Auckland-based Samoans to benefit from pay rise

The Auckland Council Māngere-Ōtāhuhu local board chair, Lemauga Lydia Sosene, says Auckland’s Samoan population will benefit from New Zealand increasing the minimum wage this April.

Last month, the New Zealand Government announced the minimum wage would go up to NZ$17.70 in April, on its way to reaching $20 by 2021.

“The Government is determined to improve the wellbeing and living standards of all New Zealanders as we build a productive, sustainable and inclusive economy,” Workplace Relations and Safety Minister Iain Lees-Galloway said.

The increase will result in an extra $48 per week – a boost which for NZ’s lowest earners could be dramatic. 

Chairperson Lemauga knows many of those lowest earners are of Pacific heritage, majority of which in NZ are Samoan. In her district of Māngere-Ōtāhuhu, 60 per cent are Pacific peoples, and Lemauga said they are the most deprived.

“When you have a community that has a number of socioeconomic challenges how do we get the resources in to provide opportunities that will give quality outcomes to the community?”

She said the minimum wage increase is a good start to lifting vulnerable families out of poverty but there needs to be education that goes with it.

“It’s about giving more resources to the parents to get their children to school and feed their families,” she said.

“We need deliberate strategies to help families.”

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Affordable housing which is accessible to all families are important, and good jobs play a role too, Lemauga said. In Māngere-Ōtāhuhu, the Auckland International Airport and Middlemore Hospital are two large, positive employers that people could work for and make a good living.

But coupled with high levels of deprivation are Samoan families’ obligations to their extended family in Samoa. Lemauga said ideally, sending money home is a choice each family should make for themselves.

“If the family feels strongly, has a strong connection and wants to help their family back home like in Samoa, that’s their call,” she said.

“Some families will be able to do that quite comfortably and some will not.”

She said some families may only be able to contribute ten dollars to a request for help paying fa’alavelave or for everyday needs because their costs in New Zealand are high.

“In Samoa you can live off the land and off the sea.

“In New Zealand you have to pay for all your basic livings costs so those are some quite big challenges for some families.”

Last week, Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr Sa’ilele Malielegaoi suggested that families struggling with basic infrastructure likely have family abroad they can lean on. 

Lemauga said while many people won’t be pleased he said it, she understands why. As a Samoan born abroad, she feels a deep responsibility to help her family.

“When you understand where you’ve come from, that your forefathers left Samoa to go to another country so you can have a better life… when you understand that then something rekindles back to your country and you think gosh, we need to do something.

“Of course [Tuilaepa] is going to get criticized because families are different,” Lemauga said

“Some families have done very well. I still say though, it is their call. If they can fesoasoagi their family back here, that’s got to be a good thing.”

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