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Covid-19 recovery needs to reach all New Zealanders equally

The Council of Trade Unions today welcomed signs most New Zealanders have been supported by the Covid-19 response, released in the Government’s Half Year Economic and Fiscal Update.

“This Government has been a good overall steward of the economy, and that shows in the numbers released today”, said CTU President Richard Wagstaff. Unemployment is now expected to peak at 6.9% at the end of next year rather than 7.8% as expected at the Pre-election Update. Debt, net of the New Zealand Super Fund, is now expected to peak at 29.5% of GDP in 2025.

“However, working people and their unions continue to be concerned that the recovery is not equally reaching all New Zealanders. This has been made clear by Treasury’s acknowledgement that the impact has fallen disproportionately on women, Māori, Pasifikā and young people. The people with the least labour-market power are being left behind. Without much greater emphasis on uplifting the vulnerable, we risk deepening and entrenching social and economic unfairness.”

“The low levels of debt, net of the Super Fund, show there is plenty of headroom to do much more.”

“Equity means putting much more resource into those with the least – a basic tenant of fairness. And this means labour market reform to protect those cut out of economic benefits by the choices the Government has made in policy settings for the rebuild to date.”

“At a minimum it means the recommendations of the Welfare Expert Advisory Group must be implemented, and social insurance progressed, to support everyone who, through no fault of their own, is out of paid employment.”

“With the Government ruling out further tax reform that would more fairly re-distribute the share of profits generated from work, pre-distribution measures must be implemented as a matter of priority. This means putting in place Fair Pay Agreement laws, stronger and better funded universal public services, extending the ability to collectively bargain to contractors, and making it easier for people to join and participate in their unions.”

“To be successful, the Covid-19 recovery needs three equal prongs – a public health response, support for businesses, and direct support for working people. Working people are the ones that have borne the brunt of lockdowns, despite creating the wealth that will fuel our rebuild. The Government has done a fantastic job on a public health response that supports businesses – to cement the success, 2021 needs to rebalance the rebuild for all working people,” Wagstaff said.