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Wage increase . . . The minimum wage has increased by $1.20 an hour, up to $17.70. PHOTO: SUPPLIED

ALEXIA.JOHNSTON

@alliedpress.co.nz

A boost to the minimum wage will make a noticeable difference for the people of Central Otago, an Etu spokeswoman says.

The minimum wage increased by $1.20 an hour to $17.70 on Monday, which equates to an extra $48 a week before tax.

tu campaign director Annie Newman said that move would be noticeable among people on the minimum wage, particularly in areas like Central Otago where the cost of living was particularly high.

She said people working in a range of industries, including agriculture, construction, hospitality and fruit-picking, were among those who would see some extra dollars in their bank account.

Ultimately, the increase would benefit the wider community.

“It’s good for the economy because the money they get goes straight back into local businesses.”

An example of that was at supermarkets, where the low-income earner could buy more food for their family.

Budgeting was not the issue, Ms Newman said.

“People on a low wage, they know how to budget .. they budget to every last cent.”

Ms Newman was not sure how many people in Central Otago were on the minimum wage, but believed there were many across a broad range of sectors.

Last year, the minimum wage was increased to $16.50.

An extra increase this year meant the Government had recognised that we were “a low-waged economy” that needed to be lifted, Ms Newman said.

The increase had been “quite transformative” for people earning the minimum wage.

“I can think of one cleaner with five jobs in order to make ends meet,” she said.

“They are time poor; they don’t have time for their kids. These increases are about creating the kind of life that people should be able to expect.”

A 60c increase to the living wage, to take effect on September 1, was also announced this week. It is $20.55 at present.

“We know the minimum wage has moved up, but the living wage is what’s needed for people to lead a decent life.”

Nationally, about 600,000 people earn less than the living wage.

“So, these increases are really important and I think what’s good is the Government has signalled two further increases.”

Those increases to the minimum wage are to $18.90 in 2020 and $20 by 2021.

“I’m sure over that period what we’ll see is a closing of that gap.

“We want a minimum wage that moves closer to the living wage, because anything less is not enough to live on with dignity.”