30 Jul 2012

Income gap widens, new report finds

7:59 pm on 30 July 2012

A new report highlighting the widening income gap between Maori, Pacific Island and European families has prompted some community groups to call for an increase in the minimum wage.

The Council of Christian Social Services' report on vulnerable families uses data from government agencies and community organisations.

It shows the median weekly income for European families increased by $11 to $580 in the four years to March 2012.

In the same period, median incomes for Maori families went down $40 a week to $459 and Pacific family incomes fell $65 to $390.

Council of Christian Social Services spokesperson Trevor McGlinchey says it shows Maori and Pasifika families are bearing the brunt of the Government's drive to reduce the national deficit.

Auckland Tongan Advisory Panel chair Melino Maka says raising the minimum wage from $13.50 to $15 would make a huge difference to a lot of struggling Pasifika families.

Te Waipareira Trust, which provides health, social and justice services to Maori whanau, agrees an increase in the minimum wage would help but says it is only one of many things that need to change.

Chief executive John Tamihere says the biggest challenge is to lift numeracy and literacy skills for young Maori.

He says the Government and community organisations have a lot of work to do to close the income gap.