|Cropped cover of Steely Dan's 1972 classic "Can't buy a thrill"|
Facing a different set of obstacles, a young tradesman friend with a teenage daughter has recently been found 'suitable work' by the nice folk at WINZ. Except that:
- it's not an actual waged job. The tradesman is a subcontractor and submits an invoice at the end of two weeks. No room for disputes there, then. Oh, and the pay comes at the end of the following fortnite, in other words there is no income for four weeks;
- the pay is low and out of this comes tax, ACC and an allowance for holidays and sick days;
- because the tradesman is a subbie there is no holiday or sick days: if you don't work you don't get paid, hence the need for pay to cover these costs. Which it doesn't;
- this assumes people will pay their taxes and have an accountant, or can do the paperwork themselves. What was that about a tax shortfall in the last fiscal update?
- there is no guarantee of 40 hours a week work. This extends to tradespeople the idea widely used in the junk food industry that workers must be on site but are not guaranteed any work. The so-called employee just has to wear any shortfall;
- if our young friend comes off a benefit he will be eligible for Working for Families tax credits but if it all goes pear-shaped he will find it very difficult to get back on a benefit. Opportunities for fathers are somewhat limited in Auckland's massage parlours and escort agencies so we could think of this as a double disadvantage.
This is not the bright, shiny, prosperous economy we have been promised for 30 years. This is a sharecropper society, and like the sharecropper society of the South the only constants are insecure income and debt. Not the flash debt of white-collar criminals, but the petty, grinding debt of overdue rent, overdue power bills, and money borrowed to keep the car on the road. 'Suitable employment' should mean people can live with some measure of dignity. Pity about how that seems to be increasingly reserved for the rich in New Zealand.