Rant mode: on - Tactical Ninja
Mar. 22nd, 2013
09:50 am - Rant mode: on
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.