Welcome back to Sunday reading. The most important story of the week was the release of the Ministry of Social Development’s new Household Incomes Report, which provides an update on wealth, poverty, and inequality in New Zealand.

The report confirms that the housing affordability crisis is at the heart of many worsening social outcomes. Max Rashbrooke discusses the big picture on The Spinoff:

Yesterday’s Household Incomes Report, the annual record of inequality in New Zealand, is a confronting read for those who think everything is getting worse. Take the figures for poverty, as measured by the number of households living on less than half the national average (for a household their size). That means having less than $275 a week for a single person (after housing costs are deducted), or $510 for a couple with one child.

In 2009, 14% of New Zealanders – one in seven – were under that line. In 2016? Still 14%. In the last seven years, the poorest fifth of the country have seen their incomes grow by around 12%. That’s only just keeping pace with other New Zealanders – but it refutes the idea that the poor are getting poorer, as a whole.

Take another poverty measure, the number of children living in households that can’t afford basic things like buying decent shoes or heating their house. In 2009, 16% of children were in that group. In 2015, the figure was 14%.

[…] Within the poorest fifth of New Zealanders, who have seen some improvements under National, there is a group of the very poorest – and they have received quite different treatment.

They are mostly people on benefits grappling with multiple problems, and they have been subject to a punitive regime of benefit-cutting sanctions, often applied inexplicably and probably harming the thousands of children in their care, although the government can’t be sure because it hasn’t been concerned enough to check. (It has equally little idea what has happened to all the people who have moved off the benefit in recent years – whether they are actually better off or have just disappeared from the system.) These people are the first to feel the effects of the housing shortage, and the help offered them has been woefully weak.

That’s why families have started living in cars, Auckland’s rough sleeper population is at a record high, and the number of people seeking help from charities like Wellington’s DCM has doubled. Core benefits may have increased by $25 a week for some last year, but, given the scale of the problems, relying on that is like using a bit of four-by-two to prop up a collapsing tower block.

In Newsroom, Bernard Hickey drills down into what the report has to say about housing:

The Ministry of Social Development’s report on “Household Incomes in New Zealand: trends and indicators of inequality and hardship 1982 to 2016” found income inequality before housing costs has been broadly unchanged for the last 20 years, having worsened substantially between the mid 1980s and the early 1990s.

However, it found that inequality after housing costs was significantly worse than before housing costs, and has risen over the last five years versus the early 2000s.

Real incomes for the bottom decile of income earners were still a little lower in 2016 after housing costs than they were in the late 1980s.

The report, known around Wellington as the Perry report after its author Bryan Perry, found that over the last 10 years around 15 percent of households have been spending more than 40 percent of their incomes on housing costs. That’s up from five percent of households having to spend that high a proportion on housing in the late 1980s.

75,000 kids in damp, mouldy and cold homes

The poorest rental households with children are in the worst position. The Perry report found that the bottom 10 percent of income earners under the age of 65 now spend around half of their income on housing costs. That’s up from an average of 29 percent in the 1980s. That’s because real incomes for beneficiaries are adjusted for Consumer Price Inflation, which has risen much slower than housing costs.

Incomes for superannuitants rise much faster than for beneficiaries because New Zealand Superannuation is indexed to average wages, which have risen faster than inflation since the mid 1980s.

The combination of low income growth for poor working families and beneficiaries, and high rent growth, particularly of private rentals, has proven toxic, as has the poor quality of rentals.

The Perry report found 10 percent of households with children reported a major problem with dampness and mould, while 13 percent of households with children reported problems keeping their homes warm in winter. Around 75,000 children were in households reporting problems with damp, mouldy and cold homes. About 70 percent of those reporting major problems with housing quality were in rental properties, with 45 percent in private rentals, 25 percent in Housing New Zealand houses and the rest living in their own homes.

About half of the children living in such homes and in rental stress live in families with one working parent, while the other half live in beneficiary households.

Build more (and better) housing.

On a slightly separate topic – regional divergence, rather than household divergence – four Radio New Zealand journalists have done a good piece on “the boom, the bust, and the rustbelt” as part of their Brighter Future? series. It’s a picture of a country floating on several overlapping waves of commodity prices:

Over on the West Coast – birthplace of the Labour Party – former miner turned tourism operator Mickey Ryan says the region has lost its working-class mojo.

“My parents – if you’d put a red scarf on a labrador dog they’d vote for it, you know. That’s how staunch Labour they were.”

Not any more, he says.

“When you left school you went to the mines because it was big money and your ambition was to get on the coal shoveling it.

“I suppose when you look at it now it’s laughable, but that’s where the big money was.”

The downturn in coal mining has seen hundreds of jobs vanish on the West Coast, and an exodus of people.

A lot is linked to the performance of state-owned enterprise Solid Energy – New Zealand’s largest coal mining company, which mined extensively in the region…

In June 2016, Buller district mayor Garry Howard said 600 jobs and $50m in annual wages had been slashed from the district’s economy in just two years.

But just last week, a bright spot loomed on the horizon, when the government announced a plan to pump millions of dollars into the West Coast in an effort to move its economy away from coal mining.

The $37m plan includes increasing tourism, making it easier to invest and do business in the region, and supporting economic diversification.

And something new is stirring on the Coast.

Down the road from Mickey Ryan’s home is a modern innovation hub, Epic Westport, where teams of tech wizards are busy working for global firms like Disney and Sony.

Epic Westport co-founder and chief executive Natasha Barnes Dellaca is part of what she says is an avant garde move to small towns.

“I’m passionate about environmental issues as well and so building an economy on cleaner technologies and creating job opportunities in rural centres … really appealed to me.”

Cities appear to be the winners from current economic trends – but can they count on their good fortune continuing? In Bloomberg View, Conor Sen puts forth a skeptical perspective, at least in the context of the US:

There have been three broad phases of American cities. In the first, lasting until the early-to-mid 20th century, cities were hubs of production. They were where factories were located. In resource-rich parts of the country, they had many banks and merchants. Oftentimes there were colleges and universities nearby. They were where immigrants came to build new lives for themselves. They were social arrangements of necessity rather than choice.

In the second phase, lasting until the 1980s, cities were in decline. Factories, and their associated manufacturing jobs, left, first for cheaper areas domestically, and then in some cases out of the country entirely. The era of the automobile and the explosion of suburbia led to a hollowing out of cities as most people with the freedom to leave cities for suburbs chose to do so. The jobs that remained in cities may not have been glamorous, but they were resilient.

In the third phase, in which we’re now living, cities increasingly resemble playgrounds for the wealthy and well-educated. As top talent has clustered in urban areas, housing costs have soared. Property developers have responded, in this economic cycle in particular, by building luxury apartments for young professionals. After decades of being based in the suburbs, large corporations have moved their headquarters back to downtowns and central business districts. The technology sector is concentrating not only in cities, but in a handful of cities. As city residents are increasingly wealthy and well-educated, the local business mix has changed as well, increasingly made up of high-end coffee shops, craft beer and cocktail bars, and organic grocery stores.

Cities were the best performers coming out of the last recession because the excess of the last economic cycle was concentrated in the suburbs and exurbs. It’s where too much housing construction occurred, where household credit was over-extended, where local economies were over-reliant on real estate and consumption. Cities, by comparison, had more diversified economies that were less reliant on household credit and real estate, the epicenter of the crisis.

But the specialization of high-end jobs and wealth in cities could end up being their undoing. The city model of old was like a grocery store — a balanced mix of all types of different products, from milk and bread to a pharmacy to some splurge items like cupcakes and Champagne. In tough times, cupcake and Champagne sales might fall, but people are still going to buy their milk, bread and toiletries, keeping the store afloat.

But is rewinding to the manufacturing-based city a good idea? Perhaps not, say Ana Campoy, Youyou Zhou, and Christoper Groskopf in an in-depth piece on Quartz:

We collected years of data for every state and province in North America, and the conclusion is clear: US president Donald Trump’s belief that manufacturing equals prosperity doesn’t hold up.

As Trump tells it, it was the migration of American factories overseas that snatched middle-class existence from hard-working Americans. On July 17 he launched “Made in America” week and sent Congress a list of his goals for the renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (Nafta), which begins on Aug. 16. The first of those goals: to reduce the US’s trade deficit, presumably by stamping more stuff with “Made in the USA.”

If Trump were right, manufacturing workers in Oregon should be doing great. From 2003 to 2015, the state’s manufacturing GDP grew 180%, the fastest pace not only in the US but in virtually all of North America. As a share of Oregon’s GDP, manufacturing doubled to nearly a quarter.

Yet the news for the workers themselves wasn’t so bright. While they would have expected to earn 10% more than the average statewide wage in 2003, today, that premium has shrunk to 3%. In other words, manufacturing in Oregon is now barely better than the average job as a ladder of social mobility.

It’s not only Oregon that debunks the view of manufacturing as an engine of growth. Across the US, Mexico, and Canada, the data we analyzed show that building more factories doesn’t lead to as many jobs as it used to, nor to higher wages, and that closing factories doesn’t necessarily lead to a loss of prosperity.

By the way, the article has a lot more in-depth data analysis and visualisations. It’s worth reading! But the summary is clear: we can’t go back to the way things were before – the only option is to go forward.

Speaking of progressing versus regressing, NZ Herald columnist Fran O’Sullivan wrote a powerful piece about how we need to do more to give women a fair go in media and business. I don’t always agree with O’Sullivan, but she’s spot on here:

…when company chairman Rob Campbell suggested it might be time for women to be profiled more extensively in business media – and quoted in more stories – journalists took issue with him because that did not reflect the business reality that women (in the main) do not hold the senior roles.

Campbell was arguing for positive inclusion of women to pave the way for a change in the status quo. There will be plenty of women making their way through the corporate hierarchy who would thank him for his championing of their cause.

Just yesterday Newstalk ZB presenter Mike Hosking was quoted “calling out” Paula Bennett over her pay equity speech delivered last week, which lamented the 12 per cent wage gap between men and women which hasn’t changed in many years.

Said Hosking: “She offered no solutions, largely because, short of ludicrous amounts of artificiality and intervention there are no obvious solutions.”

In the real world many employers think differently. They are also coming up with solutions.

As Westpac chief executive David McLean puts it: “Closing the gender pay gap is the same as any other business problem – and once it is seen that way people take it very seriously … We’ve made it one of our core business objectives. We broke the problem down, measured it, made people accountable for it, and set a three-year target.”

Here’s Nick Stanhope from Sovereign: “The gender pay gap? There shouldn’t be one. I have two daughters and want them to go into a world that is fair and equitable. If I can make things better in my position, then that is something that I certainly want to do.”

And try Vector chief executive Simon Mackenzie: “We have been changing as an organisation. About 40 per cent of our recent hires have been female, including women in areas such as technology, risk, and in our legal team. It appears to be an ongoing issue that there are still fewer women in electrical engineering but on the IT side we are seeing more coming through.”

Read the entire thing.

That’s probably enough text for the day, so if you’re still reading I’d recommend checking out Onehunga rappers SWIDT’s new record Stoneyhunga, which is awesome. Here’s an earlier track:

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48 comments

  1. Please clarify this “”The Perry report found that the bottom 10 percent of income earners under the age of 65 now spend around half of their income on housing costs. That’s up from an average of 29 percent in the 1980s. That’s because real incomes for beneficiaries are adjusted for Consumer Price Inflation, which has risen much slower than housing costs. “”

    Presumably you mean the bottom 10% of income earners in 1980s spent 29% of their income on housing costs and now it is approx 50%. And it starts with income earners and morphs into beneficiaries – is this WFF and surely that didn’t exist in the 80s?

    1. Households in the bottom 10% of the income distribution are generally on benefits – unemployment, DPB, disability. (Not *permanently* on benefits, mind – they might be temporarily off work or at home raising children.) All of those benefits have been indexed to consumer price inflation, which has risen much slower than either rents or house prices. So low-income people and beneficiaries are worse off today than they were been 20 years ago, due to housing costs.

      Working for Families doesn’t enter into the picture – that mostly goes to people on middle and upper incomes, not the bottom 10% of the income distribution.

      1. No dispute about that. It was the phrase ‘income earners’ and what it means to readers. Most readers would eliminate beneficiaries. I believe the government takes you out of the unemployment stats if you do a couple of hours delivering newspapers but really you are just about as poor as a total invalid. So clear demarcation is impossible.

        My wife and I received a very small amount of WFF when we had children at school. We both worked and we would admit to having middle earner income. But I would put ‘upper income’ as being somewhere above WFF. Depends on definition.

  2. “”cities increasingly resemble playgrounds for the wealthy and well-educated”” – tends to be my gut reaction to this blog site. Really nice intelligent young people and generally fair minded but biased towards the fun of cycling and walking in the CBD rather than say taking your car to the suburban supermarket to fill up the boot with the necessities of life for the family.

    The section on the changing nature of cities is thought provoking. Especially the way USA cities have a small number thriving and many in decline. It is interesting to think of NZ cities in the same light with its obvious winners and losers – easy to identify which are which today. But by analysing the underlying reasons we can make a guess about which cities will grow and which shrink in the future.

    1. I think what this blog advocates for is more options. The suburban big-lot 2 cars per family lifestyle ain’t going anywhere, but it’s no longer the only option, and I think that is fantastic. Also worth nothing that walking/cycling/PT are often how the poorest and most vulnerable people in society get around, cause it’s way cheaper than driving.

      I would like to see the CBD become more diverse. Requiring that all apartment developments have some apartments set aside for social housing could be a start. This is quite common in the UK I think.

      1. I wouldn’t recommend the UK as an example – generally awful tower blocks that architects and councillors will not live in themselves. However I have heard that Singapore is a good example of what you describe. Note there is social housing in some of the apartment blocks along Hobson / Nelson st – maybe not designed for purpose but the housing dept has long term leases.

      2. The suburban thing is maybe not the only available choice, but it is still the only dignified choice.

        If you’re wondering, walk around in Victoria Quarter. It’s one of those environments where you walk as little as possible. Makes you wonder where that “City Centre Targeted Rate” has gone. Now imagine living there — you’re going to be in this environment any time you want to leave your apartment.

        And also nobody is in any hurry to improve things. Not even small things, like fixing missing pedestrian legs, or a few kerb build-outs in strategic spots (the Sale Street / Wellesley Street intersection springs to mind). And OK there’s the Nelson Street cycleway, but that’s mainly to allow cyclists from outside the CBD to bypass this mess. Note the missing pedestrian leg between the Lightpath and the apartments on Nelson Street.

    2. I can’t have children so got me there on family

      But on supermarket shopping just use the Countdown delivery tbh. Only buy what I need delivered straight to door and the delivery fee is really low. I mean after you consider fuel costs and the value of your time saved is a bargain.

    3. lapun — I think there’s a grain of truth to your criticism.

      On the other hand, I would argue that the blog is a strong advocate for transforming the city centre (and town centres) so that they are not just playgrounds for the young and the rich. Some of the blogs recent posts on housing diversity, education policy etc originate in a desire to overcome the exlcusionary nature of Auckland’s urban form, which tends to quarantine families in expensive, poor-quality housing in low density, auth-dependent suburbs.

    4. It isn’t a binary question. I ride my bike everywhere and I don’t personally have a car. I also use public transport and occasionally call an Uber/taxi. That includes business meetings all over the city.

      Our family does have a car though and my wife takes our two children around in it. She also takes it to the suburban supermarket to buy groceries every week or so.

      However, because of my choice of transport, we only need one car, which has saved us thousands over the last few years. It also means I am less stressed and have better health as well as spending more time with the family as I am not stuck in traffic.

      We wouldn’t want to live exclusively in a suburban environment or exclusively in an inner city environment. And the two things don’t have to be mutually exclusive.

      People often forget that the Dutch are big car owners, one of the highest in rates in Europe. Higher than the UK. Even though the country has a 25% cycle mode share as well as high pubic transport use. Cars are great tools for some transport jobs but not all.

      It’s about choice.

      1. I agree, you can get around mostly without a car if you’re a bit careful about where you live. And that’s where the problem is, it usually means you have to live in very expensive areas. Once you factor in housing cost, this is a very expensive lifestyle.

        1. Like Goosoid, my family of four, both parents working, get around with one car, and often both of us have been on PT to work. We’re 14km out, in one of the cheaper areas out west. And it’s not a hardship nor a second class choice; we’ve got a great town centre within walking distance, great schools, and loads of PT.

          As others have said, it’s not binary. It’s also not hard; it just means taking responsibility for your self-selected priorities when you make a choice. Whinging that it’s easy for young, high income types avoids the awkward reality that choices are increasingly there – which is a key driver for this blog.

      2. We have downsized our car use & reply on PT & cycling for a lot more when we don’t all fit in a the smaller car. Also tried to use cycling for smaller errands to supermarket, combining it as exercise…but must say bit harder lately with the colder weather….would help if I upped my cycle equipment.

    5. That’s a bit of a restricted view of the potential of cycling and walking. I cop to being well-educated, but I can’t afford a car, so for me, cycling *is* how I get to the suburban supermarket to fill up my panniers and backpack with the necessities of life. And to work, to uni, to see friends… Walking and cycling (and of course PT) aren’t just about urban fun, they’re about giving more people the ability to choose to spend less on cars.

  3. I’m trying to think creatively here about what to do right now for the children in cold damp mouldy rental houses. What if rental properties of this type were proactively targeted so they must meet better design standards. Firstly, any house being sold would have to meet the higher standard before it could be rented out. Next, any house that is reported by its tenants as being damp and mouldy could be inspected, and if this is the case, that landlord would be required to bring it up to standard.

    What would the effect be? Would more of the shonky landlords get out of the game? Could that have some effect in bringing house prices down because there would be less benefit in being a landlord? Certainly I don’t like to tarnish the really active landlords who keep properties in good order and charge less-than-market-rents with the same brush as these Victorian-era slumlords. Would the housing stock be improved sufficiently that the market could require the remaining rentals to be improved too? Would a rent control also be necessary? Something has to be done.

    1. Simple: a return to my childhood with generous universal child benefit paid to the mother (that may have to change) paid for by increasing income tax. Taxable so some clawed back from the wealthy and a little social engineering if you like – paid to each parent resident with the child. Ditto generous tax deduction for each child. Get rid of poverty is the solution. Investing in NZ children: doesn’t that make sense even if you are a childless pensioner.

      The house inspection seems like a good idea but could get bureaucratically messy and expensive and expensive would hit the poor not the landlord.
      I had an house that was rented out via a reputable property agency; no trouble for many years until we had a Turkish family who kept the windows shut and the curtains closed at all times – result mould on ceilings. Had to install HRV – the alternative would have been to evict the tenants.
      Most properties are handled by professional agents who inspect quarterly. Just add an insulation tick box to the standard rental agreement.

    2. Heidi at a simplistic level I think all rentals should be constructed with good insulation, heating and ventilation so that they are safe habitable spaces. We have laws protecting poisonous food from being sold, so why not housing, which is also a basic need.

      At a more complicated level if the housing market is too tight, if it is a struggle to find any affordable accommodation, then it is unlikely that a tenant will complain if their accommodation is a little inadequate because the alternative is likely to be a lot inadequate. It is this horrible reality which makes tenants exploitable.

      In this complicated reality situation the solution is to fix the housing market. Build more affordable houses that are safe habitable spaces. This would give renters more choices, they would be more likely to complain about poor quality housing, they could take up alternatives…..

      For 30 years NZ has had a system of urban planning, infrastructure provision, duopoly in building supplies, inadequate training and investment into the construction industry, inadequate investment in state housing…… so that all that is built is very, very expensive McMansions for a small group of well-to-dos in society……

      The housing market is poked and it is causing massive problems economically, socially, culturally….. I believe it is changing the very nature of NZ society….. the fair-go society which I grew up with is fast fading away.

      1. Yes and I also know my comment was scraping the surface of the issue… I just didn’t want this part of the post ignored due to numbness by the enormity of it.

        I know someone who has become a budget advisor to people struggling financially, with the Salvation Army. He’s able to bring anecdotes of poverty and injustice to his middle class caring-but-overwhelmed friends in a way that will, I think, influence their voting.

        I’m wondering about this sort of community engagement… how many people getting involved with, say, Habitat for Humanity, does it take to keep the important issues being discussed in a way that brings change?

        1. Heidi if we each do the best we can, in our own different ways, to help rectify the situation a lot could be achieved : )

      2. Brendon: What you say is obvious to everyone but the government (and include Labour before it – not wanting to be party political). But even if they come to their senses and follow your advice (which at a guess would increase taxes) it will still take years to build the houses that we need today and then another decade to house the extra 220,000 immigrants the government has promised to bring in over the next 4 years. It may be a great concept to bring in wealthy immigrants but that just displaces poor Kiwi families into cars and garages and motels.

        1. Lapun how does the Chinese saying go? -the best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago, the second best time is today.

          Yes the Clark/Cullen government should have done more to fix the housing market. The Key/English government definitely should have done more to fix the housing market. But that is in the past. NZ has to look forward.

          Now both Labour and National are more focused on fixing the housing market than their predecessors. National did some good things with Auckland’s Unitary Plan. An independent Australian economist rates Labour as having the better housing package.
          https://www.macrobusiness.com.au/2017/07/nz-government-late-hero-housing-supply/

          In my opinion to fix the housing market will take a comprehensive program -it will involve reforms to urban planning, infrastructure provision, transport, state and govt built housing, rental rules, tax laws, industry training, competition regulation (better regulate duopolies)…… Realistically this sort of affordable urbanisation project will take a committed government a number of electoral cycles to implement.

          Much of that is about ensuring the regulations and systems which underpin the housing market are focused on meeting the needs of all New Zealanders -especially struggling renters. It will not necessarily mean higher taxes.

          Where we need higher taxes, in my opinion, is fixing the infrastructure deficit for our cities. I think that will require some better form of central to local government revenue sharing. I am told this is not electorally popular, but I cannot see a way of successfully completing an affordable urbanisation project without having this key reform.

    3. Anything that attempts to simply tinker with the private enterprise model is doomed to fail

      A massive state-owned build – if not standalone houses, then KiwiDorms (giant apartment blocks built cheap to scale) is the only way to do it, coupled with ruinous rental tax rates to drive private landlords out of the market as well.

      1. Agree. Especially if we maintain our high immigration policy, massive government sponsored house building will be required, because the private sector sure as hell won’t be able to do it.
        The cost of this is higher taxation and borrowing.
        We will also need higher taxation / borrowing to build more schools, expand existing schools, pay teachers more etc etc

        1. Yes to higher taxation so the government can build housing and schools. As for giant apartment blocks built cheap to scale, we can probably do best by learning from past mistakes and build at a human scale. Still high density, but maybe not giant.

  4. As Bernard Hickey from NewsRoom writes -NewZealand has a toxic mix of low wages and high housing costs. Poor quality but expensive rental housing is at the heart of this New Zealand inequality story.
    https://www.newsroom.co.nz/2017/07/25/39964/a-toxic-mix-of-low-wage-growth-and-fast-rising-rents

    I think too often in NZ the only approach for dealing with the poor is to demonise them. To blame them for individual failings. This means systematic problems are not being addressed. The drivers which suppress wage growth and increase housing costs are ignored.

    I think that NZ has done that for too long and now unfortunately we are a very divided society.

    1. In medieval times there were rich lords and poor serfs and as time went by the rich getting their tithes from the poor got richer and richer and they lived in big castles and the poor lived in mud huts and died young. It just got worse and worse and reached its peak when a single Russian aristocrat could own 30,000 serfs. But in Europe about 1350 the black death killed about half the population and disproportionately the poor; the lords had no one to do the farming and the serfs could move to some one who treated them better. Free men created guilds to protect themselves and hard work and ability were rewarded and society improved and their was a renaissance in technology, exploration, art and science.
      A thousand years later we are starting the process over again with the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer because you earn more wealth by investing capital buying houses and renting them out than by working, renting and saving.
      At least we can vote.

        1. Blisters on my heels. At least my crocs aren’t painful. I’ll hobble to cast my vote – not sure who to vote for. Heidi: no chance of you standing in North Shore?

          1. Ha! Thanks, but not on your Nellie. 🙂 That Wellington political world of narcissism – sycophancy would break me, and I can’t think quickly enough on my feet anyway. Chuckling here about the incongruity of even attempting to represent the North Shore, after Friday’s surreal experiences of getting from Pt Chev to Westlake Boys for an evening performance of Sweeney Todd. Public transport works, as long as you don’t mind the night bus infrequency and random connections, but the walking beside those wide, wide roads full of people, say, taking their car to the suburban supermarket to fill up the boot with the necessities of life for the family… So glad my family and I can quax whatever we need 🙂

          2. My brother in law stood as a town councilor for the Greens in Huddersfield and my sister tells me he shuddered whenever she teased him that he might actually be elected.
            I forgot who said that the people who wants to be in power are exactly those who should not be – however ‘The Donald’ is the extreme proof. I suspect I might enjoy a BBQ with Bill English, Michael Cullins, Phil Goff and Shane Jones for example so they are not all bad guys.
            Had to google ‘quax’ and got a definition I doubt you meant “A male goose. Or someone who acts so uptight that if they relax a laser will shoot out their ass.”

          3. Ha ha ha! Walking and cycling is good for relaxing, and we just quax whenever we need to… Ha ha ha! Ah that’s made my day… searching on this website might enlighten you more, although I’m sure you eventually found it on google.

          4. “Walking and cycling is good for relaxing”

            If you think so you’re living in a different city than I am. Over here, about the only comfort is that most drivers are not actively trying to kill you.

      1. Russian aristocrats owning that many serfs came centuries after the Black Death (I suggest you look at who the owners of Russia were at the time – hint, it wasn’t Russians!)
        Guilds also pre-dated the Black Death

        However, you are right in that the Black Death made labour more expensive, and land a lot cheaper.

        1. Just checked – 110 London Livery Companies and the first 7 predate the black death. True about Russia – did it miss out on the renaissance?
          Wandering away from Peter Nunns’ subject matter. Extrapolation can be dangerous but in many ways the world is far better than my in my youth and it is improving – the defeat of global poverty and starvation is remarkable (unless you are one of those starving in poverty). However a child born in a poor family today seems to have less chance of making it to comfortable middle class than they did when I was young. Peter Nunns quotes figures that appear to prove that the number under the poverty line has not changed. I suspect much depends on where you draw the line but it may just be a sense of perception – his figures compare 2009 with 2017 but I grew up in the fifties and sixties and that is what I compare with. However I do remember 2009 and thinking it is about time NZ re-introduced a generous child benefit.

          1. “However a child born in a poor family today seems to have less chance of making it to comfortable middle class than they did when I was young.” – you have put your finger 100% on the issue. People will put up with a lot if they think the system will let their children get ahead. If not, why would they tolerate the inequality?

      2. Check out this link. http://www.globalfinancialdata.com/gfdblog/?p=3994

        “The only time when housing prices declined dramatically and hit their nadir was in the 1340s. And why was that? Because the Bubonic Plague decimated the population, reducing it by around one-third. Since there were fewer people, but no decrease in the stock of housing, prices and rents collapsed, falling more than at any time in history, even after 2008…..

        The real question, however, is whether housing prices increased more rapidly than inflation in general and by how much…….. housing prices remained relatively stable, after adjusting for inflation. In 1940, housing prices were no greater than they had been six hundred years before when the Bubonic Plague had struck. Since then, the story has been different.

        Housing prices have risen much faster than inflation. In nominal terms, the average house has risen in price from around £500 in 1940 to £200,000 in 2016. Adjusting for inflation, that represents an eight-fold increase in housing prices.”

      3. Just reading a revised history of the Russian revolution. Interesting that Russia’s economy was growing at 10% p.a. before WW1. The problem wasn’t that Russia was failing but the unequal distribution of wealth (and Tsar Nicholas’s refusal to reform) is what lead to the initial February revolution.

        People say our situation now is comparable to the 1930s. I really think there are huge lessons for us right now from the situation in Europe before WW1. Massive inequality combined with democracy is a heady mixture.

  5. The comments about manufacturing – is Auckland considered a city for manufacturing? Obviously not large scale factories but there do seem to be many small manufacturing businesses hidden all over the place. North Shore has its small scale specialist manufacturers and I remember a small place near the western motorway than manufactures fire bricks and seemed to employ less than a dozen employees. And I’m sure there are thousands more small family businesses just like it in Auckland.
    But Auckland doesn’t seem to be thought of as a manufacturing city. Maybe because the new businesses assemble and market software not physical components. So the pressure in on for office space with access to universities.

  6. Fran O’Sullivan’s piece about equity in media profiling and pay was very good. Thanks for posting it. I think it’s great to bring attention to how progressive men in positions of power often are.

    There were some Interesting comments on the issue of pay equity following the Women in Urbanism meeting recently. I would hazard a guess that young men often start out reasonably defensive and argumentative on the subject, which may be why some young women distance themselves from the issues. It reminds me of how shocked my mother was when she went to teachers’ college when I was 6, and found that the (female) school leaver student teachers were very conservative and hadn’t heard of feminism (they became more radical as they grew up). It also reminds me of what toss-balls my male engineering friends were on well, any subject touching equality… but just as the staid lecturers advised us, they turned into wonderful men. Pillars of society, even. 🙂

    Both men and women seem to mellow on the subject of equality and pay equity once they feel secure in their place in society, and able to see what it’s like for others. Hoskings doesn’t seem to fit that pattern.

    1. there is a difference between pay equity and a pay gap. It’s possible that men and women are being paid the same for the same job, but that women tend to choose lower paid careers. It’s quite obvious that there are less women in engineering and trades for example.
      In terms of hoskings salary, as much as I don’t rate him, there really isn’t a lot of like for like replacements. But there are so many people that could do Toni streets job – she just has to say the nice things that most of us say and think. Your salary is not based on what you do, it’s based on how many others can do it.

      1. I am not sure. I know lots of guys who are at least as much of an obnoxious tosspot as Hoskings. The legal fraternity is chock full of them for a start.

        1. Funny you should say that. I would say my women lawyer friends have faced much more sexism than my women engineering friends, for example.

      2. “women tend to choose lower paid careers” Mmmm it’s a bit more complicated. In the countries where a higher proportion of women are engineers, engineers are paid less. One positive move is to require organisations to reveal employees’ salaries, as women are often paid less than their equivalent counterparts simply because they don’t enter salary review negotiations as aggressively.

        A large proportion of people in all demographics tend to choose occupations or careers because they identify with a stereotype. So the stereotype of a scientist as a man in a labcoat with glasses is still putting off kids who don’t want to look like that. This is limiting people across ethnicity and socioeconomic status and all sorts of other “tribe” groups as well as across gender.

        I’d love to learn about salaries in the media in France. I have been quite struck by the number of tv commentators who are older women, in serious political analysis roles, compared to other countries where a higher proportion of media women tick the boxes for youth and beauty.

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