The Southland Times had a front page article bemoaning the growing number of empty shops in the central city and listed a number of possible reasons, however not one was about the dropping spending power of most workers, families and beneficiaries.
This was my response:
The Southland Times
It surprises me that one of the most influential reasons leading to a growth of empty shops in Invercargill’s CBD never got a mention in the front page article (April 20). Obviously not one single reason can be highlighted as the cause of commercial stagnation in our city centre, and many valid reasons were listed, but surely the spending power of the city must also be considered a factor.
New Zealand has had a ‘rock star’ economy since at least 2011. The past four years have seen our richest increase their wealth by around 10% to 30% a year. At the same time there has been almost no trickling down from the wealth generated by our booming economy and most wage earners have been lucky to get a 1-2% increase a year and almost 50% of workers got no increase in 2014. We are known to be a low wage economy.
The Southland region earns 12% of our national income, from only 3% of the country’s population, and one would expect our median income would be amongst the highest in New Zealand. The 2013 census revealed that the median annual income in Invercargill from all sources, for those of working age, was a paltry $27,400. This is well below what is considered a living wage (around $39,000). Only 23% of us earned more than $50,000.
It is clear to me that the lack of money in the pockets of most Invercargill people must have contributed substantially to the growth of empty shops. The steady increase of inequality in New Zealand (one of the fastest in the OECD) has done little for our domestic economy and our local businesses.