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Census 2013: increase in inequality

Written By: - Date published: 9:15 am, December 4th, 2013 - 26 comments
Categories: benefits, class war, john key, poverty, same old national, unemployment, wages - Tags:

Yesterday Stata NZ released a lot of data gathered from the 2013 census.  I and others queried the income statistics reported yesterday in the NZ Herald.  Today Jared Savage in the NZ Herald has provided a more comprehensive article on the growth in the rich poor divide, as revealed by this year’s census [h/t Puddleglum].

The gap between the rich and the poor appears to be widening with the number of Kiwis earning more than $100,000 increasing by nearly three quarters.

More than 181,000 people – or 5 per cent of the population – have a six-figure salary, up from 105,525 people seven years ago, according to the 2013 national Census data released yesterday.

And while the number of women on six-figure salaries has doubled since the 2006 Census they make up only 25 per cent of the total earning more than $100,000.

The statistics show median income has increased from $24,400 to $28,500 but the figure has not kept pace with the inflation rate – calculated to be $28,694 to have the same purchasing power.


Herald analysis of the income figures show a 90 per cent rise in people earning between $70,001 and $100,000 – from 125,115 to 238,212 – and a 40 per cent increase in those bringing home between $50,000 and $70,000.

Of those earning more than $100,000 41 per cent live in Auckland, 19 per cent in Wellington and 12 per cent in Christchurch.

Censes income gap 2006 & 2013

Comparison 2006 and 2013 incomes: income brackets from “loss” & “zero” to 100k +: original graph at NZ Herald

Savage also reports on the way gender differences have changed somewhat since 2006.  There gains in education and in the numbers of women in higher income brackets.  however, this has not been matched by gains in the average wage for women, with women on low incomes suffering most.

Women are a fifth more likely to have a degree than men, but women’s incomes lag behind men’s because women are still more likely to do more unpaid child-minding.

The median wage gap between men and women widened by $1000, with the income difference between the sexes increasing from $12,400 to $13,400. Men earn $36,500 and women $23,100, according to the median income figures, up from $31,500 and $19,100 respectively.

The number of women on six-figure salaries has doubled from 22,824 to 45,294 since the 2006 Census.

In this context, an article today on Stuff shows the inhumane and punitive impacts of Paula Bennett’s welfare reforms.  They have a particularly harsh impact on mothers in rural communities.

A Waikato woman with no car or access to a bus walked the equivalent of a marathon to make a Work and Income appointment, to stop her benefit getting cut off.

Sarah Warren, a Putaruru mother of four who has been on the benefit for the past 20 years, walked from Putaruru to Tokoroa twice in the past month after receiving a letter from Work and Income requiring her to attend a mandatory meeting.

With no car and no public transport available she completed the 25-kilometre return journey on foot.

“If you didn’t turn up they cut your benefit off,” she said.

Warren said she was shortsighted, but did not have her glasses on either trip.

She said she could “hardly see” as she walked along the side of the road while cars and trucks roared past.

After finishing her hour-long appointment she had to hurry home to her four children before school finished.

“I was rushing to try and get back.”

Her case manager was not interested in finding a solution, she said.

“They didn’t care how I got there. They didn’t want to hear about my situation.”

See also NZ Income Survey: June 2013 Quarter, [h/t Puddleglum] for more details incomes, including:

*Median weekly income from wages and salaries (for those receiving income from this source) was $844, up $38 (4.8 percent).

*Median hourly earnings were $21.58, up 72 cents (3.5 percent).

*Median weekly income for all people from all sources was $575.

John Key’s New Zealand: a brighter future for the well-off; more struggle and hardship for those on low incomes.

26 comments on “Census 2013: increase in inequality”

  1. Enough is Enough 1

    An utter disgrace and the shame of this country.

    This shows progressive goverments since 1984 have been a disaster for 95% of New Zealanders.

    I have no problem with people earning 100K plus, so long as that median income is increasing at a rate a lot higher than inflation.

    The reality is that is impossible under the current system we live.

    • Crunchtime 1.1

      You mean “successive” governments. None of them have been particularly progressive.

  2. infused 2

    Maybe the women living in a rural area can move then?

    • Draco T Bastard 2.1

      Probably not. Probably can’t afford to (moving is expensive) and then there would also be the disruption to her children which could cause all sorts of problems.

      • QoT 2.1.1

        Draco, we’ve already established she can walk to Tokoroa, so obviously she’s just being lazy when she says moving is difficult. And children aren’t people, you just pack them away in boxes until they’re 18, so that’s that problem solved.

    • Macro 2.2

      yeah right!!
      Maybe you think up a better solution to her problem..
      Maybe you could display a bit of humanity..

  3. infused 3

    Ah cool, in moderation again. Wonder what Ive done this time…

    “”There’s no fulltime jobs around here. They [Work and Income] say you might have to move out of town to look for a fulltime job, but my kids are happy where they are.””

    Seriously, move.

    [karol: there’s some sort of technical glitch. This morning a large amount of comments have got caught up in auto-moderation. They keep being released, so I think Lynn must be onto it and trying to sort it out. A lot of them ARE spam]

    • Lanthanide 3.1

      Off topic, but I really think Lynn should investigate a system where comments from well-known (and trusted) pseudonyms are not put into spam.

      Or, let us login or something.

      [karol: Lynn has commented on another thread that there is a problem with the auto-moderation at the moment. A deluge of spam is causing the auto-mod to malfunction, so trusted pseudonyms and non-suspicious comments are just waiting for manual moderation rather than being automatically cleared. He will try to sort it out when he can].

      • Lanthanide 3.1.1

        My point is that if the auto-moderation system goes haywire, trusted pseudonyms shouldn’t be affected by it, because they should be bypassing the system entirely.

        • lprent

          That is feasible to do. But it is tricky because of the number of plugins that are interested in comments.

          The obvious way is to count approved comments. But that turns out to be one of the most expensive calcs in the system.

          • Tat Loo (CV)

            Have a reference table of high count commentators which is updated once per quarter?

    • Roy 3.2

      So you are saying the happiness and stability of children doesn’t matter?

    • blue leopard (Get Lost GCSB Bill) 3.3

      @ Infused

      It is not that easy to move when on a benefit or low income.

      Winz will help with costs if one has a job to go to.
      It requires money, however, to get that job.

      For someone who has a lack of money and a lack of work in her work record such as the woman cited, getting a job is not a ‘sure thing’: not quite as simple as it sounds.

      Even if she could find work, due to the poor rates of pay that has become the norm, a shift from a rural setting to somewhere more urban is not guaranteed to improve her circumstances. Rents and costs can be a lot higher in urban areas. The job has to be pretty decent in order to make a move an improvement.

      There are human factors too which make this a difficult choice, uprooting her kids and losing a social support network of friends.

      Of course moving may improve a person’s financial circumstances however I am merely listing some of the unseen factors involved in moving when in that type of situation – it is something that sounds like an ‘easy fix’, yet is not as certain as one may think, especially with the low wages and high rents that we are experiencing and that have been encouraged by successive governments’ political approaches.

    • Tat Loo (CV) 3.4

      The govt needs to implement a full employment scheme for those 25 and under. Jobs should be provided in or near local communities to minimise disruption to family and social networks.

  4. Wayne 4

    These graphs are more difficult to interpret than a quick look might indicate. You will note a large increase in the top bands, a reduction in the middle and an increase in the bottom.

    There is a 7 year period between the census results, with a GFC and around 20 to 25% inflation and wage increases between the two periods.

    But the middle range of income is quite low, and is probable that a large number of these people have simply moved into the upper bands as their salaries increased. Effectively the middle bands are lower than median wages and salaries which are around $50,000 these days.

    Similarly unemployment has increased since 2006, which would account for the increase in the bottom three bands.

    So some careful analysis will be needed to assess whether they really indicate increased inequality (though higher unemployment will always give this outcome).

    • karol 4.1

      Yes, Wayne I noticed the drop in the middle bands, which was there in 2006 and 2013, especially the 25k-40k bands. It is impossible to know form the graphs what is happening there. But those income ranges are also the incomes of many working in the public sector.

      There’s a noticeable drop in the 10k-15k bracket from 2006-2013, and a significant rise of the numbers of people on zero income from 2006 to 2013. The latter include unemployed people whose partners’ income disqualifies them from getting benefits.

      As quoted in my post yesterday, Stats NZ says the 2013 census shows the median wage is $28, 500.

      Of course unemployment is part of the reason for an increase in income inequality. Your comment implies that isn’t real inequality. What sort of system can increase the incomes of the highest paid, while those on lower incomes can’t even find work, increasing the costs to taxpayers of unemployment benefits or benefits for the low paid?

      Also the graphs would be impacted by more people on part time and/or casual work.

      • Wayne 4.1.1


        The report you cited refers to income not to wages, which I thought as soon as I read your post.

        Income covers all those on benefits, national super and part time jobs, such as students; not just those in full time jobs.

        However full time jobs generate higher incomes. For instance at the minimum wage of $13.75 the full time wage is $28,600. Median wages are much higher, around $880 pw or $45,760.

        • karol

          Well, Wayne the 2 kinds of stats show different things. But if we are talking about income inequalities, then the wider picture of those in part time and casual work, as well as beneficiaries need to be included.

          Part of the problem in recent years is the casualisation of work, and the fact that many can only find part time work.

          The figure of “zero income” is also important, showing how many households previously with more than one wage earner have probably dropped back to one wage earner.

    • geoff 4.2

      Wayne, what do you really care if inequality has increased anyway? Doesn’t that merely reflect that those who moved down really just deserved it? The winners win and the losers lose, right? It’s all good as long as it was the market that served the economic justice.

    • KJT 4.3

      What are you trying to say, Wayne?

      Higher unemployment does not increase inequality??? FFS.

      • Wayne 4.3.1


        Quite the reverse, I agree that unemployment increases inequality (which I said, albeit indirectly).

        That is why getting people into jobs is so important, which is why the Nats focus on growth so much. The view is that people progressively migrate to higher paid jobs the longer they are in the workforce. Now I know that is not true for everyone, which is why there is also a focus on increasing skills.

        • One Anonymous Knucklehead

          “Focus” – yeah I can imagine you all, focussing away. Doesn’t change the fact that you make the country less productive, though, does it?

          Poor righties, all aspiration, no delivery.

          • Wayne

            What! with just about the highest growth in the OECD, and on track to a surplus you can’t be serious. The country is obviously more productive than in 2009 (the depth of the GFC).

            You can criticise the Nats for many things, but the failure to achieve good growth is not one of them.

            • One Anonymous Knucklehead

              I said “less productive”, Dr. Mapp. That’s, like, y’know, a “comparison”. In this case between National and Labour-led governments.

              NZ population grew 0.7% last year. Economic growth was about the same. You were saying?

            • One Anonymous Knucklehead

              PS: growth for whom? Per capita GDP (Fact: always higher when the Left occupies the Treasury benches) is only one side of the coin when you pursue policies that exacerbate inequality, as you surely do.

            • KJT

              We won’t mention that current growth is due to a delayed cyclical coming out of the GFC, an increase in the price the “communists” pay for our milk, and an earthquake, will we?

              Not to mention getting out of the GFC in much better shape than most countries due to Cullens refusal to cut taxes and Keatings regulation of the Aussie banks, both policies which National would have reversed if they had been in pre-GFC. Just as well Labour was in for the preceding 9 years, wasn’t it?

              I will give credit, where it is due, to National for not hindering recovery too much. Especially for refusing to go towards “austerity” to the batshit extremes of some other Governments.

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