NZCTU Budget Report 2023
This is a Budget written in the shadow of an election that will likely define New Zealand for decades to come. It is also a Budget written in the backdrop of inflation, the climate crisis, and other profound challenges for our country.
Economic and Fiscal Context
- The government books look far better than they did at Christmas and would still be the envy of many developed countries around the world.
- Higher unemployment and higher interest rates are causes for concern in an otherwise stable economic picture.
- Measures to ease the cost of living featured heavily in Budget 23.
- These measures support real wage growth for workers across a raft of sectors, while ensuring that the public institutions that protect workers’ rights do not fall behind due to increasing costs.
Wellbeing, Child Poverty and Social Development
- Budget 2023 provides targeted investments to support Kiwi families with the cost of living and support the wellbeing of the most vulnerable in our society.
- The extension of subsidised ECE to 2-year-olds, the removal of the $5 prescription co-payment, the expansion of the Warmer Kiwi Homes Programme and the Healthy School Lunches Programme, and the lifting of main benefits to the rate of inflation will make meaningful differences for many New Zealand households.
- Chronic underinvestment in the public health system has resulted in severe workforce shortages across health sector occupations and a substantial gap in addressing unmet health needs.
- Funding increases to value, support and train the workforce are vital both for those working in the health system and those using it.
- ECE makes important and necessary gains, with an extension of 20 hours free ECE to 2-year-olds.
- Challenges remain in compulsory and tertiary education, particularly to meet the cost of living.
Future of Work and Just Transitions
- Budget 2023 makes important investments in labour market programmes that support people to find and retain work. This is welcome in the context of a forecast rise in unemployment and will help build resilience in the face of future economic shocks.
- Budget 2023 also makes significant investments in research and development and industry transformation to improve productivity and the development of high-wage jobs.
Climate Change/Flood and Cyclone Rebuild
- The Government has invested in climate friendly initiatives that also support better, equitable living conditions for New Zealanders.
- Further groundwork is also being undertaken by the Government in the form of more investment in green initiatives and science to support emissions reductions and climate friendly policy.
- Budget 23 makes a start to bringing the Justice sector up to date after decades of under-investment. However more work is still needed.
- Funding for supporting victims of family and sexual violence is the highlight of Budget 23.
- The rising cost of transport has been a significant issue for working families in the past year. Working conditions in key occupations like bus and truck drivers remain substandard.
- Budget 2023 delivers welcome funding to increase bus driver wages, lower public transport costs, and support decarbonisation.
- While house prices are falling, interest rates remain high and home ownership remains out of reach for many working people. New public housing stock is being invested in, but not at a rate that matches need.
- The Government should play a greater regulatory role in ensuring the availability of affordable housing stock. Investment in insulation and apprenticeships are positive steps maintained in this Budget.