Minimum wage set to increase to $20 an hour by 2021

New Zealand dollar 2The New Zealand Government has outlined plans to raise the minimum wage over the next three years, with incremental increases planned each year until 2021.

Workplace Relations and Safety Minister Iain Lees-Galloway said the hourly minimum wage would lift from $16.50 to $17.70 in April next year, to $18.90 in April 2020 and to $20 in April 2021.

“With the labour market tight and unemployment at the lowest since 2008 at 3.9 per cent, now is the right time to lift the wages of our lowest paid New Zealanders,” Lees-Galloway said.

According to First Union general secretary Dennis Maga, minimum wage increases mean more food on the table for New Zealand workers, who are not able to live off of the current minimum wage.

“It will mean almost an extra $50 a week on a full time (40-hour) work week,” Maga said.

“These increases will begin to close the gap between the rich and the poor which has been growing over the last 30 years. This is a change that is heading in the right direction.”

The Living Wage Movement Aotearoa New Zealand has long campaigned to have the minimum wage raised to a ‘living wage’ of $20.55 an hour – enough money to survive and participate in society.

“Workers in this country deserve to earn enough to live a decent life but hundreds of thousands do not,” Annie Newman, national convenor of the Living Wage Movement, said.

Newman explained the increase would also benefit local businesses, with workers on the lowest wages tending to spend a higher proportion of their income in the local economy.

“The time has come to turn our backs on being a low wage economy and create a kinder, more sustainable and more equitable society for future generations,” Newman said.

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