Egalitarianism: Getting a fair go in NZ


Even as New Zealand’s income gaps have yawned open in recent decades, public concern about that inequality has fallen.

Egalitarianism used to be one of New Zealand’s touchstones, a term that conveyed a kind of pride in being a country with relatively small income gaps.

Even among the politically active, the word has little purchase now.

I was in Westport recently to promote my book Inequality: A New Zealand Crisis and talk about New Zealand’s growing income gaps.

I also met Georgina Lomax-Sawyers, a 16-year-old former youth MP. What did the word ‘egalitarian’ mean to her, I asked.

“I know about it, I recognise the word,” she said. “But I don’t associate anything with it.”

Others said the same thing. And so I began to ask myself: have the values New Zealand used to pride itself on, which make up that word, vanished – or do they carry on in a new form?

Most people know that, on some level, the rich have pulled away from the poor, but here’s some figures that that show how that gap has grown over the last 30 years.

The typical person in the lowest 10 per cent of the country has seen almost no increase in their after-tax income once you adjust for inflation: it has gone from about $10,000 in the mid-1980s to $11,000 in 2011.

The story for someone in the middle of the country is little better: an increase in after-tax income from $25,000 to $30,000.

In contrast, the after-tax income of someone in the top 10 per cent has doubled, from around $50,000 to $100,000.

And the income of the typical person in the top 1 per cent (pre-tax, this time) has skyrocketed, from $150,000 a year to around $300,000 a year.  Continue reading.

Source: The Wireless


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