Economist Tony Alexander blasts Kiwi bosses for installing big beer fridges to try keep staff instead of giving bigger pay rises

An economist says Kiwi bosses simply need to pay their staff more rather than buy luxuries for the office if they want to keep workers.

In his latest economic newsletter, economist Tony Alexander wrote Kiwi workers need extra money on the table - or we risk losing them to Australia for higher wages.

"The higher incomes which Kiwis need in order to meet high costs for so many things can only sustainably come from staff shifting to businesses which can pay more whether that be in newly growing or long-existing sectors of activity," Alexander said. "And it is no good firms installing kegerators. Apparently, these are fridges for beer kegs and the latest 'in' thing for businesses to have to keep their staff.

"Imagine the scene when the worker goes home in the evening and says to her husband, 'We're only getting a 3 percent wage rise this year, but I love working there, the other people are great, and the boss really cares. She just installed a huge beer fridge!'"

Alexander wrote that such luxuries don't compensate for workers' soaring weekly food bills, and higher rents, interest rates and council rates among other price increases.

"People need extra money, not better access to beer, pool tables, internal slides from one floor to the next and lots of prettily coloured bean bags.

"Sorry employers, but many of you just don’t get it when it comes to the necessity of higher wages for improving our standard of living overall and helping struggling Kiwi families pay their rising bills."

Alexander said it was a tough environment for many Kiwi workers.

"That is why a lot of people are going to shift to Australia. You'll get substantially higher wages, cheaper housing (especially in Brisbane), lower living costs and the ability to work and maybe create your own business in a far greater range of sectors than available in New Zealand.

Tony Alexander.
Tony Alexander. Photo credit: File

"New Zealand is a great place to live - but only if you are prepared to sacrifice a lot of things, a decent income being one of them.

"So, my message to businesses remains the same. Labour is in short supply. 

"The supply needs to go to our most profitable businesses with the best growth prospects. The mechanism for achieving that is accelerated wages growth.

"It has nothing to do with needing productivity to rise - that is a red herring excuse for inaction often promoted by our business bodies."

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment earlier this week warned at least 50,000 New Zealanders will leave the country during the next year - many of whom will be young Kiwis searching for better pay and living conditions.  

In an economic newsletter earlier this month, Alexander wrote how "insufficient" businesses with low-paying roles may need to crumble for Kiwis' wages to rapidly accelerate.