By Paul Barber, Senior Social Policy Analyst
Our country is making some progress towards greater fairness and equality, in a context of general prosperity and economic growth. Yet significant and enduring unfairness remain and their effects are concentrated in particular groups – in the poor housing outcomes of Pacific people, the disproportionate imprisonment rates of Māori, and the impoverishment of households without paid work. Our country will not achieve wellbeing targets such as child poverty reduction or meet international commitments to sustainable development unless more change is made.
Economic inequality drastically harms mental health and social connectedness. Immediate and significant policy steps to reduce income and wealth disparities are therefore an essential part of improving overall wellbeing.
Most New Zealanders recognise that inequality is a serious problem and support decisive action for significant change. Now is the best time to make such big systematic changes. The Government finances are in the strongest position for more than a decade with a record surplus.
There are significant gaps in the current policy including the lack of action to increase incomes for those relying on welfare and little action to address the weakness in the tax system at redistributing income and wealth more fairly. We outline some of the changes that are needed and urge policy makers to take notice.