Increases to minimum wage, benefits, Superannuation - April 1 changes explained

The Government says more than a quarter of New Zealanders will be better off from Saturday as the result of annual changes to the minimum wage, benefits, Superannuation and a number of initiatives.

Many of the changes being made on April 1 have been tied to inflation, which was at an annual rate of 7.2 percent in the December quarter. By making sure the increases mirror that rate, the Government says it's helping Kiwis combat the cost of living crisis. 

"In tough times, it's critical we support those who are struggling the most to make ends meet," said Prime Minister Chris Hipkins.

"Right now, people need our support more than ever and an inflation-adjusted lift in the minimum wage, superannuation, benefits, veteran's pensions and student supports will help more than a million New Zealanders."

So let's have a look at some of those changes, starting with minimum wage.

The minimum wage is rising in line with inflation by $1.50 per hour to $22.70 per hour. It was previously at $21.20. It has been set there since April 1, 2022, after increasing from $20.

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment has found an increase of 7 percent in the minimum wage would only have a minor inflationary impact of 0.1 percent on the wages portion of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), the Prime Minister has said.

The Starting-Out and Training minimum wage rates will be maintained at 80 percent of the adult minimum wage.

These changes mean approximately 223,000 workers are expected to receive a wage rise.

Superannuation - the support for about 880,000 pensioners - is also increasing in line with inflation.

Individuals in a couple will each go from receiving a net fortnightly rate of $712.22 to $763.64 - a roughly $102 overall increase. For a single living alone, it will go from $925.88 to $992.74.

The Government did something unusual this year with its increase to benefits. 

In 2019, it made changes so annual increases to main benefits are tied to increases in the average wage, which traditionally has risen faster than inflation. 

However, with inflation currently running so hot, it's higher than the net average wage rise of 6.24 percent.

Because of this, Cabinet this year agreed to ignore its 2019 change and increase main benefits with inflation.

There are several different main benefits, but for a flavour, a single individual aged 25 years and over receiving the Jobseeker Support will go from receiving $315 to $337.74. A couple with children on Jobseeker Support will go from $566 to $606.86, while a sole parent's support goes from $440.96 to $472.79.

What else is changing? Well, there are increases to family tax credits under Working for Families that are expected to help about 345,000 families. 

For the eldest child, the support goes from $127 to $136 per week, while for every subsequent child it goes from $104 to $111. The Best Start Tax Credit also jumps from $65 to $69 per week.

Tertiary students who receive the student allowance will see increases in line with inflation. For example, a student aged under 24 years living at home will see their rate go from $240.19 to $257.53, but if they're living away from home it goes from $279.97 to $300.18.

Including changes to loaned living costs, about 52,000 students are expected to benefit.

From tomorrow, the nurses pay agreement worth $200 million annually will mean that nurses in aged residential care, hospices, home and community support services, along with those in Māori and Pacific healthcare, will have up to 15 percent more in their take-home pay," Prime Minister Hipkins said.

"Changes to childcare also come in tomorrow. It means more than half of New Zealand families with kids are now eligible for subsidised childcare assistance and makes another 10,000 children eligible for the Childcare Subsidy who weren’t before. It means more parents will be able to afford childcare and before and after school care."

Minister for Social Development Carmel Sepuloni said the Government's actions over the past five years have led to substantial increases in Kiwis' incomes.

For example, the amount paid to a couple receiving Superannuation has jumped by $326.68 per fortnight since 2017. A couple with children who are receiving a main benefit will be better off by $256 per week on average than they were in 2017. 

"These are big shifts and demonstrate our Government’s commitment to supporting New Zealanders. We know that there is more to do, but our record over the last five years shows we are committed to doing what’s right for all."

While not a boost for Kiwis' wallets, a boost to some Kiwis' protection against COVID-19 is also coming on Saturday.

Anyone aged 30 and over will be able to access the new COVID-19 bivalent booster as long as it's been at least 6 months since their last booster or a positive COVID-19 test. It will replace the existing Pfizer booster and is considered more effective against Omicron subvariants.

Bivalent vaccines work by combining two strains of a virus, which prompts the body to create antibodies against both strains, providing a greater level of protection.