On the 1st of April 2021 (April Fools Day) a range of incremental changes were made to wages as the government lifted the minimum wage to $20 an hour. Benefits also saw a 3.1% increase as they’re now indexed to wages. People receiving benefits can now earn up to $160 a week before they are impacted. Auckland Action Against Poverty and First Union are saying although any extra money is welcome in dire times, these small changes don’t go far enough towards providing the quality of life people and families in low income communities deserve.
"One of the reasons NZ is a low wage economy is because benefits are so low, and provide no competition for wages. If the government increased benefits to compete with wages, it would ensure that businesses are paying people an amount that recognises all time as being important, and encourage them to provide safe working conditions" says Brooke Pao Stanley, Coordinator with Auckland Action Against Poverty.
Robert Reid of First Union and who was also part of the Welfare Expert Advisory Group echoes this statement, and urges all to support the increasing of benefits. "Increasing benefits is good for all New Zealanders as it means happier, healthier lives for all. The human cost of the Labour Party continuing as they are is going to be a lot more than real investment into peoples lives with more money in their own pockets. This money will go back into the economy but also see huge progress toward closing the inequality gap in New Zealand, which is getting wider every year. It also means better pay and working conditions for those working, which is what we want as a Workers Union. It’s a win-win for all.
The quality of food, housing, education, health, safety and overall well-being of a person is determined by how much money you have. We’re calling for the creation of a system that sees all New Zealanders have a quality of life that acknowledges that even though everyone’s skill bases are different, all our time as a resource is of equal importance. Resisting the changes required now will only make things worse in the future. The time for transformative action is now and we look forward to this action in the May budget.