The Catholic Agency for Justice, Peace and Development

Caritas supports living wage concept – but rate can be debated

Event date: 
14 Feb 2013

The poverty of people in work must be addressed through ensuring wages are sufficient to ensure lives of dignity, says Catholic social justice agency Caritas Aotearoa New Zealand.

Speaking in support of the principle of a living wage, Caritas Director Julianne Hickey says Catholic social teaching has long supported the concept that workers have a right to a just participation in the fruits of their labour. This means working people must be able to look after their families adequately on what they earn.

‘The concept of a living wage was developed over 100 years ago by United States theologians, a very practical application of Catholic social teaching on just wages,’ says Mrs Hickey.  

However, Mrs Hickey notes that the Catholic concept of a just wage cannot be reduced merely to a single dollar figure in all circumstances and locations.

‘Like others in the community, we are looking forward to studying the report of the Living Wage campaign's recommendation on a living wage rate for New Zealand. That will be an important contribution to the discussion in this country.

‘However there is legitimate room for debate about what a living wage means in different circumstances. Catholic workers, employers and organisations need to study and consider what Catholic teaching on just wages means in their context.’

Mrs Hickey noted that regional variations in living costs were one factor that needed to be taken into account. Catholic teaching on just wages also asks employed workers to take the needs of unemployed workers into account, and the viability of their business or industry.

‘New Zealand must overcome the growing inequalities between wealth and poverty, which reduces the health and wellbeing of all of us. Addressing low-wages is an important part of that work,’ says Mrs Hickey.

‘Caritas looks forward to being part of an ongoing lively and robust debate involving the community, workers, employers, politicians, churches and unions about what a living wage looks like in the different contexts that make up New Zealand workplaces.’

Caritas Aotearoa New Zealand has signed up in principle as a supporter of the Living Wage statement.  Caritas has also taken steps in the past year to move its lowest rate of pay above the legal minimum wage towards a living wage rate, and encourages other employers in the community sector to consider taking similar steps. 

Caritas Aotearoa New Zealand is a member of Caritas Internationalis, a confederation of 165 Catholic aid, development and social justice agencies active in over 200 countries and territories.

For more information contact Martin de Jong +64-4-496 1782 or +64-21-909 688.

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Tutu ana te puehu - Stirring up the dust