Yesterday Micky put up a post about the good changes happening with employment rates and wage increases: Aotearoa New Zealand approaches full employment.
There are important points in the post and comments, about managing the economy, the EMA’s position of wanting 5% unemployment to help suppress wages, that full employment used to be 2% and few casual jobs, the problems in employment being measured as 1 hour of work per week.
So Labour doing what Labour do well within centre left governance, making important gains, and also leaving some significant gaps.
Then vto said this,
i find it astounding
that so few
to those 4% required
to be unemployed
shouldnt they be on the average wage?
For perspective, Micky reports that average weekly earnings are now $1,360. Unemployment benefit is $290 (gross, single person, no kids) plus whatever accommodation supplement can be gleaned.
Much of the mainstream sees the 4% as collateral damage, the price we pay for neoliberalism’s gifts I guess. What interests me here is how vto’s comment cuts through all that and opens a door to imagining how it could be different.
What if decided that everyone in New Zealand should have a certain standard of living?
Ad also laid out this vision,
I’m looking forward to an economy in which we never need seasonal workers for orchards (and massive investment in automation has happened), or imported labour for infrastructure projects, or imported fishermen, or imported nurses …
… where it gets so hard to find people to work that we start emptying our jails, even gangs find it hard to recruit to a life of crime…
… where the government and business have to pay so much per hour that arguments over a minimum or living wage become immaterial …
… where it’s so hard to get good people that companies invest thousands to put their prospects through Drivers License courses, Heavy Truck tickets, heavy electrical tickets, supervisor tickets…
… and we start to bring down the long-term unemployed numbers, those coming off ACC, the otherwise damaged and bereft and marginalised.
Maybe start to really lift this country.
And I added,
… where the government no longer feels the need to punish or take a stick to be beneficiaries over working and they remove the abatement process from wages while on a benefit, which frees up a large number of disabled and other people to work part time and flexi time.
To me the issue here isn’t how to manage the economy, but is more fundamentally about values. Do we want to accept the collateral damage, which is significant with its flow on effects into health, child poverty and welfare, the justice system, community resiliency and functionality, climate action? Do we want to consign a chunk of New Zealand to the underclass, a bigger than 4% chunk because we have to also acknowledge the people on 1 hour a week?
Or do we want something different, and what might that be? Here I’m not talking about whether Labour can change how it juggles the economy and the repressive forces in society within a neoliberal system. I”m talking about the values in New Zealand society, and whether we can imagine something better.
What would that look like? And how would a shift in values impact the political landscape?