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Waging War on the Living Wage

By July 12, 2018No Comments

Google estimates that “quite a lot of blogs” exist online.  This is my first time, and the only relevant experience I have is a diary entry about my first time and a letter I wrote to my Grandad when I was 9 announcing “Dad just bought an electronic type writer”.

Since current events seem to be where my writing really flourished, I’ll start there.  This week 4000 Inland Revenue and MBIE employees demanded pay increases, our acting Prime Minister told nurses  ‘we haven’t got the money’ and avocado prices might be the reason my generation can’t afford their first home.

I, however am in the privileged position where my penchant for guacamole didn’t corrupt my ability to commit to a mortgage.  By the very fact that you’re reading this, either from your office or an expensive mobile device, means that you are probably earning more than the living wage. For much of New Zealand however, this is not the case. With my recent property purchase has come a new commute to work, so as I passed Western Springs College earlier this week, I noticed an announcement stating that they were the first NZ high school to adopt the living wage.


By definition the living wage is the hourly rate a worker needs to pay for basic needs such as food, housing, transport and childcare, and is calculated each year by the NZ Family Centre Social Policy unit.  Minimum wage is $16.50 per hour, and in April this year the living wage increased by 35 cents to $20.55 per hour. If the cost of living is increasing, why aren’t our wages?  I have an uneducated opinion on the answer to this but I don’t want to start political warfare.

Nearly 683,000 workers earn below the living wage in NZ.  According to the TradeMe Jobs 2017 salary guide, the roles most affected by this are Office Administrators, Cleaners, Kitchen staff and Retail Assistants, with Labourers and Teachers on the precipice of being considered the working poor.  I have my own theories on why such work isn’t deemed as “valuable”, and the research that links living below the poverty line with mental and physical health issues, and Pacific People being the most likely to earn less than living wage, makes me emotional and I am trying my very best not to make this a Dear Diary moment.

There is also research that shows there are numerous benefits to employers when staff are paid a wage where they can pay rent, eat and have something to save for a rainy day.  A fair days pay for a fair days works seems, well, fair. And if contributing to an equitable and healthier society doesn’t get you moist then perhaps having staff with higher engagement, motivation, productivity with increased retention and quality of work, and decreased absenteeism will.

As a Recruiter, I am often asked salary advice for roles of varying seniority in varying industries from both employers and employees. This leaves me to wonder; as an industry, how much influence do we have to enable a person to survive and participate in society? And if we’re recruiting towards the lower end of the pay-scale, are we not morally obliged to whatever we can to ensure that all of society can put food on the table and a roof over their heads?