The Value of Work

In my humble opinion Robyn Kahukiwa is a national treasure. 

Her art has supported political movements, changed lives and adorned walls in wealthy homes. It makes me very sad that the print she sold at the Kapiti Arts Trail was going towards her panel beating bills.  I’m sure she was relieved to sell it, but really is this how we value people who contribute so much to our society?

Speaking of national treasures I think the people (mostly women) who look after our  elderly/older people are amazing. While there can definitely be personal rewards for caring for people in the later years of life, I don’t think many of them get to experience these rewards very often as part of their paid work.

 All we have to do is imagine ourselves as old and infirm or suffering from dementia to realise these are the workers on whom many peoples’ entire lives, let alone quality of life, depends. To pay them the minimum wage of $13 per hour is to my mind, an abuse of power and an exploitation of their labour. That’s less than $500 per week for working full time in a physically and emotionally demanding job with life and death consequences.

These wages are keeping people and their children in poverty. Their labour is   subsidising the quality of life of other New Zealanders, because we do not value them.

To paraphrase Helen Kelly from a meeting the other night – we need to actually put it out there that, according to our labour laws, we no longer expect someone working full time to earn a wage that will pay their basic expenses. In our major cities less than $500 pw will not enable an inidividual, let alone a family, to live healthily.

What has happened in this country that we allow that, and at the same time, allow some CEOs to earn over $2,500 per hour?

 To believe this is wrong is not a politic of envy or nostalgia.

 To pretend that trickle down economics works for all of us is dishonest.

I don’t believe most New Zealanders think that we’re all better off because the CE of Westpac earned of $5.5 Million dollars and the 150 people on the rich list got $7billion dollars richer last year.

 In fact, I think I remember most of us being told to tighten our belts because we were in a recession.

 As a global community, and as a country, we desperately need to reassess how we value work and what kind of societies we want to live in. 

A good start would raising the top tax rate, and setting the minimum wage at 2/3rds of the average. Then we could actually cost out how much is needed to live healthily and participate in society and maybe even consider a Universal Basic Income to ensure everyone, including our national treasures, can do that.


One response to “The Value of Work

  1. Thanks for the”Ups” Jan. Re your blog…ain;t that the truth!

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