Minimum wage employee relieved at $1.10 increase

A Wellington worker surviving on the minimum wage is relieved at the yearly increase, saying the changes have been "a long time coming".

The minimum wage rose from $18.90 to $20 on Thursday, an increase which was welcomed by Yelena Meo who cleans cars for a living.

She's on minimum wage and is living paycheck to paycheck. She wants to become a nurse but can't afford to study.

"Say I need to get new socks, something as stupid as that, I'd have to budget for it, just for socks," she says.

She welcomed the minimum wage increase.

"I'm thinking finally, you know, it's been a long time coming."

Minimum wage earners aren't the only ones celebrating, the living wage has been increased to a new rate too, going from $22.10 an hour to $22.75. This increase will come into effect in September.

Living Wage Aotearoa expects it will make a difference.

"It means leaving that night shift job after you've been doing day shifts and night shifts, it means saving up a little bit of money to spend on a trip away," says Gina Lockyer, Living Wage chairperson.

Unions welcome both increases, and while some are calling for the minimum wage to be raised further, business advocates say Thursday's increase is already too tough. 

"Now that's a lot for a business to absorb, particularly when so many businesses are under pressure at the moment," says Alan McDonald, Employers and Manufacturers Association spokesperson.

Finance Minister Grant Robertson stands by the minimum wage increase.

"The people who get it spend it, so they actually go into those small businesses and help stimulate the economy, so we think this is the right thing to do," he says.

For those earning the least, earning $1.10 more will make living that much easier.