The leftward and other blatherings of Span (now with Snaps!)

Monday, August 22, 2005

working hard for money and working hard for family

It seems to me that the Nats, in particular John Key, have forgotten that many NZers actually like to spend time with their families, rather than at work.

Case in point - Key's comment on Friday, which I heard on the radio, that Working For Families means that people will spend time with their children on the weekend instead of going to work. Obviously that's not verbatim, but it is pretty close to the words he used. I was waiting for him to make his point, as I didn't see anything wrong with not doing overtime if you didn't need the money.

But Key seems to think there is something wrong with spending some of your week Not Working - his tone left you in no doubt that he thought the way to increase out productivity was to make those already working hard spend more time at work. (And of course by "work" he means "paid employment," bugger those who work their arses off for no money, just a present on Mother's/Father's Day that they probably have to pay for themselves.)

Key's sentiment is repeated by Brash in National's media statement about their proposed adjustments to the tax thresholds, out today:

"Under this tax structure, a person on the average wage can work harder,
do some overtime, or take secondary employment, and they will from next
year keep more than $4 in every $5 they earn," Brash said.

So National want those on the average wage to spend more time at work and less doing the leisure or family thing. They don't want to put up wages (their industrial relations policy would severely undermine recent gains and certainly but the kibosh on significant pay rises in the future) they just want people to work longer to get more money.

Wouldn't it be better if people didn't actually need to have second jobs or do overtime to survive?

The overall impression I get is that Brash and Key don't think NZers work hard enough; that productivity gains are to be made from working longer hours, not working smarter, more R & D, better technology, etc.

It all sounds like a very 19th century solution to me.


Make Tea Not War said...

I was just thinking exactly that.

Interestingly in todays Dom Post there is a report of a study that working long hours greatly increases the risk of suffering injury or illness.

Apathy Jack said...

I think people should work harder. I've just worked a thirteen hour day, and I am a Golden God! I also don't get overtime, but that is negated by my Godhood.

(Also; doped to the gills on caffine and Industrial music.)

Chaucey said...

Well, the way I understand it is that all they are saying is that if you choose to work longer hours, that at least you will get to keep more of your income from doing so. The current taxation structure really discourages extra work.
Of course, working longer hours isn't much fun, and a lot of people choose to not work extra hours, perhaps so they can spend more time with their families or doing hobbies or extra study....
Anyway - it is about having choices which aren't influenced as heavily by external factors like taxation.

Just a question - what if you have two part time jobs, one of which taxed at the higher secondary job rate? How does that work? Do you pay more tax every week? Do you get some back at tax time?

span said...

the problem is that many people don't have much "choice" when it comes to working long hours - their wages are so low that they have to to support their families. it doesn't seem to be much of a problem for those without children, from my observations, which is probably one of the reasons that Labour has targetted their relief to families.

i would be prepared to wager that most people who have two part time jobs would much rather have one job that could give them enough income to cover all of their needs and a few of their wants. i have a colleague who is currently quite well paid, but has a second job to try to get debts under control, debts he incurred when he was in a low paid job.

job growth has been good, but a lot of it has been in part time work and particularly in the service industry those kinds of hours, for those kinds of wages, are not enough to get by on.

working out how much you are going to "save" from the tax cuts is misleading anyway - even if you get a decent sized cut you are going to have higher costs in terms of health and education - and health costs usually hit you right when you can least afford them.

Rich said...

Actually I think most productivity gains don't come from people working harder, or even being given better machinery or improved processes.

Instead, they come when a low added-value job gets replaced by a high-added value job.

E.g: less jobs in freezing works, more jobs designing computer software, or teaching overseas students.

Of course this is not good short-term for people whose jobs disappear - which is why we need social welfare and retraining.