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ANZASW statement for Living Wage Week

The Aotearoa New Zealand Association of Social Workers celebrates living wage week in Aotearoa New Zealand and across the world.

This week we reaffirm our support for the campaign to encourage employers to pay their workers fairly for their mahi.

The living wage, while not a panacea, is an important part of the struggle against income disparity in our islands. Despite being an affluent nation, Aotearoa New Zealand is one of the most unequal societies in the western world; at the present time, extreme wealth continues to grow while wages for many have barely increased or remain stagnant.

An inflated property market- prices rising by 60% in the past decade, according to some estimates- has worsened this situation, producing a housing affordability crisis for large parts of the population already struggling to cope with the cost of living.

The severity of this situation is neither necessary nor inevitable: it is largely a consequence of decades of neoliberal economics embraced to a greater or lesser extent by successive governments, with the result that the demands of the market have been privileged over the needs of society.

Social workers bear witness on a daily basis to the impact of poverty wrought by such policies and the effects of low-paid or insecure work on struggling individuals and family / whanau. As a profession we are acutely aware of the toll that this takes on communities and in particular on the development of children / tamariki, limiting their life chances and heightening the risk of poor physical and mental health.

While we commend the government for their efforts to tackle inequality, we believe that decision-makers in the public and private sector should take greater responsibility for the wellbeing of their workers.

The Association believes that a living wage should be widely adopted by employers as a matter of basic decency: it is simply indefensible that those in full time work are not be able to afford to provide for themselves and/or their family / whanau from their income, while employers enjoy the luxury of relying on the state-funded Working for Families programme to top-up the income of a poorly-paid workforce and / or voluntary organisations such as food banks and KidCan to provide basic necessities.

We are pleased that dozens of businesses and public sector organisations have become accredited living wage employers this year, adding to an impressive list of those who had already done so. However, we are mindful that these figures still represent a small minority of businesses and state agencies across the country.

We hope that the Living Wage Movement enjoys growing success and ever more widespread support as it continues to fight for a more just workplace and society.

To those celebrating this week and all involved in the campaign for fair pay, we say: Kia Kaha and Mauruuru koe mo te tiaki i te iwi!

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