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Wealth gap in New Zealand underlined by updated book

Gap between the rich and the rest in New Zealand underlined by updated book

5 August, 2014

The latest data on poverty and inequality in New Zealand underline the size of the gap between the rich and the rest, according to the updated edition of The Inequality Debate: An Introduction.

Author Max Rashbrooke has updated the book using data released just a few weeks ago by the Ministry of Social Development. Rashbrooke threads this new data into the wider story of the large income gaps that have opened up in New Zealand over the last three decades.

As the book shows, inequality has increased slightly since the global financial crisis, reversing earlier decreases from policies like Working for Families. Since 2009, incomes have been static or falling for people in the poorest half of the country, but increasing for the rich.

But the book also traces the wider New Zealand story of inequality, starting with a huge surge in income gaps in the 1980s and 1990s – the biggest in the developed world – which left the country far more unequal than it was thirty years ago.

Someone in the richest 10 per cent now earns eight times as much as the person in the lowest 10 per cent, whereas in the 1980s they would have earned just 4.5 times as much.

And despite a mixed picture in recent years, New Zealand’s poverty rates remain extremely high – double what they were in the 1980s.

The percentage of all people in poverty was 9 per cent in the mid-1980s; now it’s 18 per cent. The percentage of children in poverty was 11 per cent in the mid-1980s; now it’s 24 per cent.

These concentrations of poverty, along with concentrations of great wealth, are – the book argues – one of the most important issues in 2014. Indeed, opinion polling shows that inequality and poverty are now the single most pressing issue for many New Zealanders.

The Inequality Debate: An Introduction is part of a series of short books published by Bridget Williams Books called ‘BWB Texts’. The book’s chapters were originally drawn from the larger work Inequality: A New Zealand Crisis published last year.

The Inequality Debate is both fascinating and horrifying. So short that you’ve got no excuse, this is the best book you can read if you want to be informed on an issue that will dominate the rhetoric of all major political parties this election year.’ David Williams,Salient

About the author
Max Rashbrooke is a Wellington journalist and author. He has written for national newspapers and magazines in New Zealand and the UK, including the Guardian, the Herald and the Listener.

About BWB Texts
BWB Texts are short books on big subjects. Published as snappy Penguin-style paperbacks and DRM-free e-books, this new series unlocks exciting opportunities for New Zealand non-fiction. Many more BWB Texts are scheduled for release through 2014 and beyond.

Rashbrooke is a contributor to a BWB Text publishing in October that collects New Zealand responses to Thomas Piketty’s bestselling book Capital in the Twenty-First Century.

For more information about BWB Texts please visit our website.


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