Local Govt | National News Video | Parliament Headlines | Politics Headlines | Search


Pandemic Intensifies Social Crisis In New Zealand

The New Zealand government’s Commission for Financial Capability (CFFC) reported on Thursday that a survey of 3,000 people, conducted in April, found 34 percent of households were in “financial difficulty.” A further 40 percent were “at risk of tipping into hardship.”

The survey was part of a study involving eight countries. New Zealand ranked worse than the UK and Norway, where 28 percent and 8 percent of respondents respectively were in “financial difficulty.” Other countries have not yet reported their results.

The findings reflect the dramatic and widespread fall in living standards due to the global economic crisis precipitated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Thirty-eight percent of respondents, an estimated 679,500 households, suffered a decline in income, with 232,500 losing more than a third.

CFFC head Jane Wrightson warned that “income loss will get worse before it gets better.” In fact, there is no end in sight for what is the deepest crisis of capitalism since the 1930s.

New Zealand is highly exposed to the crisis: its tourism and international education industries are imploding. Households have low savings and high debt levels, many workers are in insecure jobs and social welfare benefits are extremely low.

The country also has some of the world’s most unaffordable housing. The CFFC estimated that 179,000 households, one in 10, had missed a mortgage or rent payment since the onset of the COVID-19 crisis.

The survey found that another 40 percent of households “were not in financial difficulty yet but were at risk of financial difficulty” if they lost any more income. Only 26 percent were “financially secure,” with “enough money in savings to meet financial shocks in the future.”

On Thursday, Children’s Commissioner Andrew Becroft told Stuff he estimated 200,000 more children could be pushed into poverty, bringing child poverty to nearly 40 percent. Already, before the present crisis, 235,400 or one in five children lived below the poverty line, after housing costs were deducted.

Job cuts are accelerating, abetted by the Labour Party-led government and enforced by the trade union bureaucracy. All the claims made over the past three years that Jacinda Ardern’s coalition government with the Greens and NZ First would alleviate poverty and restore “capitalism’s human face” are being thoroughly discredited.

According to Stuff, 53,000 more people have signed up for the JobSeeker unemployment benefit since the week of March 20. This brings the total to 198,000, indicating more than 7 percent unemployment—the highest level in more than a decade. The rate is expected to go well above 10 percent.

In the past week, Air New Zealand announced it is making 4,000 people redundant, up from previous estimates of 3,750. The airline is majority-owned by the government and has access to a $900 million government loan.

Air New Zealand has received tens of millions of dollars in “wage subsidies” from the government. These handouts, falsely promoted as a means of saving jobs, have not stopped businesses slashing wages and sacking workers.

In the tourism sector, Millennium & Copthorne Hotels announced 910 job cuts. Tourism Holdings Ltd, which runs the Waitomo caves and Kiwi Experience businesses, is axing 140 staff. AJ Hackett Bungy will slash about 150, nearly three quarters of its staff, in Queenstown, Taupo and Auckland. Invercargill Licensing Trust, which operates hotels and hospitality businesses, has made 87 people redundant.

Furniture and electronics retail chain Smiths City has sacked 115 people, nearly a quarter of its staff. Retail group H&J Smith intends to shut stores in Dunedin, Mosgiel, Te Anau and Balclutha, with 175 redundancies.

Fuji Xerox, the printing and photocopying company, plans to cut about 100 jobs, 11 percent of its workforce. Its competitor Ricoh is reportedly slashing 80 jobs, despite receiving $2.2 million in wage subsidies.

MediaWorks is cutting 130 staff, mostly across its radio stations and sales team. This follows 200 layoffs last month by NZME, which owns the New Zealand Herald.

Tower Insurance announced 108 redundancies after posting a first-half-year profit of $14.9 million.

ANZ Bank’s New Zealand arm is also attacking workers, despite making a $789 million profit for the six months to March. The bank is cutting pay for about 200 contract workers by 20 percent until the end of September.

Auckland Council is formulating an “emergency” austerity budget for the country’s largest city in response to $550 million in expected lost revenue over the next financial year. Labour Party mayor Phil Goff told TVNZ on May 22 the council was “conducting a review that will result in fewer jobs in our organisation in the coming months.”

Already, about half the 1,100 temporary council workers and contractors have lost their jobs. The council is reportedly in talks with the Public Service Association about imposing a wage freeze.

The Ardern government, facing an election in September, announced an Income Relief Payment (IRP) on May 25 for people who have lost jobs since March 1. The payment of $490 a week is about double the normal JobSeeker benefit, but only lasts for 12 weeks.

The new payment is still not enough to pay for basic needs, particularly in major cities where rents are highest. And people who were already unemployed prior to March will receive no increase to their payments. Thousands of migrant workers remain barred from accessing welfare.

Council of Trade Unions president Richard Wagstaff, however, praised the IRP, saying the government was being “nimble and responsive… to meet the needs of our community.” Opposed to any fight in defence of jobs, the unions are echoing the government and employers’ position that mass redundancies are inevitable.

After the election, the IRP and the wage subsidy scheme are due to expire. That will trigger a further wave of layoffs and increased poverty.

There are growing demands from big business for whoever wins the election to slash spending on social programs. Government ministers have made clear that “generations” of workers must pay back the debt incurred from its pro-business subsidies, tax cuts and bailouts.

ANZ Bank economist Sharon Zollner told Stuff on May 26: “A bunch of our sacred cows might be getting reviewed.” They included pension eligibility. The opposition National Party has pledged to increase the retirement age from 65 to 67. The current government has ruled out such a move, but the Labour Party previously campaigned for restricting pensions.

© Scoop Media

Parliament Headlines | Politics Headlines | Regional Headlines

Gordon Campbell: On Judith Collins’ Apparent Inability To Read The Public Mood

The basic skill that a successful politician needs is the ability to “read the room” and gauge the public mood. If National Party leader Judith Collins ever possessed that ability, it seems to have deserted her of late. Surely, very, very few of the public would agree with Collins and her deputy Gerry Brownlee when they claim :
(a)that the threat from Covid-19 means that the election due on September 19 must be postponed until November, or sometime next year
(b) that in the middle of the current outbreak the government is obliged to hand over all the relevant decision- making to the top officials in the public service... More>>


Government: Plan To Tackle Problem Plastics

Following the success of the phase out of single-use plastic shopping bags, the Government now has plans to phase out more single-use and problem plastics to reduce waste and protect the environment announced Associate Minister for the Environment ... More>>


Gordon Campbell: On The New Lockdowns, Leadership And Lebanon

As Melbourne has shown, the webs of urban life overlap so extensively that community transmission can be very hard to trace, let alone control. Each of the family members in the South Auckland family at the centre of the current outbreak will have had ... More>>


National: Emma Mellow As Auckland Central Candidate

Tonight the National Party has selected Emma Mellow to stand in the Auckland Central electorate for the 2020 General Election. Emma Mellow replaces retiring MP Nikki Kaye who first won the seat from Labour in 2008. Emma leads a team of communications ... More>>


Travel: Update On New Zealand And The Cook Islands Bubble

The Prime Minister of New Zealand Jacinda Ardern and the Prime Minister of the Cook Islands Henry Puna have welcomed the completion of phase one in the establishment of a travel bubble between New Zealand and the Cook Island. More>>

Election 2020: Labour Launch

E ngā mana e ngā reo Ngāti whātua ngā mana whenua o Tāmaki Makaurau, e tika te kōrero Ehara taku toa he toa (taki tahi) he toa (taki tini) No rēira tātou e huihui mai nei, ka ‘Hoake tonu tātou’ Thank you for that welcome. And thank ... More>>

Gordon Campbell: On Political Twins, And On Labour Extending Its Wage Subsidy Scheme

A quick quiz for the weekend. Which political party currently represented in Parliament issued a press release yesterday that contained these stirring passages: “[We have] long supported a free trade and free movement area between Canada, Australia, New ... More>>


Democracy 2.0: NextElection Partners With Scoop For Exciting Democracy Tech

Joint Press Release: NextElection, Scoop.co.nz, ScoopCitizen NextElection , a technology platform empowering democracy and Government accountability, and Scoop Independent News have partnered to strengthen citizen participation in the 2020 New Zealand General ... More>>


Covid-19: Poll On Management Approval

New Zealanders’ overall trust in the Ministry of Health and Government to manage the COVID-19 pandemic is at 82%, down from 91% during April. Overall distrust that the Ministry and Government will manage it in ways which best protect themselves More>>

Election 2020: National Releases 2020 Party List

National’s 2020 Party List is a strong mix of experience coming up through our Caucus, and new and exciting talent joining our team from communities across New Zealand, Party President Peter Goodfellow says. “The National Party is incredibly ... More>>

Horizon Research Limited: How Judith Collins Stopped The Bleeding

Horizon Research includes questions on voting from time to time in its surveys – for both forthcoming referenda and general elections. More>>

Your Vote 2020: Bringing Election Coverage To Viewers Across TVNZ Channels And Platforms

As New Zealand gets ready to head to the ballot box this September, 1 NEWS is bringing voters comprehensive coverage and analysis of this year’s General Election. TVNZ’s coverage will draw on the depth of experience held across the 1 NEWS team, says Graeme ... More>>

Economy: 30% Believe Households Worse Off, 298,000 Expect To Lose Jobs

64% of New Zealanders feel the economic position of their households is the same or better than a year ago – and 30% think it is worse or much worse, while 298,000 think they will lose their jobs in the next 12 months. Households’ perceptions ... More>>

State Services Commission: Findings Of Investigation Into COVID-19 Active Cases Privacy Breach

Deputy State Services Commissioner Helene Quilter has today announced the findings of an investigation into a breach of privacy regarding sensitive personal information. The investigation looked into who or what caused the disclosure of the information, ... More>>

International Security: New Zealand Suspends Extradition Treaty With Hong Kong

The New Zealand Government has suspended its extradition treaty with Hong Kong and made a number of other changes in light of China’s decision to pass a national security law for Hong Kong, Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters says. More>>






InfoPages News Channels