Key’s broken promise on raising wages

Prime Minister John Key sourced from



Once again, the Prime Minister has shown that he says one thing – whilst doing completely the opposite. The implementation of Youth Rates next month will be another in a series of his broken promises.

I think most readers of this blog (and other sources of  political information) will recall certain statements made by Dear Leader over the last four to five  years,

We will be unrelenting in our quest to lift our economic growth rate and raise wage rates.” – John Key, 29 January 2008

See: National policy – SPEECH: 2008: A Fresh Start for New Zealand

One of National’s key goals, should we lead the next Government, will be to stem the flow of New Zealanders choosing to live and work overseas.  We want to make New Zealand an attractive place for our children and grandchildren to live – including those who are currently living in Australia, the UK, or elsewhere.

To stem that flow so we must ensure Kiwis can receive competitive after-tax wages in New Zealand.” – John Key, 6 September 2008

See: National policy – Speech: Environment Policy Launch

I don’t want our talented young people leaving permanently for Australia, the US, Europe, or Asia, because they feel they have to go overseas to better themselves.” – John Key, 15 July 2009

See: Speech: Key – business breakfast

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Science and innovation are important. They’re one of the keys to growing our economy, raising wages, and providing the world-class public services that Kiwi families need.” – John Key, 12 March 2010

See: National policy – Boosting Science and Innovation

We will also continue our work to increase the incomes New Zealanders earn. That is a fundamental objective of our plan to build a stronger economy.” – John Key,  8 February 2011

See: Statement to Parliament 2011

The driving goal of my Government is to build a more competitive and internationally-focused economy with less debt, more jobs and higher incomes.” – John Key, 21 December 2011

See: Parliament – Speech from the Throne

We want to increase the level of earnings and the level of incomes of the average New Zealander and we think we have a quality product with which we can do that.” –  John Key, 19 April 2012

See: Key wants a high-wage NZ

Key has repeated the same pledge every year since 2008.

On 1 May this year, National will be implementing a cut to the wages paid to young New Zealanders. The new youth rates will be  euphemistically known as the “Starting-out wage”.

The cut to wages of young workers will be as follows,

  1. 16 and 17-year-olds in their first six months of work with a new employer
  2. 18 and 19-year-olds who have been paid a benefit for six months or longer, and who have not completed six months of continuous work with any employer since starting on benefit
  3. 16-to-19-year-old workers in a recognised industry training course involving at least 40 credits a year.

Acknowledgement: Scoop – Starting-out wage available from 1 May

On 21 March Labour Minister, Simon Bridges, said,

“…The starting-out wage will provide an incentive for employers to help give young people a foot in the door and start building their skills and experience…


The starting-out wage will help set young people up for a lifetime of meaningful employment.”

Acknowledgement: Parliament – Hansards – 3. Youth Employment—Starting-out Wage

So will  a reduction in wages for young people, 16 to 19, help create more jobs? Or will it simply increase “job churn”, displacing older worker for younger, cheaper labour?

A previous “job creation” initiative from National was an amendment to the Employment Relations Act 2000, Section 67A – the 90 Day Trial Employment Period.

The 90 Day Trial Employment Period was implemented on April 2009, for workplaces with fewer than 20 employees. Labour Minister Kate Wilkinson enthusiastically predicted that the change to legislation would create more jobs,

“ The 90-day trial period will provide confidence for employers engaging new staff and allow struggling job-seekers to get their foot in the door, rather than languish on a benefit…


… The 90-day trial will provide real opportunities for people at the margins of the labour market.”

Two years later, by April 2011, National extended the 90 Day Trial Employment Period to cover  all businesses.  Labour Minister Kate Wilkinson stated,

The Government is focused on growing a stronger economy and creating more jobs for New Zealand families,” says Ms Wilkinson.

There are a lot of people looking for work and the changes announced today will help boost employer confidence and encourage them to take on more staff.


The evaluation showed that 40 percent of employers who had hired someone on a trial period said it was unlikely they would have taken on new employees without it.

Acknowledgement: Government statement – 90-Day Trial Period extended to all employers

So. How did the 90 Day Trial Employment Period work out? Did it create more jobs? The stats reveal the results with unambiguous, damning, clarity,




As the chart above clearly shows, the answer is clearly no.  After the initial introduction of the 90 Day Trial Employment Period in April 2009, unemployment continued to rise. The same occurred after April 2011.

There is no reason to believe that implementation of Youth Rates will yield any different results.

The evidence suggests that tinkering with labour laws does not – and cannot –  create jobs. High unemployment is caused by other factors; entrenched problems in our economy; the high value of the dollar; a flood of cheap consumer goods; foreign workers being brought in to fill vacancies; poor wages; lack of planning between business-labour-government; and an ad hoc approach to on-going training for young people.

Instead of treating on-going education and training in young people as an investment – successive governments have erected barriers such as training and education fees. The situation that New Zealand finds itself in is sheer lunacy. We have thousands of unemployed New Zealanders – and yet government does little to facilitate them into training or higher education.

Why, for example, are unemployed paid a benefit to do nothing – and yet are forbidden to take up further education or trades-training?

To a half-way sensible person, this is madness.

And speaking of madness… National must know that cutting wages for young workers will not help create new jobs.  It may displace older workers in some areas, but otherwise it may act as further de-moralisation and discouragement for young people who are already facing tough times and an uncertain future.

What this does show is that National has no real job creation policies. For National, their sole reliance is on the “marketplace” to deliver new jobs. Sadly, they are mistaken – their market-based faith is half the problem.

Having faith that rain will come on a given day will not make it so.

Sensibly, the fast food industry has already come to the same conclusion that unions and others on the Left have instinctively understood for ages,


Thumbs down by fast-food chains to youth rates

Acknowledgement: Fairfax Media – Thumbs down by fast-food chains to youth rates


The Nats appear to be so wedded to their screwy market-based faith-politics that the failure of the “marketplace”  eludes them.

It’s a shame that National hasn’t caught up with the bleedin’ obvious.  Or… have they? It appears that some people are doing very well from the “marketplace”.

At our expense…


Increase for SOE bosses 'obscene'

Acknowledgement: Fairfax Media – Increase for SOE bosses ‘obscene’



Here’s a clever idea – all those people who vote National should have a wage/salary freeze during the term of that government.  After all, as some National supporters keep insisting, raising the minimum wage “harms the economy”. (I assume the same holds for all  wages and salaries?)


– “Hey, Krystal, let’s freeze our wages, to set an example for everyone else, and for the good of the economy!”
– “Oh, Toby! What an absolutely spiffing idea! Dear Leader WILL be pleased!”


The rest of us, who vote for Labour, Greens, Mana, et al, can have our wages/salaries linked to Australia’s pay rates.

Now I ask you – what could possibly be fairer than that?




Previous related blogposts

John Key’s track record on raising wages: Preface

1. The “Hobbit Law”

2. The 90 Day Employment Trial Period

3. Ports of Auckland Dispute

4. Rest Home Workers

5. The Minimum Wage

6. Youth Rates

7. Part 6A – stripped away

8. An End to Collective Agreements

9. Conclusion

10. A New Government’s Response



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  1. There was only one promise that National kept – their promise to lower wages that was made to the business community. All the rest is pure lies.

    The Nats appear to be so wedded to their screwy market-based faith-politics that the failure of the “marketplace” eludes them.

    It’s not that it eludes them so much as the fact that they don’t want to know anything that proves their ideology wrong and so they ignore all the evidence that contrary to that ideology.

    • It’s not that it eludes them so much as the fact that they don’t want to know anything that proves their ideology wrong and so they ignore all the evidence that contrary to that ideology.

      It could be seen as verging on religious belief…

  2. Do you think Labour will reverse the 90 day trial ?

    I’d suggest not because despite your scaremongering over it it is popular amongst businesses.

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