Focus on the Land
‘False economy’ hits many whanau
Wednesday, October 31, 2012
THE high cost of a low-wage economy was the focus of a Green Party public meeting last night.
Service and Food Workers Union organiser Thomas O’Neill said low wages were false economy.
The Government’s economic policy was about saving a penny today only to pay a dollar tomorrow.
“In the past 20 years, New Zealand has gone from being one of the most equal countries in the world to one of the most unequal.”
Living Wage Aotearoa aimed to get a decent wage for minimum-wage earners such as cleaners, caretakers, orderlies and laundry workers who were paid as low as $13.50 an hour — the minimum wage in New Zealand.
The current minimum wage meant people were excluded from the economy.
“The living wage campaign aims to allow low-wage earners to participate as active citizens in our society,” said Mr O’Neill.
Describing herself as a “community activator”, Gisborne woman Meredith Akuhata-Brown said she saw the impact of the false economy. Mrs Akuhata-Brown works closely with the Kaiti community. She knew one family which used no power for two months.
“The whole family sleeping in the lounge to save on heat is part-and-parcel of life now. Food is another thing people cut back on. A lot of families I see have Weet-Bix for dinner.”
Inspired by a local man who had grown avocado and mandarin trees, Kaiti residents rotary-hoed community land to create a community garden.
A “keeping kids safe” campaign in Kaiti was about keeping children safe from the stigma of being poor. Kids are our next generation of leaders, said Mrs Akuhata-Brown.
“The false economy impacts on our whanau. Our people are resilient but they need to see a government that cares and doesn’t try to fix them all the time. We need to see more care and less ‘cure’.”
Green Party MP Denise Roche said wage rates had risen slowly or stagnated since 2008.
One in five households had chronically low income, she said.
“Low-wage workers are more likely to stay in low-wage work and more likely to leave employment altogether.”
New Zealand had a 6.7 percent unemployment rate but unemployment among Maori was higher and among Pacific people in New Zealand it was higher still. High unemployment was associated with a high suicide rate among Maori and Pacific youth.
“We lose more Maori and Pacific kids through suicide than fatalities on the road,” said Ms Roche.
In 2010, a Ministry of Health report said the suicide rate among Maori youth was more than 2.5 times higher than that of non-Maori youth.
A liveable wage allowed for dignity and participation in society.
Ms Roche said a change in social welfare policy meant the Government called anyone on the unemployment benefit a “job seeker”.
“This floods the low-wage market and wages go down.”
Green Party MP Jan Logie said the Government was telling people it was their fault they were unemployed and to get out there and find work, when there were no new jobs.
“Is that the kind of society we want? Where is the appreciation and respect?”
Her hope was that everyone at the meeting would be outraged and inspired by it.
Gisborne’s deputy mayor Nona Aston said Government services were rushing out of our community.
“It is difficult for our aged to access anything.”
She said central government funnelled thousands of dollars into investigating abuse of the elderly but could not afford to do anything about it.
“We should all be out there screaming enough is enough.”
09:06 a.m. Thursday, Nov 01, 2012
The Government needs to pull the log out of its own eye, because they've done nothing about the exodus to Australia - leaving behind those coming up to retirement, and those who have not-long-since left school.
They don't want to accept their mistakes.
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