COVID-19’s ongoing impact on Kiwis’ wages revealed by the latest labour market survey are a grave concern, says Equal Employment Opportunities Commissioner Saunoamaali’i Karanina Sumeo.
Labour market statistics released yesterday for the June quarter revealed median incomes falling for the first time since records began in 1998, with Kiwis’ take home pay down 7.6 percent to $652 a week.
The income measure captures income from wages and salaries, government benefits such as superannuation and Jobseeker Support, and self-employment.
“These figures confirm what we already know: many workers from lower-income industries are reporting lower earnings, working fewer hours, or are out of work completely,” said Sumeo.
“The data reveals 76,300 people have been away from their jobs due to COVID-19. It’s our women, youth, Māori, Pacific, self-employed and disabled workers who are undoubtedly the worst affected.”
Sumeo was concerned with the persistent growth in the underutilisation rates which rose to 12.0 percent this quarter.
“These are our people who want to work. They are potential jobseekers, mums and dads working part-time that want their hours increased, young people out of tertiary institutions, and disabled and older workers who are waiting on opportunities to enter the job market. We are actively leaving them behind.
“We need to accept that COVID-19 has changed the way we work. Relying simply on job growth isn’t going to shift the imbalance and inequalities that the pandemic has worsened. Government and employers must get creative and innovative to ensure our vulnerable workers don’t fall through the cracks.”
The Commissioner called on the government to introduce targets for job opportunities for those most disadvantaged in its duty to ensure everyone has a decent standard of living, decent work, and freedom from discrimination.
“We really need to see an alignment between public investment, apprenticeships, tertiary education, and the job need to ensure there is inclusive economic recovery from COVID-19 otherwise we will continue to leave our vulnerable workers behind.”