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Rant mode: on - Tactical Ninja

Mar. 22nd, 2013

09:50 am - Rant mode: on

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So last night, the government of New Zealand passed the 'Starting Out Wage bill', the upshot of which is that 16-17 year olds are now not eligible for the full minimum wage, and 18-19 year olds who've been on a benefit for 6 months or longer are not either. The minimum wage in this country is $13.50 an hour, and the new 'youth rate' will be $10.80 an hour.

I did some maths, since my son is likely to fall into one of these categories. If he gets a full time job, working the standard 40 hour week (let's be ambitious - fact is he's more likely to get part time, casual or a 37.5 hour job), with a generous employer who pays $11 an hour, he'll gross a princely $440 a week. That's an annual 'salary' of $22,880. So his tax rate would be 10.5% for the first $14,000 and then 17.5% for the other $8,880.

*does some maths* So he'd be losing $3024 in tax/year off that. And let's not forget the compulsory (OK you can opt out but sensible folks don't) Kiwisaver input that's going up to 3% - that's another $686.40, for a total of $3710.40 off that $22,880 gross he'd earn. *does more maths* That boils down to $19,710 a year, or $368 a week he'd get in his hand.


So how does that work with cost of living?

To start with, Victoria University has done the hard yards for the benefit of their students and calculated that the average living cost in Wellington for 40 weeks is about $18,000 - which is under what he'd be earning if he worked full time. Just. It doesn't allow for any kind of savings, buffer or dealing with general emergencies. And there are another 12 weeks he'd have to pay for as a non-student, that Vic seems to assume will be covered by parents.

The flatting expense list totals $14,600, which is better, but it makes some assumptions about the cost of things that I don't necessarily agree with - like, transport only being $25 a week. Sure, if you bus to uni from the central city, but if you have to train out to Weltec? Or work in the Hutt or Porirua? Not so much. And if you put that other 12 weeks back in, even at this rate it adds up to $18,980. This means my son will have a grand total of $730 a year ($14 a week) as discretionary income - or to pay for any medical expenses or emergencies. Savings, what savings?

Anyway, the point is that the youth rates seem to assume that young people have lower expenses than older people. True, they probably don't have mortgages, but if they are paying $155 in a flat with 2 other people, they are paying someone's mortgage, you know? And in case you haven't met my son, $70 a week for food would mean he basically lived on noodles. He's almost twice my size and needs twice as much food, not half as much. His clothes cost more and he wears them out faster because he has fewer of them and can't afford to buy quality ones.

This wage will basically tie young people into a poverty cycle at a time when they are most vulnerable. Here's an article on Scoop that does a pretty good job of expressing how I feel about this.

And yeah, if he studies he's not eligible for an allowance at all because of my income. It's almost as if the government wants to keep young people living at home with their parents for longer and longer, because that's the only way most will be able to survive in these circumstances.

And going back to the YoT's quest for work. The government seems to think that the youth rates will make employers more likely to give teenagers a go, because of being able to pay them less. Let's just imagine that this is true for a minute. My son is about to turn 18 (in 2 months). He hasn't been on a benefit, ever. So right now, if he gets a job they'll be able to pay him youth rates till he turns 18, then they'll have to pay him full adult rate. I suspect it's much more likely they'll want to employ someone they can keep on youth rate for a year or more.

And then after he turns 18, he'll be eligible for full rate because of not having been on a benefit. I suspect that employers are more likely to want to employ someone who's been on a benefit for 6 months (after all, as a teenager that means nothing), and again he'll get passed up. It almost seems as if going on a benefit is a better option for him, because then he'll be more likely to be looked at - because employers will then be able to pay him less till he's 20, and he'll have to be grateful because "at least you have a job!"

It makes me spit tacks.


Guess who had the fun news of breaking this to him this morning? His response:

"I really don't know what to say, It almost feels like putting an effort in is a waste of time now. How in the hell is this supposed to encourage anyone to go out and get turned down repeatedly? This just means people are going to sit on the benefit longer."

And my heart breaks again. Fuck you, John Key and your rich cronies, for fucking up our country's employment laws, destroying jobs and trying to break my kid's will before he even gets started.

Never mind that this is part of a wider discrimination against young people that we are all tacitly party to. They are the most statistically marginalised group in our society, half the people this applies to aren't even allowed to vote, and now it's legal to pay them less as well - a law passed by people who have all the rights and privileges of full citizens and probably make at least four times the wage they just condemned these kids to.

Seriously, John Key and the National government, fuck you.

Comments:

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From:ferrouswheel
Date:March 21st, 2013 09:26 pm (UTC)
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Disregarding the problems with this law change, I really don't think Tommy should be aiming for the minimum wage.

When I was 17 I worked for $5/hour in 1999 at Pak and Save. Even accounting for inflation, it was peanuts and not worth wasting my time. It'd be better to spend the time learning new and valuable skills, which I realised after 2 months of mind numbing work, so I quit and resolved to skip the whole expectation the one needs to spend years in crappy low paying jobs.
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From:phaetonschariot
Date:March 21st, 2013 09:30 pm (UTC)
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Okay. So what should he do instead? He can't get a student allowance, Tats can't afford to support him, and you can only borrow I think $174 or something a week on student loan living costs.
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From:tatjna
Date:March 21st, 2013 09:38 pm (UTC)
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I can afford to support him. I'm supporting him right now, and unlike the government, I don't think that turning 18 will make him somehow cost more to keep.

However, he doesn't want to be a child forever, he wants to get work, leave home, get his own life going. He's about to become an adult (in everything except right to equal pay apparently). He will continue to look for work or study, and he'll apply for whatever benefits he's eligible for, and I'll keep supporting him to the extent that he can't support himself.

Hopefully he'll find something that's not a crappy minimum-wage job, and he'll be able to move out before he's 25.
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From:Will Marshall
Date:March 21st, 2013 10:50 pm (UTC)
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When I was 16 I spent about a year learning how to program computers, while supported by my parents.

When I was 17 I started working full-time, with an entry-level salary of $45k.

That particular path might not be the one for Tommy, *but* there are loads of paths he can take to achieve financial independence that don't involve working dead-end minimum wage jobs.
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From:ferrouswheel
Date:March 21st, 2013 09:43 pm (UTC)
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The internet is a wealth of knowledge and training, and Tats isn't alone in supporting him.
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From:pythia
Date:March 21st, 2013 10:03 pm (UTC)
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So you're suggesting further study, or an apprenticeship or something? Probably not a bad idea, because there's pretty much no way he'll get hired on anything but minimum wage. Even skilled workers with experience are pretty much on minimum wage, now.
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From:tatjna
Date:March 21st, 2013 10:07 pm (UTC)
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Except in ICT, apparently, which doesn't seem to play by the rules of other industries.

One of the problems with the YoT and ICT is that everyone and their dog has been trying to push him down that road since he was about 13, but he's yet to find anything about the work that floats his boat - to him it's a bit like being a lawyer was for me - everyone said I would be good at it but it looked like a lot of boring work with no interest for me.

I am trying to work out ways of helping him find some interest in an aspect of something like web development, because that's essentially where the future is. But I'm not the best person for that job, knowing almost zero about it.
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From:anna_en_route
Date:March 21st, 2013 10:21 pm (UTC)
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ICT might be heading for a little bit of trouble if the Telecom 1500 person layoff story is true.
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From:pythia
Date:March 21st, 2013 11:30 pm (UTC)
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My brother has the same problem. Everyone told him because he liked playing with computers and was good at it, that's what he should do. He never completed any of the courses he got pushed into and never got a job in it. Now he's working building roofing frames and trusses, and is quite happy doing it.
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From:tyellas
Date:March 21st, 2013 09:26 pm (UTC)
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On a related note, I just sent you a PM...
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From:t_c_da
Date:March 21st, 2013 09:47 pm (UTC)
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I suspect our principal job from here to the next election is to convince as many electors as possible to get off their butts and go vote at the election, and thus take out their wrath on the hopeless idiots ruining this fine country.
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From:tatjna
Date:March 21st, 2013 09:49 pm (UTC)
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I think a sizeable chunk of the youth vote just went elsewhere, anyway..
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From:pixiebelle
Date:March 21st, 2013 10:06 pm (UTC)
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Wow, I had no idea any of this was going on over there. My country is pretty effed up with employment laws as it is, so I understand his sentiment. Right now, I make more on unemployment than any job I could get... and if I try to go back to school to enhance my skills? Or get a part time job to build skills? I have to report it to unemployment, they stop all my benefits until they can interview and determine if I'm still eligible, meaning I go 3-4 weeks with no income if I try to better myself.

So who the fuck is going to try and do that, huh? so instead, I keep trying to find a job that doesn't exist that pays enough so I can afford the basic rent where I live.

I don't get why people don't see how stupid stuff like this is. Sorry for the rant, but I feel your son's pain here. Ugh. Just ugh.
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From:tatjna
Date:March 21st, 2013 10:09 pm (UTC)
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Rant away, it's a pretty fucked up approach and the more people see and understand that, the more this kind of bullshit policy is likely to get voted out.
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From:rivet
Date:March 22nd, 2013 01:34 am (UTC)
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I empathise. I strongly encouraged Missy to go to university, because that is the only way I knew how to get from where she was to where I am. She tried, but was not ready, didn't know what she wanted, and learned that at high cost. What I really *wanted* was for her to have choices and never get trapped in bad situations like her mother and grandmother (and great grandmother, ad nauseum). But I was blinkered by my own experience of how to achieve that.

Your experience is very relevant here, but it's also a sticky story for you. Are there ways in which you are letting your fear blind you and him to other possibilities?
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From:tatjna
Date:March 22nd, 2013 01:39 am (UTC)
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Hearing what Joel has to say about this has made me realise how tied I am into the working-class view of how to get ahead, which is essentially to take a crap job and train for a better one.

I have no idea of how to go into business for yourself and my observed experience of startups has left me with a dim view of them. I don't discount them (ask the YoT one day about how he does on the auction houses in video games) but I am not the right person to be talking with him about this option.

I know he's not ready for uni, and my strong advice to him not to go down that road is, I think, quite sensible. But I'm not sure what the other options are. I totally would have run off and joined Sea Shepherd at his age. ;-)
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From:rivet
Date:March 22nd, 2013 03:19 am (UTC)
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Living with Will has given me the inside view on what I used to perceive as the rich/arrogant 'rules are for other people' camp. It's given me quite a bit more insight into the degree to which I look for rules and then accept them as given. That's working class habitus in action in my middle class life, and it's not a very good recipe for getting different results. I don't choose to live like most other people, so why not apply that creativity and self-determination to my expectations about work?

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From:c_maxx
Date:March 22nd, 2013 10:33 pm (UTC)
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Hi Tat,

I totally went the path being discuessed as well, after dropping out of my first college career at 21. Often volunteering as an intern or even getting that shit job sweeping a floor is a good way to get a foot in the door in a trade, which can bring in money later in life in a college career, just as you are doing. And can take some courses to explore subjects in the meantime.

I swept the floor and drove the delivery van at a m/c shop while I slowly learned, and was trained, to be a mechanic.

At 25 I got interested in $ and went into the oil drilling business as crew/training technologist, but at least was making some money in my late 20's. I would recc "engineering drilling" (soils & geological exploration) as a better field though.

By my early to mid 30s it was getting obvious I needed a college degree if I really wanted to be a technologist/enginer, so spent 8 years working my way through day- and night school working as a, yes, mechanic and drilling supervisor for a little one-horse engineering company.

And this wandering -path- gave me the chance to learn what I wanted to do (I was taking single college courses occasionally through my 20's and early 30's- geology, math, intro'y geophysics). Chem almost crushed me when I went back at 36, but at least I had the math and science background, and motivation to kick my behind and get up to speed- five exams that semester, after the prof predicted crash and burn for almost everyone that started out with D's: D-, C-, A,A,A for a B average at the end of semester. Also I had quit a good job, so had to succeed!

Geology is a great field- outdoors a lot, but still a professional job. I enjoy civil engineering (geotechnical and water), but it may not be for everyone, I spend more time than I really like in an office. Mechanical eng is a good field for gear-head types, or environmental engineering or- political science! Change those blankety-blank politicians.

Someone's definition of political process-
"Politicians tell lies to the press,
then believe what they read in the newspapers." !
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From:downwardlashes
Date:March 22nd, 2013 02:59 am (UTC)
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Good god, so basically they looked at poor students and thought "They should be poorer"? Spitting tacks, indeed :(
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From:jaelle_n_gilla
Date:March 22nd, 2013 09:50 am (UTC)
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Maybe I'm repeating someone else's comment already but here goes:

And going back to the YoT's quest for work. The government seems to think that the youth rates will make employers more likely to give teenagers a go, because of being able to pay them less.

That is actually true you know. The long term benefit doesn't work out though. Germany had a program running for long-term unemployed people. For the first year (I think it was a year or year and a half) they'd cover a certain portion of the employee cost, like taxes, social security, etc. In effect that meant if an employer took such a person instead of someone else, they'd save almost half the money. a) A long-term unemployed is generally cheaper, and b) the government skips in.

So what happened naturally was that clever employers took such a person in, kept them for the duration of the program, then chucked them out again and took a new one, same procedure. And so on. Which meant, now that person had another record in their CV saying "after a certain time we didn't want you any more".

Germany is a no-fire country where every time you didn't leave on your own is a black spot on your record.

I expect the same to work in NZ, if I look at that scheme. On the other hand, your age simply passes. One day you won't be under 18 any more, and the smaller wage no longer applies.

From my own history I think it's pretty normal young people live on less money than older people. You luxory level goes up and up but never down. And if it does, it hurts. Starting low doesn't hurt nearly as much. But still, living single is much more expensive than living in a family and buying food and rent and such in a bundle.

I hope he gets some decent work to start a career from. x -_- x
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From:tatjna
Date:March 22nd, 2013 10:31 am (UTC)
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Yes, similar schemes have been run in New Zealand, with similar results. The same thing is likely to happen with this one, and the government in its *cough* infinite wisdom, has also brought in a 3-month probation period for employment where an employee isn't entitled to the same benefits as a 'permanent' one, and an employer can sack them with no reason given and without having to go through the usual processes such as warnings, training for improvement etc.

Basically, this government has decimated our employment protections in the name of 'job creation' by making it a supposedly supportive environment for businesses. However, the jobs haven't been created (50,000 more unemployed than before) and the competition for jobs has meant people are willing to accept casualisation and poorer conditions for the sake of working at all.

I was starting out in a similar employnment environment in this country 25 years ago, and I was 21 before I got my first 'proper' job - on one of those schemes where the government subsidised my wages for being long-term unemployed. I was made redundant when the subsidy ran out. I was then 29 before I got my next proper job, by which time we had a new government and I haven't looked back.

I wish better for my son. Yes, youth generally do start out with less, but there's the natural way of things and there's the environment of recession, poor economic management, job scarcity and artificially created competition (which is rigged to favour people like me, not people like him) that he's trying to start out in. It's like starting low, and then having the legs cut out from under you.
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From:tcpip
Date:March 22nd, 2013 11:37 am (UTC)
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Another thing worth noting is that increasing the minimum wage has next to zero effect on unemployment and may even increase labour force participation.

That's an annual 'salary' of $22,880. So his tax rate would be 10.5% for the first $14,000 and then 17.5% for the other $8,880. That's an annual 'salary' of $22,880. So his tax rate would be 10.5% for the first $14,000 and then 17.5% for the other $8,880.

An in Australia? It would be zero tax.
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From:elven_ranger
Date:March 22nd, 2013 12:33 pm (UTC)
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It makes me so angry that young people are ostracized - it happens here too. Then the officials wonder why the kids are difficult to deal with - well if they feel unwanted, demonised and marginalised, it is small wonder.

I ranted about the parent/ student issue yesterday but something else that upset me was the fact at lunch time I was queuing in the cafeteria for lunch, and some of the other staff came in and told me that teaching staff should always "push in" in the queue ahead of the students. (needless to say I refused, stating openly - yes in front of the kids stood around - we should be setting an example.)I have worked there for 4 years. I know I am allowed to push in, and I blatantly refuse to do so.

Edited at 2013-03-22 12:34 pm (UTC)
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From:wildilocks
Date:March 24th, 2013 03:06 am (UTC)
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Honestly? If an employee really wants to stick with a company instead of treating a job as a temporary job and nothing more (or even actively skives off and does the minimum necessary to "pass" - as the education system is increasingly encouraging mediocrity that really does seem to be the way many young people think these days) then a company would be mad to sack them after the probationary period. It takes months to teach people skills and get to know any job even a basic one, and it's certainly worth an extra couple of bucks an hour for an employee who has a good work ethic and appreciates having a job and isn't treating it as some god-given right. If you are going to go into a job thinking you're too good for it - just please don't, you're just going to disappoint your employer and make life harder for them as they have to choose yet another new employee to train up after they inevitably let you go.

Please note this only applies to SMALL businesses. Larger businesses need to have much stricter controls and shouldn't be allowed too take advantage of these kinds of schemes where they get cheaper labour they have no intention of keeping long term and are used to a certain amount of churn.

Also, AU has a "work for the dole" scheme which is pretty successful: people mainly get paid to do jobs which were previously in the realms of volunteer work only, as only not-for-profit organisations can apply to be part of the scheme. Does NZ have anything similar?

I also highly recommend busking, WWOOFing and doing short courses just out of interest - you never know who you might meet and where it might take you.
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From:goffburd
Date:March 24th, 2013 04:31 pm (UTC)
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It sounds like you have the same kind of government we have at the moment - I do sympathise. We can't get rid of ours until 2015, but I'm hoping that we won't have the same voter apathy that allowed this bunch of tossers to get in in the first place (well, that and the minority party that joined forces with them, and can now regard themselves and permanently unvoteable!)
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