In March the national Equality Network gathered at the Manurewa Methodist Church to discuss the income inequality that leaves some New Zealand families struggling to meet their basic needs. This article was published in Touchstone
The theme of the day was ‘Talking so that People Will Listen’, and it focused on how to better communicate about the issues of income inequality. The Equality Network was created in 2012 to bring together a number of community groups that oppose the rising rate of income inequality in our country.
Income inequality is the size of the difference between the highest and lowest incomes.
It can be measured in various ways but overall the gap between rich and poor has increased greatly in NZ over the past 30 years. Policy advisor for New Zealand Council of Christian Social Services (NZCCSS) Paul Barber says the Manurewa Church and its pastor Rev Vai Ngahe generously hosted the event. “It gave members of the organisations within the National Equality Network a chance to discuss the real issues facing people who are in poverty and look for solutions to bring about change.”
Paul says the Equality Network held its meeting in South Auckland because people living in the region are among those facing the highest rate of income inequality in New Zealand.
Representatives from the more than 20 groups were present. Paul says in the past five years Kiwis have become very concerned about income equality. Max Rashbrooke’s book ‘Inequality – A New Zealand Crisis’ published in 2013 created publicity, boosted awareness, and shifted public opinion.
The Living Wage movement is part of the National Equality Network. Living Wage calls for employers to raise wages to $19.80. This is the income necessary to provide workers and their families the basic necessities of life so they can live with dignity and participate as active citizens. The first Living Wage campaigns were launched in May 2012 in Auckland and in August 2012 in Wellington. Supporting organisations joined forces around a statement of commitment to a Living Wage. More than 200 groups agreed:’ Paul says by the Living Wage Movement’s commitment to educate and support change in NZ has helped people around the country.
At Wellington City Council alone nearly 600 workers have seen their wages lifted close to the living wage rate, and this has had positive results. “The Wellington City Council now acknowledges that people receiving a living wage can afford to feed themselves, pay for health care, feel more secure and enjoy more family time. The Council sees the direct results, and we hope they will also become accredited in the near future.” Currently nearly 50 employers are accredited Living Wage employers, and more are in the process of being accredited.
It has become a successful model for businesses that choose to participate. NZCCSS’s Closer Together information programme is also part of the Equality Network. Organisations that support the vision of the Equality Network to raise awareness about low incomes and the need for greater income equality are welcome to make contact and join up.