Home > Social Issues, The Body Politic > Bill English: Minimum Wage Not Sufficient to live on!

Bill English: Minimum Wage Not Sufficient to live on!

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On TVNZ’s  Q+A yesterday (6 November) , National Minister of Finance, Bill English admitted what many of us already knew – that the Minimum Wage of $13 an hour is woefully inadequate for someone to live on.

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Labour's David Cunliffe and National's Bill English - Source: Q+A

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When questioned by Q+A’s Guyon Espiner on this issue, Bill English responded,

GUYON:  Okay, can we move backwards in people’s working lives from retirement to work and to wages?  Mr English, is $13 an hour enough to live on? 

BILL:  People can live on that for a short time, and that’s why it’s important that they have a sense of opportunity.  It’s like being on a benefit.

GUYON:  What do you mean for a short time?

BILL:  Well, a long time on the minimum wage is pretty damn tough, although our families get Working for Families and guaranteed family income, so families are in a reasonable position.Source

Whether or not “families are in a reasonable position” is questionable.  It is doubtful that a family can live on simply $520 a week – not when rent/mortgage, food, power, etc, are taken out. $13 an hour, in such a situation, is barely survival-level of existence.

A single person  would not even be eligible for WFF.

For English to suggest that a $13 an hour wage gives people  “a sense of opportunity”  shows a contemptuous attitude toward hard working men and women in this country.  “Let them eat cake” would be another phrase that shows National’s attitude toward workers.

Despite John Key’s pre-election pledge in 2008 to raise wages, worker’s pay has not kept pace with rising prices.  In fact, the reality is that the  5.3% rise in costs was more than double the 2.4% rise in wages.

And some workers are going backwards, with wage cuts,

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Source

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But then again, Bill English did state that lower wages were an “economic advantage”, when it came to competing with neighbouring Australia,

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Full Story

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National’s determination to keep wages low and competitive with Australia is at stark contrast with the previous government’s success at raising workers’ pay,

Wage growth at a record high

Annual wage growth in the adjusted LCI (which measures changes in pay rates for a fixed set of jobs and excludes performance related pay increases) remained steady at 3.4% in the March 2008 quarter.  This is the equal highest rate recorded since the LCI began in 1992 matching the annual increase for the December 2007 year.

The unadjusted LCI (which includes performance related pay increases) shows annual wage growth of 5.4% in the March 2008 quarter, up from 5.0% at December 2007.”  – Dept of Labour

It seems that voters have yet another clear distinction  to consider between the two main parties, when casting their votes: a higher-wage Labour-led coalition, or a status-quo National-led coalition.

The choice, quite literally, is in our hands.

As the wages gap continues to grow with Australia, for many New Zealanders this image becomes more and more ironic,

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National Party leader John Key stands in front of National's new billboard campaign in Auckland.

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Additional reading

Rich Listers enjoy 20pc increase in wealth

The Great Prosperity/The Great Regression

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  1. Tom Sawyer
    10 November 2011 at 1:18 pm

    The minimum wage isn’t enough to live on? Christ allmighty I could’ve told him that!

  2. Deborah Kean
    11 November 2011 at 8:47 pm

    Bill English is the least credible person to comment on any of this!

  3. fmacskasy
    11 November 2011 at 11:22 pm

    Deborah Kean :

    Bill English is the least credible person to comment on any of this!

    Debbie, why do I keep thinking of a certain phrase, “let them eat cake”?

  4. Deborah Kean
    12 November 2011 at 12:42 am

    Exactly! I imagine English saying “minimum wage? Does not compute”.. I am reminded of the person you mentioned who was surprised that benefits were so much lower than he’d always assumed…

  1. 8 February 2012 at 9:34 pm
  2. 22 August 2012 at 11:14 am

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