As concerns about living standards and New Zealand’s performance in particular measures of socio-economic wellbeing grow, one of the major focuses has been on the affordability of living in New Zealand.
The “Living Wage” is described as a wage on which people should be able to afford the basic necessities of life, and participate in society with dignity. The Living Wage Movment believe that the Living Wage should be introduced immediately. Only a few businesses in New Zealand have done this, but those that have, have reported significant productivity gains, far less antagonistic behaviour among staff and much better compliance with instructions. Those business in industries with a strong customer focus indicate that customers are reporting the staff at stores they shop in to be much more friendly, happier and efficient as a result of them introducing the Living Wage.
I like the idea on the whole, but I think the targets set are unrealistic. More realistic than a rise to N.Z$19.80/hr would be a minimum wage rise to $17/hr, with a review later to see how businesses cope with the increased salary. For supermarket check out staff, many of whom are on the minimum wage, for example, this would be a total of nearly $3,400 more per annum after tax.
I favour changes to how we use G.S.T. At the moment, New Zealand has a G.S.T. of 15% across the board. When the fifth Labour Government took office in 1999 it was increased to 12.5%, and increased further to the current 15% when the current Government took office in 2008. Since then the G.S.T. paid has been the subject of much debate New Zealand First for example in 2014 had a policy of taking G.S.T. off food, at an estimated cost of N.Z.$3 billion. My own preference is to remove it from fruit and vegetables, thereby encouraging a healthier lifestyle.
A third measure I support is aimed at making rental accommodation affordable. This is to prevent people who are not permanent residents or citizens from owning property in New Zealand. Much of the heat in the property market is caused by speculation and the purchase of properties by non-New Zealanders who are seeking to put some of their finances into an asset offshore in case the market in their country of origin runs into trouble. It should not be for example that a teacher in Auckland is forced to move somewhere else because she/he cannot afford the rent.
These measures I believe will help to make New Zealand a more affordable place for New Zealanders. A nation only functions properly when its citizens can afford to live there with dignity and contribute positively to its society because of it.