Southlanders’ income having to stretch further

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RESPONSES to the $1.20 increase of the minimum wage to $21.20 on April 1 have been
mixed.

Southland Chamber of Commerce chief executive Sheree Carey said businesses were already grappling with increasing costs, including fuel, freight and staffing.

The culmination of costs was already having an impact on businesses and knocking
confidence. 86% of businesses surveyed in the Chamber of Commerce business confidence
survey revealed businesses expected the general business situation within New Zealand to
deteriorate in the next six months.

Mrs Carey said the survey revealed 57% of respondents cited inflation as the main area of
concern.

While businesses were struggling to stay open, Jubilee Budget Advisory Service (JBAS)
general manager Sharon Soper said Southland residents’ take home pays were having to stretch further than they ever had, with many more residents being unable to make ends meet.

The financial struggles people were trying to cope with had placed an unprecedented demand on their services.

JBAS had completed 1000 extra sessions each year since the Covid-19 pandemic started but expected to reach between 1500 to 2000 sessions in the past 12 months.

‘‘It has doubled in the last three years.’’

There had been a noticeable change in demand for service at the time the Covid-19 mandates started.

Demand for their budgeting services had tripled in the past three years — requiring them to take on five new staff in an attempt to meet the demand.

‘‘The mandates have done huge damage.

‘‘Clients had lost jobs, their homes and were now living in caravans.

‘‘There’s a whole lot of stuff, that normal Joe Bloggs on the street, has no idea the impact
that it’s had.’’

Omicron was adding additional pressure to homes as people had to take extended leave to isolate long after sick leave entitlements ran out.

While the government subsidised those forced to stay at home, it was only about $600 per
week.

She did not expect the city’s economy to pick up sufficiently to bring some relief to the living standard of its residents.

She believes the wage increase was not enough to make an impact for those people on lower income thresholds.

‘‘From what I am seeing, people are finding it so hard and they are struggling.’’

The service was seeing more clients also coming from the middle income bracket and a few
with higher incomes, who were overcommitted and struggling to meet mortgage payments as interest rates increased.

Increasing fuel, food and rent costs were the major factors detrimentally affecting household incomes.

She believed the minimum wage increase would make very little difference to those people
already struggling with increased living costs as wages had not increased in proportion with living costs.

‘‘They might be able to buy a couple of loaves of bread and a bit of milk. But that was about it.’’

Traditionally the service had seen other living cost increases, such as power and rent, quickly follow through directly after a wage increase, she said.

Mrs Soper knew of clients who were choosing to bypass expensive fresh vegetables and opt for cheaper frozen ones instead in an attempt to make their budget stretch further.

‘‘I think people are starting to realise we can’t keep eating the way we were eating.’’

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