sits on its hands. There are policies that could be used in New Zealand to help address it. A more competitive exchange rate would help high value exporters and reduce our reliance on commodity exports whose prices have peaked, while creating better jobs.” Rosenberg said.
“Meanwhile there is little sign of a pause in interest rate rises.” Rosenberg said.