Wednesday, January 27, 2010

25 cents

The government has increased the minimum wage by a paltry 25 cents an hour. This means it has kept pace with inflation (at least until National hikes GST to make the poor pay for the rich’s tax cuts) - but in previous years we'd gotten used to large increases being used to drive both social equity and productivity. With this pathetic increase, national has signalled that those days are over, that it does not care about the poor, and that it remains committed to the low wage, low skill economy with a wider than ever gap with Australia.

And OTOH, the fact that there was any increase at all is a victory of sorts. When they were last in government, National let the minimum wage stagnate, meaning that its effective value plummeted. They increased it just once in nine years - in 1997, after being forced to by Winston Peters. Now, having promised centrism and facing significant public support for a big boost, they have to at least pretend to care. But clearly, we need to force them to pretend harder.