New figures showing the smallest rise in hourly earnings in over a decade highlight the urgent need to raise the minimum wage and make sure that vulnerable families can make ends meet, the Green Party said today.
"Living costs are soaring, and incomes are nowhere near keeping pace. Median incomes of those in full-time employment rose by just 1.9 percent in the year to June 2011, the lowest since 2001," Green Party Co-leader Metiria Turei said.
Mrs Turei was commenting on the release of the New Zealand Income Survey by Statistics New Zealand today.
"Meanwhile, in the same period inflation was 5.3 percent, and food prices went up 6.6 percent in the year to August 2011. Wages are not keeping pace with the cost of living and working families are paying the price," Mrs Turei said.
"We urgently need to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour, and lock in future increases to ensure that working families can make ends meet. We had a poignant reminder of the importance of this just yesterday when we heard about Parliament's cleaners struggling on just $13.50 an hour. Raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour would be worth approximately $60 a week for someone working full time on the minimum wage.
"270,000 children are growing up in poverty, and 40 percent of them have parents who are in paid work.
"We have a generation of children of the 'working poor' and we are failing them. Raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour is part of the Green Party's plan to bring 100,000 children out of poverty by 2014.
"Of course the other 60 percent of children living in poverty are even worse off. Benefit levels haven't changed since the 1990s, and our most vulnerable children are the victims of relentless increases in the cost of living.
"Children have the same needs - for healthy food, a warm safe home, shoes, clothes, and raincoats - whether their parents are in work or not. We'd extend Working for Families support to families reliant on benefits. This would also be worth an extra $60 per week to those on the lowest incomes," Mrs Turei said.
Mrs Turei said she was also concerned about the wage gap between men and women in the income survey.
"Average hourly incomes as measured by this survey show a 14 percent gap between men and women.
"Across a week the difference balloons out to about 28 percent. We have a significant gender pay gap in New Zealand and we need to do something about it.
"Catherine Delahunty's Equal Pay Amendment Bill to make it easier for employees to find out whether there is a gender pay problem in their workplace would be a great start." Mrs Turei said.