The living wage

Simon Collins reports in NZ Herald:

Almost 750,000 Kiwis look set to be classed as the new working poor this week when the union movement fixes the value of a “” needed to have a decent life here.

The rate, expected to be $18-$20 an hour, has been calculated by researchers at the Anglican Church’s Family Centre in Lower Hutt to be “the income necessary to provide workers and their families with the basic necessities of life”.

This is not a living wage for workers. This is a living wage for people with kids. Now if the unions come out and endorse scrapping Working for Families, then there may be a case for their living wage.

But it is silly to claim a 16 year old guy living at home needs to be paid $19 an hour. Hell my first job was $1.99 per hour and even in my 20s I had a job which was only $9 an hour and another at $12 an hour.

The mistake all these campaigns make is to treat everyone as identical. Someone who is 45 years wold with 25 years of experience will and should get paid more than an inexperienced and unskilled 16 year old.

They are not asking for legislation, unlike the minimum wage of $13.50 an hour which is updated each year by law. A Cabinet decision on this year’s minimum is imminent.

As they are not asking for it to be legislated, I have no problem with the unions saying this is what we think people should be paid. But be aware this is not calculated on the basis of what you need to live on as a single person.  It also ignores entirely the fact those with children get significant welfare support through family tax credits, WFF and the like.

Now here is the one question that I doubt we’ll see reported today or tomorrow. How many fewer jobs would there be if every job in New Zealand was made at least $19 an hour?

The Herald has planned a series of articles all week, to promote the Living Wage campaign. Will a single one of their articles examine the cost? How much would it cost ratepayers? How much would it cost businesses? How many jobs would implementation of $19/hour see destroyed? Or will they just be a series of campaign-friendly articles?

Finally if you come from a party that thinks you can print money, and increasing wages doesn’t impact employment, then why stop at $19 an hour? why not $25? Why not $100?

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