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Tax cuts, GST increase threaten health of lowest earners

Media Release

November 22, 2010

Tax cuts, GST increase threaten health of lowest earners

A poll revealing that most New Zealanders feel worse off following the tax cuts introduced on October 1, does not bode well for the health of the country’s most vulnerable, according to NZNO.

“We know already that many families can’t afford to go to the doctor when they need to, and this poll indicates that’s just going to get worse. This will have a profound long-term effect on people’s health. The tax cuts were almost meaningless for those on the lowest incomes in our society, but the increase in GST to 15 percent has had a major impact,” NZNO chief executive Geoff Annals said.

The nationwide HorizonPoll poll carried out last week found that 53.5 percent of those polled thought they were worse off. Tellingly, this figure increased to 71.5 percent among those earning less than $20,000 a year.

“Tax cuts and the rise in GST will contribute further to widening the gap between rich and poor in this country. And that means worse health outcomes for all New Zealanders. There are already significant disparities among the health of New Zealanders, including alarmingly high rates of rheumatic fever among Māori and Pacific children,” Annals said.

“Next year, nurses around the world will be focusing on health equity and that’s where NZNO’s focus is going to be. We know that nurses can make significant inroads into health inequities through providing accessible and affordable preventative health programmes and nurse-led clinics and by working with families under stress. The Government states it wants better, sooner, more convenient health care, but people have to be able to afford that health care, if real health gains are to be made,” he said.

Annals said a forum on inequality in Wellington last week affirmed NZNO’s focus on health inequities. The Victoria University-run forum explored whether the main thesis of the book by British researchers Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett, The Spirit Level: Why More Equal Societies Almost Always Do Better, applied to New Zealand. The book places New Zealand 17th out of 23 developed countries in terms of income inequality.

The forum heard from senior Treasury analyst Ben Gleisner that income inequality in New Zealand had risen sharply from the mid-80s to the mid-90s. As the income gap widened, teenage pregnancy rates, obesity and imprisonment rates increased.

Forum chair, director of Victoria University’s Institute of Policy Studies, Jonathon Boston, said there was enough evidence to support the general thesis in The Spirit Level.

“The forum’s findings amplify the importance of NZNO’s focus on health inequities,” Annals said.


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