New Zealand workers saw their incomes rise at the slowest rate in more than a decade in the year ended June, the government statistics agency announced Thursday, fueling debate over the government's economic policies.
The annual increase in median weekly income from wages and salaries, which were up by 6 NZ dollars, or 0.7 percent, to 806 NZ dollars, was the smallest change since the June 1999 quarter, according to Statistics New Zealand.
Median hourly earnings showed little annual change, rising just 48 NZ cents, or 2.4 percent, to 20.86 NZ dollars.
From the quarter ending June 2011 to the quarter ending June this year, median weekly income for all people from all sources rose just 1.8 percent from 550 NZ dollars to 560 NZ dollars (452 U. S. dollars to 460 U.S. dollars), said a statement on the agency's New Zealand Income Survey.
Critics said the figures highlighted an urgent need to raise the country's statutory minimum wage.
Adjusted for inflation, median household weekly income was down 6 percent since the center-right National Party-led coalition came to power in 2008, said the opposition Green Party.
"Since 2008, median household weekly income has risen 3.7 percent while the cost of living has risen 10.1 percent," Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei said in a statement.
"We urgently need to raise the minimum wage to 15 NZ dollars an hour, and lock in future increases to ensure that working families can make ends meet," Turei said.
Finance spokesperson for the main opposition Labour Party, David Parker, said New Zealand families had less money at the end of every week than they did at the same time last year.
"Our economy is stagnating and that's shown in our weekly wages. The economy is not working for ordinary people when their incomes do not keep up with inflation," Parker said in a statement.