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Published 12 February 2018

New study into Kiwi living way

What could a New Zealand living wage look like?

By Jamie Morton, originally published in the Gisbourne Herald, 18 December 2017

Researchers have begun investigating the concept, which they say could help low-paid workers and tackle mounting challenges regarding poverty and productivity.

Massey University psychologist Professor Stuart Carr, co-leading the three-year study, said living wages usually refer to higher minimum wage rates, based on calculations of the cost-of-living needed of a hypothetical household unit.

But the broader concept goes much further, he said. "It implies that not just cost-of-living, but also human quality-of-living will follow from meeting everyday material needs."

About 70 organisations voluntarily pay their staff a living wage. The minimum wage is $15.75 and will rise to $16.50 in April — a change introduced by the new Government.

The living wage as set by the Family Centre Social Policy Research Unit is $20.20 — the amount the Government
has said it would increase the minimum wage to in four years. The research team saw an urgent case to examine the area.

They said working poverty had "soared" due to low pay, insecure work that provided interrupted or insufficient hours of paid employment and rising housing, energy and food costs — all of which disproportionately affected women, younger and older people, and Maori and Pacific people in particular.

Minimum wages were now widely recognised as failing to provide sufficient cost-of-living income. The study is supported with $845,000 from the Marsden Fund.