A brief history of the minimum wage in New Zealand

On Wednesday, the Government announced it will raise the minimum wage by $1.20, making it the biggest boost in its history.

New Zealand was the first country in the world to introduce laws around a minimum earning rate, and it's been a subject of national importance ever since.

Even today, we have the highest minimum wage in the OECD.

Here's a quick look back at New Zealand's long history with the wage, and how it's evolved over time:

1894: NZ enacts the world's first national minimum wage laws with the Industrial Conciliation and Arbitration Act.

It was a response to employers blacklisting union members and slashing wages following the failure of the trans-Tasman Maritime Strike of 1890.

1946: Minimum wage is two shillings, nine pence per hour for men - but only one shilling, eight pence for women.

It's not quite a universal minimum wage either: female apprentices, kindergarten trainees, urban field cadets studying full-time and women studying to be dental nurses are among those who don't have to be paid the rate. 

1967: The country switches from the NZ pound to the NZ dollar. Our new minimum wage rate is 57c/hr for men and 39c/hr for women.

1977: New Zealand abolishes separate minimum wage rates for men and woman, instituting a minimum wage of $1.62/hr for all adults.

1985: The year after David Lange's Labour Party defeats Robert Muldoon's National, the minimum wage almost doubles in seven months, rising from $2.50/hr in February to $4.25/hr in September.

It's the first rise in four years after the Muldoon government's 1982 wage-and-price freeze, which was intended to combat inflation.  

1994: A 'youth rate' minimum wage is introduced for workers aged 16 or 17 - $3.68/hr compared with $6.125/hr for older workers. Prior to this, there was no law requiring employees younger than 20 to be paid a minimum amount.

2004: The 'training rate' is introduced, which applies to those in recognised industry training involving at least 60 credits per year. It's the same as the youth rate ($7.20/hr) and remains that way today.

2007: The Minimum Wage (New Entrants) Amendment Act rules rates for 16 to 17-year-olds and those in training cannot be lower than 80 percent of the adult rate, which in 2007 is $11.25/hr.

2013: The youth rate is rebranded as the 'starting out' rate, and only applies to 16 and 17-year-olds who haven't worked for their employer for six continuous months.

It's $11/hr while the adult minimum wage is $13.75/hr.

2019: The Labour-led Government will raise the minimum wage to $17.70/hr on April 1. Workplace Relations and Safety Minister Iain Lees-Galloway says it's the equivalent of an extra $48 a week before tax - "enough to make a real difference for working people".

Newshub.

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