We are not all in this together, and that must change

The Public Service Association says New Zealanders should be ashamed by poverty and extreme inequality around us, and with election campaigning now formally underway the union urges politicians to make bold policy proposals that address the crises plaguing our communities.

UNICEF recently ranked 41 wealthy nations based on child wellbeing, and the aid organisation assigned New Zealand a painful 35th place. The PSA says this aligns with information provided by its own members.

"Tens of thousands of PSA members work in government agencies desperately trying to mitigate the worst symptoms of New Zealand’s poverty and inequality crisis. We welcomed the Labour-led government’s investments in housing and healthcare, but the government that forms after October 17 must do more and do it better," says PSA National Secretary Erin Polaczuk.

"It’s gut-wrenchingly clear the old ways of doing things have failed us, and governments must do more than tinker around the edges. We are campaigning in this election for politicians to sign up to the Aotearoa Wellbeing Commitment, and we believe they should be judged by how well their policies compare to its proposals."

Surveys of PSA members conducted prior to Covid-19 make for difficult reading. Two thirds of Auckland-based respondents say the housing crisis negatively affects them, with almost sixty percent considering leaving the city.

In many regions a significant majority of PSA members who rent say they spend most of their income on housing, with a staggering 84% of Wellington respondents trapped in such circumstances.

In more recent months the PSA brought together academics and policy experts to prepare papers and discuss possible futures for this country. Their research suggests life has deteriorated and will likely continue to worsen for many New Zealanders.

Previous pandemics created or worsened income inequality. Economists fear sixty-six percent of Māori workers will be negatively affected by Covid-19, and 72% of youth work in industries and occupations adversely affected by lockdown and the pandemic response.

Available data suggests the wealthiest one percent possess almost seventy times as much wealth as a typical New Zealander, and the PSA says it is time for urgent action on inequality.

The union supports calls to raise taxes on the rich, with a new rate of 50% on every dollar earned after $150,000 and an annual wealth tax targeting millionaires.

Half of New Zealanders agree the rich should pay more, and the PSA endorses such an increase in order to fund universal basic services such as healthcare, housing and the full implementation of the Welfare Expert Advisory Group’s recommendations.

"Sometimes bad policies and bad ways of thinking become entrenched over time, to the point where some people can’t imagine things being different. Not all New Zealanders are playing by the same set of rules," says Ms Polaczuk.

"If the rules are unfair for ordinary working people, if they allow a tiny minority to become obscenely rich while entire communities struggle to pay rent, we say those rules should be rewritten. We encourage New Zealanders to check out the Aotearoa Wellbeing Commitment’s proposals, and to vote for politicians who will commit to ensuring better outcomes for all."