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Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern indicates COVID-19 won't prevent a minimum wage hike next year

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern indicates COVID-19 won't prevent a minimum wage hike next year
Image sourced from Flickr

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has indicated the government will increase the minimum wage again next year.

The minimum wage is going up from $18.90 to $20 an hour on Thursday. The starting-out and training minimum wage rates will also increase from $15.12 to $16 an hour. 

The change will mean a minimum wage worker who works 40 hours a week will earn an extra $44 a week before tax. 

Asked at a press conference on Monday afternoon whether people could expect another hike as at April 1 next year, Ardern said: “You won’t find a year where Labour governments haven’t moved the minimum wage. What I’m not committing to is what that rate will be.”

Asked to be clearer as to whether she was saying the minimum wage would rise in 2022, Ardern said: “What would be a change is if you didn’t see a change in minimum wage.”

She made the point it was normal for both Labour and National-led governments to increase the minimum wage every year.

Some employers have protested the latest 5.8% rise, arguing cost pressures are biting more than normal due to COVID-19.

What’s more, at $20, the minimum wage will be 27% higher than when Labour came into government in 2017.

Labour campaigned ahead of the 2020 election on following through with the pledge it made in its coalition agreement with NZ First to progressively increase the minimum wage to $20 an hour.

'Businesspeople deserve an opportunity to catch their breath'

ACT Party leader David Seymour was quick to release a statement after the press conference, opposing a minimum wage hike in 2022.

“At best this will duplicate wage increases that were already happening; at worst they’ll push wages up ahead of productivity growth and destroy jobs," he said.

“Businesspeople deserve an opportunity to catch their breath off the back of the minimum wage increasing $4.25 an hour since 2017, especially as they cope with the impact of COVID-19.”

Employers’ and Manufacturers’ Association (EMA) CEO Brett O’Riley called for the Government to slow or halt some of the legislative changes it's making that affect businesses.

On top of the minimum wage rise, O’Riley cited sick leave being extended by five days this year, Matariki becoming a public holiday in 2022, Fair Pay Agreements, easier access to pay equity negotiations, some new higher wage rates for immigrant works, and the move by more government agencies to make their contractors pay the living wage.

8,514 fewer people on Jobseeker Support now than in January

It’s difficult to know whether fewer people would've lost their jobs or had their hours reduced in the past year if the minimum wage wasn't hiked, and the government didn't pen in another hike for this year. 

Businesses have been hiring more staff since the start of the year. According to the Ministry of Social Development, there were 8,514 fewer people on Jobseeker Support as at March 19 compared to the beginning of January.

However there were still 203,925 people on Jobseeker Support - 58,920 more than in mid-March 2020 - indicating New Zealand is far from out of the COVID-19 woods.

Businesses are relatively upbeat according to ANZ's February Business Outlook Survey. A net 10.6% of businesses surveyed had a positive outlook when it came to their employment intensions.

However looking at the retail sector specifically, which employs a number of low-wage workers, a net 4.4% of businesses had a negative outlook when it came to their employment intensions.

Pre-COVID-19, the unemployment rate was rock-bottom, despite there being decent minimum wage hikes and low business confidence. 

Adult minimum wage as at April 1:
2021: $20
2020: $18.90
2019: $17.70
2018: $16.50
2017: $15.75
2016: $15.25
2015: $14.75
2014: $14.24

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Hmmm....instead of minimum wage increases, how about food vouchers?


The minimum wage must be raised to the recognised Living Wage (now $22.10/hour I think) and maintained thereafter to keep up with the cost of living. To pay less is injustice.


Living wage is set at a level capable of supporting a family. No reason a high schooler working part time at Maccas needs to be at that level.

If they're performing the same role and responsibilities, why not?

Exactly, we should allow kids to make a lower wage than what is necessary to support a family and if those looking to support a family perform the same role then we pay them the same (maybe add a working for families tax credit?). So you get roles for kids and roles for those looking to support a family and they are distinct (maybe family supporting roles require a level 5 certification ~ between a high school cert and a degree)

Sounds like you're picking winners there. If someone chooses not to have a family, why should they be financially penalised?

This thread is talking about minimums. Minimum wage, Living wage. There is nothing to stop a talented young person from earning more than the minimums.

Sounds like you're picking winners there. If someone chooses not to have a family, why should they be financially penalised?

Flip the question on its head.

Teenagers are typically less reliable than those who are older in these sorts of jobs. Not all teenagers, but most. Some will ditch a roster at short notice, instead deciding to go to the beach or whatever else. Some will turn up drunk or stoned. It happens. Again, not all teenagers will have these issues, but most teenagers will have some sort of reliability issue, compared to older (20+) workers.

So why is a company like McDonald's going to pay the same amount of money for someone who is, on average, less reliable? If people never get a chance to get experience - because employers prefer to pay the same price for someone more reliable - who is ultimately being hurt?

Now, I think some sort of starting out wage is appropriate, but it shouldn't last forever. Something like 90 days discount, if at the end of 90 days someone can't do the job to the standard you expect, then they shouldn't be hired in that job.

And I'd say something like a permanent discount for 16 and 17 year olds, so as to encourage employers to give them the opportunity to get job experience in the first place.

I've come across plenty of adults who are paid well more than min wage, are unreliable and often incompetent to boot. And some high enough up the hierarchy to do some real damage.

Smells like ageism?

Allow those looking to support a family to take the same roles as high school kids but just pay them the same lower wage. That should incentivise them to look for higher skill work on their own.

In the real world people take the jobs they need, not everyone has the priviledge to choose.

Well if someone wants to earn that amount they should go get a job that pays that

The living wage is a political measure, not a function of the value of a role or whether it can be afforded - or should all those business just 'transition' to use Hipkins words from their first term. It appears that Queenstown is 'transitioning' at this very moment, thanks Stuart.
Watch for massive inflation to come through if that happened, hurting those very people.

So whats a living pension i wonder?


No reason why people can't cope with rent increases.



He’s not wrong though.


Everyone else in the economy deciding to clip the ticket at the same time?

To pay for rent increase....all part of the plan.


So the govt is making it illegal for people to be employed based on their worth to an employer. If I were a young person with no skill who could into get a job I would be so angry. Angry that i cannot offer myself for what I am worth (i.e produce), get a start in life, gain some skills and improve the value of myself as an employee.

Thus the scrap heap for many youth.

So you believe there shouldn’t be a minimum wage at all?

You cannot legislate productivity. Minimum wage at $40k per year means the kid will need to generate $60K or so for the employer.
How realistic is that?

People don't seem to get that simple logic through their heads.

Most employers hiring workers at minimum wage are already scrambling due to close borders and falling discretionary spending. Amid this economic onslaught from COVID, comrade Ardern believes its a wise decision to slap a cumulative 13% increase (and more to come) on their wage expenses.

When has she ever come close to remotely understanding how basic business works?

Well, that depends on the purchasing power of the NZD. Numbers matter very little. It's relative to what that counts. You've got China next door churning out high quality consumer goods for a few bucks an hour, and you have NZ chasing paper wealth through a greater fools strategy with property. We can't compete. There's too much money in the system. We're underprepared to defend our supply chains. We're woefully unself reliant. Raising the minimum wage is trying to paper over these structural deficiencies, but will raise unemployment among under educated and youth, meaning RBNZ fails it's maximum employment mandate which keeps interest rates lower which scours the investment into productivity, which makes us more uncompetitive, cycle repeats.


Isn't that supposed to work by their being so many well paying jobs that a young person can pick and choose? The existence of the minimum wage is actually a failure of the market to supply this.

Bang on Scarfie. But it is also more complex than that. It is also in part a result of lazy employers taking the easy route to cut costs, rather than lift productivity. But your point hits at the heart of the matter - entry level jobs for the average, unqualified school leaver do not exist any more because the modern free market economy saw most exported.


"the minimum wage has gone up by 27% since Labour came into power in 2017"

How many other comments here have received a 27% wage rise in 3 1/2 years ?


Sounds like an awfully similar figure to how much rents have increased.

My government organisation has had a formal pay freeze since February 2020 and an informal one since 2018. 15,000 public sector workers being told they need to tighten the purse strings.

The way around that is to get a new job. It's not a pay rise!


In absolute terms its up about 9000/year since 2017 for someone working full time. Not bad, but over 4 years I'm sure many here have got a lot more.

Btw, I have had a larger pay increase both percentage wise and in absolute terms but only by changing jobs. It's good to get into the habit of applying for a new job every year or so to check your market value, in my experience businesses have a bad tendency to underpay people who stick around.

I’ve received a 80% increase in my home’s paper value?

So you can raise a reverse mortgage to exist given the cost increases.

More pertinent question: how many people have got a payrise worth more than $44 a week before tax?
I dont know why people get so hung up on percentages. If you start with with wildly different salaries (say 50k and 100k) the differential between them is only going to get bigger if they both keep going up by the same percentage.

Yep, increasing inequality is built into the system, is glaringly obvious, yet for some reason, every bean counter seems to have the part of their brain that could comprehend exponentialism, lobotomised.

how much have your rents gone up?

I guess I have now I think about it. I am not on minimum wage however

Well said. You took my words.

Unions are pushing for it but no other waged people are getting increases like this. It's completely separated from reality, but that's a luxury when you are spending others money, something Cindy is an expert at. She won't care when it drives businesses to the wall in a crisis, they don't vote for her.

but that's a luxury when you are spending others money

That's the model of our socially subsidised and protected property investment market.

Minimum wage is barely crumbs spared for the poorer in NZ society. And this is in exchange for work, not just monopolising assets they got cheap.

Real estate investors? 27% of a low number is still a low number BTW.

Real estate investors? 1.27 times a low number is still a low number BTW.


This government just keeps tinkering, they don't have any coherent philosophy. They are driving New Zealand businesses into the ground.

People will say "if you can't afford to pay x amount then you shouldn't run a business." Well that's exactly what will happen.

This is why people buy investment properties instead of starting a business.

Coherent? - LOL, they're just not definitive enough

Sam Hill,

Do you have evidence to back your claim that people are buying properties insread of starting a business? Frankly, I doubt it.

My son is GM of an NZ business employing 50 people. Everyone, including apprentices, is paid more than the minimum wage.

There isn't going to be evidence of it as it would all be anecdotal, it obviously can't be captured when someone invests in property that they've made that decision to buy vs starting a business. But historically the incentives have been very much skewed towards property investment as a low risk high (tax free) return. Why would you invest $200k in starting a business with a high risk it will fail when you could just invest in an investment property?

Do you have any evidence to back your claim that people aren't buying houses instead of starting a business? I doubt it

The last couple of decades in NZ provides plenty of evidence. The lamenting of the lack of capital available to businesses, vs. the overabundance of capital and debt shoved into housing. The Reserve Bank providing funds for lending that rather than stimulate business, flow straight into asset prices.

That's effectively what I'm doing. Started buy properties a few years ago and looked in buying a few business a bit later. Have now firmly decided to stick to what I'm doing.


F#@k all + 27% still equals f#@k all. What are we talking $1/hr raise each year? So 2k p.a over 4 years for a 40 hr week? I reckon most people have seen such increases, well for my fellow 60,000 nurses we have seen more than this :)

Government workers might have all had big % increases, but for those of us working in the private sector, we haven't. The last 4 years haven't been easy years.

Wow. Anything to protect the rent ponzi. The usual will be along to claim rent increases.

Really means asking employers to help the govt which pays accommodation supplement to be kind to landlords ;)

I fully expect the government to announce an increase in the accommodation supplement to cover the inevitable increase in rents, and that this will be paid for by the increased tax income from removing interest deductibility on rental properties. And so the money-go-round continues.

I get the feeling it's not about putting the right amount of money in the right bank accounts, it's all about the velocity of money, endlessly chasing its own tail.

Yay, more ill thought out policies on the way!


I'm an employer and I have some lower wage staff (cleaners). I actually don't mind the minimum wage increasing by 27% in 3 1/2 years. I want the system to favour people working over being on the benefit


The wider problem is that this nation needs workers for unsexy basic tasks such as sweeping the bus stations, emptying litter bins, clearing gutters and drains, and on and on. If that work is not done all and sundry will soon complain including the fat cats in their penthouses. The renumeration and bonuses of “high executives” has sky rocketed most obscenely this century and more. To put it figuratively those in the penthouse play lavishly while those in the basement toil unremittingly to tend the boilers and take out the trash ending up,for all their effort, little above subsistence. It is a huge, ghastly and undemocratic disparity in fair and measured equality, and as much as I doubt and distrust this government, better rewards for the bottom line workers in our society is neither a unworthy nor extravagant cause.

You forgot to mention property investors also need those employed in unsexy occupations to pay the rent, which is also about to increase.

Here, here

You're right, it does need workers for those unsexy tasks. If people are unwilling to do the work, the employers will have to increase the remuneration on offer.

"High executives" take on a great deal more stress and have a skillset which is far more rare. They're also capable of enormous transformation of organizations. See Bezos, Musk - they're worth every cent.

Yes & no. The two large NZ corporates Fletchers & Fonterra have been extraordinary successful lobbyists and influencers at government level particularly during that of the last National lot. Subsequently though, hardly a shining example on performance being illustrated on the balance sheet. My suggestion would be that the high ranking executive and CEOs played a greater part in that than the minions down on the shop floor.

And Theo Spierings

Well said.


The problem isn't the level of the minimum wage - it's what that wage can buy.
And in a society where we legislate a goal of 2% minimum CPI rise per annum, we are just shooting ourselves in both feet every year.
Efficient businesses and countries create more product of a better quality at a lower price. Yet by mandating 'inflation' we will never achieve those goals.

If we aimed for 0% or minus CPI 'growth' whatever the minimum wage is, or whatever anyone earns goes further; we buy more, we make more and employ more workers in the process.
But sadly, our debt soaked society(s) can't handle any of that.

One day we'll realise that 'Inflation targeting' has had its day, and as it has been for some goodly time now, is highly counter-productive.
Only by returning value to money (i.e. what a wage can buy) can we assist those who need it. But that means a higher price for money (% rate) and cheaper goods (lower asset prices) and that will be fought by the sheer mass of the indebted - private and public - every step of the way.

Yes, continual tuning to pressure us to bring forward expenditure (borrow) has played out to a choke point.
Combine that with societies that increasingly bleat for govts to fix stuff and save everyone and we get what we deserve.

Makes sense to me, if the government wants to normalise asset (housing) prices it needs sustained inflation and the only way it gets sustained inflation is increasing wages. We'll probably get a real bump next year when borders reopen anyway, why not ride the wave?

Business got huge Covid support, time for them to pay it forward

You cannot be serious. The government forced a lot of businesses to cease to do business, then offered limited compensation.

13.1 Billion and saved them by keeping Covid out. So yeah serious.

What about the hundreds of businesses that have failed because they were forced to close for lock-downs etc and the only real support they got was for wages that went directly to staff

Can you look at COVID-19-related economic impacts and business failures in the open for business USA and still think it's the fault of the lockdowns not the pandemic? And coverage that has highlighted that New Zealand has had less bad economic impacts than countries that have not had as effective non-medical interventions?

Yaay.. opportunity to increase rents, proportion to that increases.. No govt willing to impose prolong rent freeze & DTI for all - The numbers must be up, because in the current environment. Numbers instill the confidence.

That should cover the increased cost of food. Cheers gummint

..which will further increase due to increased staffing costs, which in turn will hurt those on minimum wage with lower disposable incomes.

Fundamentally anyone who is against a 'living wage' being set at a reasonable level, is essentially voting for some form of slavery/bondage. A lot of the modern franchise chains are very good at this, e.g. the 'zero hour' contracts.

There is nothing wrong with zero hour contracts provided you are not tied to one employer. If that employer picks up the phone and says i need you and you indicate you have other work at the time, tough on the employer.

murray86 the cost of living quite obviously varies in different parts of the country yet there is a single "living wage" set for the whole country. As other posters mentioned there are also big cost of living differences between e.g. a teenager living at home and a sole breadwinner supporting a family. The concept of a standard national "living wage" is a joke.

Murray you cannot vote to be more productive. You need to upskill and up educate. Watch the youth unemployment stats start to rise.
NZ business inc should fund a kid to take a legal case against this govt. The argument would be that I can't get a job because you are penalizing employers by pricing me out of the market. Freedom of choice to provide my services for a $ that I am okay with.
Freedom verse socialism

Productivity is an often misunderstood concept in the work environment. Fundamentally an individual can only do so much, this can be supported by good training, practice and functional work layout. But for a business it is more than this. It is about investing in tools, machinery and technology to enable their staff to do more. A company I used to work for making safety helmets spent in the vicinity of $30K on a big press which was used to cut blanks for visors and other items. One of the owners told me it stretched them to find the money to do it but the uplift in productivity meant that the press paid for itself in under six months instead of the expected three years. They told me it was the best investment they had ever made. So you are right, you cannot vote to be more productive, but you can individually and as a team, and business work to support productivity. Just exhorting people to do more is not doing this.

and your law suit would fail because 'This Government' didn't create the situation NZ is now in. The Lange Government of 1981 did when they introduced Rogernomics, and no Government since has been prepared to admit it wasn't working.

Interestingly David Lange was rabidly anti-American, and I often wonder that if he had known that Rogernomics was an economic model created by Milton Friedman and heavily pedalled by the Americans across the world, would he have agreed to it's implementation here? Regardless it is clear that at that time across the world no one understood what the consequences of that model would be.

Some odd comments about rent increases and upping the minimum wage. Rent increases are part of the overall housing situation caused to a large extent by Labour's and the previous Nat govt housing policy. Minimum wage is to ensure "slave" wages aren't paid and cover CPI increases. Not because rents have gone up. Next those who tie minimum wage to rent increases will conveniently forget if rent goes down. Bit like Unions who demand wage increases citing a companies high profits but keep quiet when profits are down.

This could well be the straw that breaks the camels back for all those little business's who have been hit so hard by government-imposed lockdowns. I see further exodus from the CBDs, with resultant vacancies and ghosttownisation...

Increased costs will be passed on to the consumer. Relatively, this harms those on minimum wage more, just like the increased rents will. That's assuming those individuals still have a job. Minimum wage workers are generally easier to outsource or automate, if their employer survives the increased costs.

This government is determined to create more poverty while giving the appearance of "helping". A process of increasing the size of their base - low information and gullible voters and those that want more "help".

"Increased costs will be passed on to the consumer." Except where that will make them anti-competitive so they really can't

Let's hope Labour raise the minimum wage to $21.90 or more- it'll be good for everyone.

Increasing the minimum wage is a cost to employers and workers. Any increase gives the government more tax revenue! If the government is so concerned on people’s living condition why not give a tax free threshold like many other countries including Aus & Uk ?