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We think our politicians are paid too much

We think our politicians are paid too much

New Zealand’s top politicians would be facing a $110,000 pay cut if the public had its way, a new study suggests.

The survey of attitudes to social inequality found that cabinet ministers are thought to be paid about $175,000 a year but deserve much less – about $135,000, yet their actual pay is about $245,000.

Researchers from the University’s School of Communication, Journalism and Marketing surveyed 935 people on a range of issues, including income and taxation, as part of the International Social Survey Programme.

Professor Philip Gendall, head of the research team, says lower income earners are perceived as underpaid while those on high incomes are seen as considerably overpaid.

Half of the survey respondents believe they, personally, are paid less than they deserve, Professor Gendall says. "People accept that different occupations deserve different levels of remuneration, but the gap between high-paid and low-paid occupations is considered too large and increasing. However, there is also a strong belief that competence, effort and responsibility should be reflected in how much people earn.”

Fifty-five per cent of people thought New Zealand ought to be a society with most people in the middle, while a further 25 per cent thought New Zealand society should have many people near the top and only a few near the bottom. However, 56 per cent believe New Zealand society is like a pyramid, with a small elite at the top and more people in the middle and the bottom.

The survey found that half of New Zealanders were in favour of people on high incomes paying a larger share of their income in tax, but that percentage has fallen over the past two decades, from 70 per cent who held that view when asked in 1992 and 60 per cent in 1999.

Professor Gendall says one reason for this could be the fact that more New Zealanders are now in higher tax brackets.

Perceived v deserved and actual earnings:

Jobs Perceived earnings $ Deserved earnings $ Actual earnings $

Unskilled factory worker 30,000 35,000 Process and assembly workers 33,000*
Shop assistant 30,000 35,000 Retail assistant 30,000*
Doctor in general practice 120,000 120,000 Doctors and specialists 155,000*
Cabinet minister in Parliament 175,000 135,000 243,700**
Chairman of a large national company 250,000 150,000 65,000-435,000***
* Source trademe jobs website
** Source: Parliamentary Salaries and Allowances Determination 2008
*** Source: Joint survey by Strategic Pay and the Institute of Directors (Examples of remuneration for chairmen of major companies, according to latest annual reports: Telecom $435,000, Fonterra $250,000, Contact Energy $200,000, Fisher and Paykel $65,000).

The study also looked at social issues including abortion and euthanasia. Read the full report here: http://www.massey.ac.nz/massey/fms//Massey%20News/2010/03/docs/Social-Inequality-2009.pdf


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