NZers feel income gap growing - poll

Nearly three-quarters of New Zealanders believe the gap between rich and poor has increased under six years of National Government and almost two-thirds feel they are no better off or have gone backwards, a Herald-DigiPoll survey suggests.

Forty four per cent of the 750 New Zealanders surveyed this month said the gap between the rich and poor had got a lot bigger over the past six years.

A further 30 per cent said it had got a little bigger. Just over 22 per cent said it was about the same, and only 3 per cent believed the gap had closed.

One-third of those surveyed felt they were now better off financially since National became the Government, 30 per cent said they were about the same and virtually the same number said they were worse off. Eight per cent were unsure or didn't know.

Labour leader David Cunliffe said people "really know in their heart of hearts that gap has widened too far".

"It's borne out in all the data and there's no hiding it and it's a terrible thing for New Zealand. It undermines the New Zealand way of life, New Zealanders know it and they're not going to vote for more of it."

"That's why things like a capital gains tax and a lift in the top marginal tax rate will provide resources that can be given to give a hand up to the more vulnerable and help close up some of those gaps."

Through a spokesman, Deputy Prime Minister Bill English said the fact the poll showed most New Zealanders felt better off or the same about their situation "is encouraging given they have been through a large recession and the global financial crisis in the past six years".

But the fact that three-quarters believed the wealth gap was widening showed "they are concerned that others may not be doing so well - despite the best available data showing no evidence of rising income inequality over the past decade".

While it increased in the late 1980s and early 1990s, and decreased between 2004 and 2007 because of Working for Families, income inequality has gone up and down in official measures since aftermath of the global financial crisis and there is no clear trend higher or lower.

But Labour Party finance spokesman David Parker said income inequality in New Zealand remained above the OECD average, "and we know that the income measure of inequality excludes capital gains, which are unusually untaxed in New Zealand".

"The entrenched inequality that comes from long-term income inequality gets worse every year and you see that in falling home ownership rates."

Mr English said that while "a number of families are still finding their situation challenging, on average wages are rising a bit faster than the cost of living, interest rates remain not far off 50-year lows, the Government is ensuring more houses are being built and we're investing billions of dollars to support vulnerable families.

"The best way to help low-income New Zealanders is through a growing economy that supports more jobs and higher incomes."


On to something

lgn I reckon you are on to something. The minimum wage should be scaled so people with kids get a higher minimum wage so the Govt can ditch Working for Families. WFF is just a subsidy for employers and it affects those without kids too because they not only pay for it through their tax but because employees with kids don't pressure employers for higher wages on the basis of needing it to raise a family the wage for a given position doesn't go up.

On the bright side there are some good employers out there who reward hard work fairly, even for the "unskilled" people without qualifications. Go dairying!

Fair call

Fair call Trev. I think the Govt is on the right track by refusing to raise the retirement age. Labour should be the working mans party but they are hell bent on raising it and raising taxes. Talk about backwards priorities. And you are dead right about prices going up. The tradies deserve to earn a good wage for a good job done, but not all of them are value for money. It always pays to ask your mates if they know a good tradie. The only thing I disagree with you on is the lack of jobs. Job shortages are very localised, usually to cities. I know some dairy farmers who are desperate for hard working kiwis so they don't have to bring overseas workers in so if you are looking for a job I can point you in the right direction. Usually a house is provided so costs are low and wages normally start around $40k + accommodation and go upwards from there if you have what it takes.

I haven’t had a pay increase

I haven’t had a pay increase in more then 6 years, nor has my wife. Yet in that time both my bosses and hers have had pay increases. There lays the problem as I see it. Bosses taking all the money while their employees who make the money for them get the left overs. The workers are in some ways more important to the employers then the boss is. Without the minions to do the work there would be no business for the bosses to run. But then without the bosses there would be no business to employ the workers. So in my book that makes us all just as important as each other, therefore we are all worth the same wage.
Min wage should just be there for any business that can prove it can’t afford to pay wages any higher then $13.75 per hour.

This should be re assessed each year and wages increased accordingly as the business improves its profits. As profit increase by 10% then wage bill should increase by 8%. If the workers are paid $13.75 an hour the manager should be getting paid $14 an hour not $ 20 + an hour. Min wage is not there so business or companies can make huge profits off of the backs of its most valuable assets, (its workers) Its there to make sure that’s the min they can pay it does mean that’s all they should pay. Other wise the greedy amongst them would try and get away with paying $5 per hour. Min wage should now be around $18 an hour with some one with kids. Time for this to change, when it does the grab between the haves and have nots will start to decrease just as works wages have been doing now for years.
Or is someone going to tell me because she/he went on to higher education then someone else their value as a human being or productive member of our community is higher then someone who left school aged 17 year. In my opinion anyone who thinks that way is worth less not more.

What economy is "improving"?

sv3no0: I agree with most of your comments and want to add one. "The economy is improving" is getting a lot of spin lately, (mainly from the National party due to election year) but when you are a superannuitant or unemployed I find the phrase unbelievable. Jobs are hard to find that pay more then the minimum wage. Food costs are not reducing. Painters and plumbers still charge exorbitant hourly rates for residential work with no improvement in skill. Power and petrol cost continues to rise. For most people, the economy is not improving and the gap widens between rich and poor. I consider one of the answers is more support from the Government to process raw materials within NZ into finished products. More processing of logs into laminated timber framing by NZ-owned businesses for example.


Cause and effect

The real question is not whether or not the gap is widening but why it is widening. I'm unconvinced that people think Labour will do any better by giving hand outs because it's been tried before without fixing the problem. People want their tax dollars used to good effect. Also, with a strengthening economy even the most selfish of voters thinking "what's in it for me" might see light at the end of the tunnel in terms of higher real income from work rather than be swayed by tax payer cash in the hand from Labour's baby bonus. Furthermore I suspect that higher tax rates for the high income earners will reduce the overall tax take because the high income earners are able to restructure their affairs more easily than low income people. Labour has all the good intentions but none of the execution. It all makes me wonder if they put Cunliffe in so they can throw this election, ditch him for good and concentrate on Shane Jones in the next? No govt will get four terms so I reckon straight shooting Jones will be the next PM as he appears to get things done. Frustrating in the meantime though!

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