It's minimum versus living wage in the Waikato

Waikato Chamber of Commerce chief executive William Durning says people shouldn't confuse the living wage and minimum wage.
TOM LEE/FAIRFAX NZ

Waikato Chamber of Commerce chief executive William Durning says people shouldn't confuse the living wage and minimum wage.

The 50-cent increase to New Zealand's minimum wage has rekindled calls to introduce a "living wage rate" for all Kiwis.

But the man in charge of the Waikato Chamber of Commerce believes people have the two mixed up when talking about pay increases.

The minimum wage increased to $15.75 on April 1. The living wage rate is voluntary and for 2017 was calculated to be $20.20 per hour.

While 90 per cent of voters on a Neighbourly poll supported the minimum wage increase, many commentators pointed out it fell well short of a living wage and thought $15.75 was not enough.

But people tend to blend living wage and minimum wage into the conversation, as if they were the same thing, chamber president William Durning said.

"The minimum wage is a commitment we've made not only between the government and society, but it's something that, internationally, New Zealand agreed to.

"The living wage is a theoretical calculation of what it costs to live," he said.

"As a chamber of commerce we don't agree with the idea."

Durning said the chamber felt it was important to incentivise people to develop their skills, thus justifying a higher paying wage.

He believes the minimum wage is a good place for students or first-time employees to start.

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Also, it is difficult to determine a living wage across the country, when the cost of living varies in each town, he said.

"Let's not compare apples with pears. Living wage and minimum wage are two totally different animals and as a society we should be supporting a mature, responsible approach."

David McNab, from Nawton, hires students to help out around his house.

He's had a gardener work for him for a couple of months, and said he pays him $20 per hour.

"I feel it is quite important for an employer to send a message to their workers that they're valued and that they can support themselves from their earnings.

"Of course any increase is better than nothing. I do have empathy for certain business where they are competing with very aggressive overseas competition. The jump will, for some businesses, make them non-profitable."

McNab said it would be embarrassing to not pay his workers well, and would increase his remuneration if the living wage were to rise.

"I would want to get as close as I can to the living wage. I wouldn't do it any other way."

 - Stuff

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