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Real incomes fall 4 pct, CTU says

Contributor:
Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Bill Rosenberg
Bill Rosenberg

Wellington, Oct 7 NZPA - Figures showing median weekly incomes have stagnated for two years, mean that when adjusted for inflation they have fallen more than 4 percent, the Council of Trade Unions says.

Figures from Statistics New Zealand (SNZ) today show the median weekly income for all people from all sources fell between the June 2009 and June 2010 quarters by 1.7 percent to $529. That compares with $538 in the June 2009 quarter and $536 in the June 2008 quarter.

More people are also receiving money from the Government while the self-employed earned less and investment income fell.

CTU policy director and economist Bill Rosenberg said the survey showed that living standards had fallen during the past two years.

Median weekly wage and salary income, for those receiving it, rose by 1.2 percent to $769 in the June 2010 quarter. That was the lowest recorded rise in the measure since the June 1999 quarter, SNZ said.

Since the June 2009 quarter, the proportion of people receiving wage and salary income slipped from 54.1 percent to 53.5 percent.

"When looking at men and women separately, however, there are larger movements: for those receiving it, wage and salary income increased 4 percent for men and 4.3 percent for women," Mr Rosenberg said.

"What appears to have happened is that households and the workforce have become more dependent on lower paid women's work during the recession, so that both household income and the overall median wage and salary increase have not risen nearly as fast."

The proportion of people receiving income from government transfers, such as benefits, rose to 33.8 percent from 32.6 percent in the June 2009 quarter.

Since the June 2009 quarter the number of people receiving government transfers had risen by 54,400 or 4.9 percent, while over two years the increase was 88,100 or 8.3 percent, SNZ said.

In the year to June 2010, median weekly income from government transfers, for those receiving it, edged down $4 to $269.

Age group rises in the number of people receiving government transfers since the June 2009 quarter included an increase of 13,100 people in the 15-19 age group, 17,600 in the 20-24 group, and 17,400 in the 65 and over group.

The rises in the 15-19 and 20-24 groups were consistent with the fall in the labour force participation rate and a rise in the unemployment rate for those groups, SNZ said.

For those receiving income from self-employment, median weekly income fell $38 or 6.3 percent to $575. For those in the 40-44 age group self-employment median weekly income fell $288 to $479, while the 55-59 group recorded a rise of $153 to $767.

The CTU's Mr Rosenberg said the size of the fall in self-employed income showed the importance of wages and salaries, not only to provide relatively secure incomes for people, but as a stabiliser in the economy in times of recession.

It showed why workers had reason to resist actions to push them out of regular employment into insecure self-employed contractor positions, he said.

Median weekly income from investments, for those receiving it, fell by $3 to $12. In the June 2008 quarter, income from investments had been at its highest recorded level of $19.

Since the June 2009 quarter, the number of people receiving income from investments fell by 81,700 people, or 7.2 percent.

The median weekly household income from all sources was $1236 in the June 2010 quarter, barely changed from $1234 a year before, and still below the $1257 in the June 2008 quarter.

The average weekly household income from all sources was $1484 in the latest year, also barely changed from $1480 a year earlier.

Labour Party leader Phil Goff said the survey results were "another kick in the guts" for low-income New Zealanders.

"Things are getting worse," he said.

"Petrol, electricity and food prices are all going up... the worst thing is that Kiwis can look forward to even more depressing news over the next year with latest forecasts that inflation will range from 4 percent to 5 percent."

Mr Goff said the Government's latest economic plan was to hope things would get better in the summer.

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