Russell Marshall’s Column

Income gaps – & changes for the worse in New Zealand

By Russell Marshall

I have long believed that each generation is more fortunate and better off than its predecessor – likely to live longer, be better educated, see more of the world, live in better houses, and have generally richer life experiences.

That is certainly the case when I compare the lives of my generation in our immediate family with those of our parents. And the difference is massive compared with my grand parents and great grandparents, even though most had improved their lot by coming here from Britain. Nevertheless, I am these days modifying that view. We are no longer all destined to do better, and to enjoy life more than previous generations. In some respects this is obvious.

The gap in income from wealthiest to poorest here and in many other western countries has become markedly wider.

Still some who do poorly

While many of us enjoy medical care such as artificial hips and sundry other modern medical advances, there are still some in poorer, more dysfunctional, families who do poorly.

Current unemployment figures suggest that not even a good tertiary education is sufficient to guarantee employment, or a job using that education.

And I still believe that many schools and their teachers in poorer communities deserve better understanding and policies than have been the case over the last two decades.


One of the changes for the worse is that many young people now set up home while having considerable debt, which had not been the case for previous generations. As well as the cost of buying or renting a home, many such couples also have two lots of student debt hanging over them.


Furthermore, unless someone has the sense and political courage to lift the eligibility age for pensions soon, the burden of indirectly paying more to their parents will add further financial strain to today’s 20 somethings.

Then there are the less tangible changes. We live in a much more rapidly changing world, not all of it better.  No longer is it possible for everyone to walk or ride a bicycle to the nearest shops.

Suburbs no longer communities

Suburbs are no longer also communities with a sense of belonging together or children and teenagers going to the local school.  Though I can read the New Zealand Herald and overseas papers online I have noticeably poorer service from the one remaining local daily paper.

To get quality TV now I need to pay a Sky.subscription. The chip in the new digital camera I was given six years ago is no longer produced, and my mobile phone is apparently very dated. There are times when I just want to yell out ‘no more technology changes please!’ Perhaps not yet a Luddite, but I have a Grumpy old Man T shirt…