Otago Polytechnic

Who's likely to object to the Living Wage movement and why?

The Living Wage movement is growing in New Zealand, with increasing recognition that many workers on the minimum wage struggle to make ends meet. But employers have a finite ability to increase wages across the board, so if those on the lowest wages are brought up to the Living Wage, other staff might miss out. Previous research has shown that when you put people into two groups, they will vote for outcomes that give their own group a relative advantage over the other group, even when that doesn't give their own group the greatest possible benefit. So might self-interest cause some people to resist the Living Wage movement? 

Steve Atkins and Lesley Gill are interested in the tension between:

  • the feeling of missing out relative to others - relative deprivation; and
  • compassion for those in greater need - empathy.

They have produced a model that will enable them to explore how attitudes towards the Living Wage movement might be affected by empathy and relative deprivation. The model considers how empathetic people are, how fair their society is, and how fair they perceive their society to be. They have also developed or adopted measures to assess each factor in the model.

Using this model Steve and Lesley will be able to carry out studies into whether relative deprivation is likely to lead to opposition to the Living Wage or whether empathy will override that. They intend to compare results across different countries, especially those OECD nations most active in addressing housing/food affordabilities for workers, compared to those OECD nations least active in that same arena. They will focus particularly on those who have paid for tertiary education but who might no longer receive as large a wage advantage if those without tertiary education receive a Living Wage.  

 

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WORKPLACE & SOCIAL-SPACE

June 2019