The combined issues of inequality and poverty have surged past traditional concerns about the state of the economy and unemployment to become the number one issue for New Zealanders, according to polling data from Roy Morgan that I’ve just crunched.
As you can see from the graph, it’s been a huge rise over the last years for concerns about imbalances in income and wealth.
The explanation, I think, is that a few years ago, in the immediate aftermath of the global financial crisis, people knew that pretty much everybody was doing badly, and their main concern was for their own position. Hence the fears about the state of the economy, and unemployment.
Now that the economy is theoretically well into a recovery, with growth expected to be 2-3% in coming years, that has all changed. People see growth – but they feel they are not getting their fair share. Since nearly half the workforce didn’t get a pay rise last year, and benefits haven’t been increased (except for inflation) in a very long time, they are probably right to feel that way.
All of which means that questions of distribution – ‘who is getting what?’ not just, ‘am I doing okay?’ – become much more relevant. So unless dramatic steps are taken to redistribute income, we can expect to see these concerns continue to rise in the coming months and years.