31 Dec 2019

New Year Honours: Former MP and feminist Marilyn Waring made a dame

8:22 am on 31 December 2019

The public policy professor, former National MP and feminist Marilyn Waring has been made a dame for services to women and economics.

Marilyn Waring

Marilyn Waring. Photo: Supplied

Dame Marilyn says since her first book, Counting for Nothing, which examined how GDP was calculated while ignoring unpaid labour, traditionally done by women, little had changed.

"The critique of GDP with respect to the environment and overwhelmingly for women in unpaid work has gained international attraction... it's just a pity it hasn't had an outcome. While we're still anchored in the very pathological GDP I won't feel happy."

She said unpaid labour continued to be ignored in policy making.

"It's the single largest sector of NZ's economy, it's bigger than dairy and tourism, and you would not make public policy leaving out another single largest sector of the economy."

Dame Marilyn said the government's Wellbeing Budget which marketed itself on being about more than GDP and economic growth, had sent the wrong message.

"I make a distinction between the government's budget, which was focused on child poverty and finally trying to get to grips with beginning programs around drug and alcohol addiction - a really wide range of very overdue social challenges... so I make a distinction between what the government was trying to do and what Treasury's doing. All that Treasury is doing is trying to monetise and capitalise everything.

"There's a vast chasm between what wellbeing really means and what Treasury is doing, and I don't think they're the appropriate agency to be doing it."

"However, what the government is able to achieve because they have prioritised particular policies can happen irrespective of whatever game treasure is playing?

She said until there was a political will to make policy not hinging on GDP, nothing would change.

Dame Marilyn said her favourite work at the moment was supervising PhD and Masters thesis students.

"I think I've done a bit 70 of those and some of them are immediately transformative in terms of practice but I think all of them are transformative with respect to the people who are writing them, they achieve things they never believed possible of themselves.

"And that's fantastic. That is a wonderful job to have."

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