The economy is central to the lives of every New Zealander. A successful economy is one that enables all Kiwis to live their best lives. It provides security, wellbeing, and equitable outcomes. At its best, the growth in the economy allows us to address our most challenging issues, including the environment, health, inequality, poverty, housing, and infrastructure. But for too long, and for too many people, our economy has failed to deliver on our aspirations.
The NZCTU wants to see our economy developed to be truly productive, sustainable, and inclusive. An economy that puts workers, communities, tangata whenua and the environment at the centre of economic development. An economy that recognises Te Tiriti o Waitangi as the founding document of Aotearoa New Zealand, and where everyone equitably shares in the benefits of economic growth and sees tangible rewards from the value they create. To do this, we need a strategy that sets out how we achieve these goals and minimise risks in their delivery.
The NZCTU believes that the best way to deliver this strategy is to frame our aspirations in terms of ‘missions’. Missions provide both a goal and a direction. Taking a mission approach means that different actors can agree and align their actions to provide maximum benefit. They allow for the development of innovative policy solutions and a quick means of understanding whether a policy is achieving its aims.
The NZCTU believes that an economic strategy must deliver the following missions:
- Economic equity
- Adequate housing and infrastructure needs for the 21st century
- A Just Transition towards climate mitigation and resilience
- Decent work and greater life balance
- Enabling the enduring wellbeing of New Zealanders
These missions must steer our economic development journey in Aotearoa New Zealand. To deliver these missions we need to fundamentally change how we think about the economy. We need to move away from a narrow view of economic progress. For too long we have sacrificed our economic wellbeing on the altar of endless growth. Instead, we need to concentrate upon the quality of that growth. Growth built upon ever higher levels of consumption has simply led to environmental decay, an indifference towards inequality, and the prioritisation of our short-term needs over our long-run needs.
“Kennedy was clear that the Apollo project would cost a lot of money – and it did. [...] There is no reason why a ‘whatever it takes’ mentality cannot be used for social problems. [...] What if budgets were based on outcomes to be reached, as they were for the moon landing and in wars? What if the first question is not ‘Can we afford it?’ but ‘What do we really want to do? And how do we create the resources required to realize the mission?” ― Mariana Mazzucato, Mission Economy: A Moonshot Guide to Changing Capitalism
We have an opportunity now to apply the lessons we learned during this pandemic. For far too many people, ‘normal’ prior to COVID-19 meant an insecure job, and an insecure future. For many New Zealanders, this meant a life on the breadline despite working full-time. It meant working in jobs that had no future or prospects. Despite having the second highest minimum wage, New Zealand currently has one of the lowest average hourly earnings among our peers including the UK, USA, Australia, Canada, and Ireland. We also have a housing crisis that’s denying Kiwis their right to adequate housing. The past is a guide to our future, but it should not be our destination. Inaction, and a ‘return to normal’ are not options we can afford to take.
We can achieve these missions, but only by working together. Our vision is an economic strategy that supports communities to work together to solve problems such as climate change, social justice, and inequality. This means working in a true spirit of partnership, honouring our requirements as a Te Tiriti partner, and recognising Te Tiriti o Waitangi as central to this economic strategy. A successful economic strategy for New Zealand is one that engages working people and honours the role they play in our society.
Policy works best when it represents everyone affected by it – as the Future of Work process demonstrates. We want to develop our economic strategy with everyone who shares our passion for a better future for New Zealand.
The Challenges Facing the New Zealand Economy
 Russell, D and Renney, C. (2022). Monthly Economic Bulletin June 2022 - Future of Work, Good Work and Low Wages. New Zealand Council of Trade Unions. P. 16-17. NZCTU-Economic-Bulletin-April-2022.pdf (union.org.nz)
 At the end of 2021, housing in New Zealand reached its most unaffordable on record. The average property was worth 8.8 times the average income according to CoreLogic’s latest housing affordability report.
 NZCTU June Economic Bulletin: Future of work, good work and low wages provides a run down on the Future of Work programme.