Written By: - Date published: 11:43 am, January 21st, 2014 - 41 comments
Categories: capitalism, cost of living, economy, employment, greens, labour, news, poverty, same old national, spin - Tags: income inequality, precariat
Many MSM news outlets have been running National Party election promos, talking up the rising “confidence” in economic indicators. I have heard it said that the economy often responds positively to a belief that it is working OK, while lack of public and “market” confidence can result i n some financial nose dives. Apart from making economics looking more like astrology, and snake oil “power of positive thinking” promotions rather than a science, the question is , “Whose confidence is being heeded to?”
A press release and a “Business Desk” article on Scoop yesterday highlight that it is the confidence of the banks, “neoliberal” economists, corporates and middle income groups that tends to be highlighted most in the MSM and by those on the right wing of politics.
From the Scoop Business Desk, Suze Metherell’s article: ‘NZ employment confidence rises in 4Q, wary on wages‘ shows a division between confidence in “business growth” and confidence in employment conditions for workers:
While the latest index remains at the second highest level in the past two years, the reading remains subdued with on-going concern around labour market conditions and earnings growth, Westpac said.
She also reports on indicators that job seekers are finding it a little easier to find jobs. However, the increases tend to be in Canterbury, Wellington and Auckland, with job decline in many rural regions. The real kicker is in the last line of the article:
The rise in confidence was focused in middle-income groups, those earning between $30,000 to $70,000. Confidence rose for those aged 30 to 50, while the under-30s felt pessimistic about future employment options.
A press release from Andrew Little of the NZ Labour Party is more circumspect, although it curiously accepts the faming of a “booming economy” with the headline, ‘Booming economy will test labour market‘: after all the “labour market” is part of the economy. And I’d also question referring to workers as a “market”: this dehumanises their struggles for fair wages and working conditions. Missing also from that headline is any reference to those unable to participate in paid employment.
However, the main content of the press release does move a bit away from such framing.
“But a survey released by Westpac today suggests less confidence amongst workers, however, with many feeling less job security and fewer expecting a pay rise.
“The economy isn’t just investors and business owners, it is working people too – whether they are on a wage or salary or a contract fee – and in a properly functioning economy they should also see decent pay rises and better incomes this year.
The press release goes on to criticise Bill English’s faux concerns for workers.
In contrast the government’s changes to employment legislation during the last 6 years have made employment more precarious and less well paid.
“The real test of how fair our labour market rules are is the level of pay increases working New Zealanders will get this year, especially those not under a collective agreement.
On 17 January, Sue Moroney also questioned the way Paula Bennett has talked up the decrease in those on benefits, when people’s benefits are being cut whether or not they have paid jobs.
“We know that less than half of people coming of benefits each week are going into jobs. Unless the Minister can show that these 17,000 people have got decent jobs we have nothing to celebrate,” says Sue Moroney.“There are still 35,700 more people on benefits now than there were in December 2008, when Labour was the Government.”
Also on January 17, Green MP Jan Logie put the focus on another aspect of the economy that “rock star” reports ignore, the inequality gap. She begins with a reference to a World Economic Forum’s risk assessment that cites income inequality as having the potential to cause serious damage globally during the next decade.
Logie rightly blames right wing economic polices for the increase in the income gap in NZ between the mid 1980s and the mid 2000s. She argues that inequality is not a “natural state” but the result of choices made by politicians. And the National government is doing nothing to decrease income inequalities.
New Zealand had a proud history of being an egalitarian and relatively equal country. However that has changed and we now have big income gaps which are now acting as a barrier to most New Zealanders getting ahead.
“The average New Zealand is not getting a fair return on improvements in the economy. The wealth is going to only a few, otherwise wage growth would be better.
As Logie says, a strong economy is not indicated because the benefits will go to the wealthiest, while wages are expected to rise only by 1%.
If an inclusive, relatively egalitarian and sustainable future for New Zealanders hangs on the “confidence” of banksters, corporates, mainstream economists, right wing politicians and the comfortable middle classes – well, not a lot to inspire the confidence of the large number of people on meagre incomes and in precarious circumstances.