Recently I got into a bit of a debate in the forum of, well, a simple Facebook status. Basically, somebody (and subsequently others) took umbrage at the fact that the paper, in a story on women and high income households feeling the financial pinch, labelled $60k a high income.
Now, I’m pretty sure I actually participated in the survey that the story was based on. I would probably also wager that it was Dun & Bradstreet that set the income bands offered in the answers, and decided the cutoff point for a higher-than-average wage.
But I digress. Initially, I wanted to stand up for the reporter, but most of all, I wanted to reinforce the fact, contrary to their statements, I believe $60k is nowhere NEAR the average household income in New Zealand (more like $45k).
Comments were basically along the lines of “they don’t know what they’re talking about“, and “Even 60k for one person is not that high“.
Look, NZ is expensive. I don’t earn $60k, but although I would never be able to buy a house on that amount, it would certainly support two people. Maybe it’s not “high” in some people’s eyes – I don’t necessarily think it’s all that much, either – but it’s far from poverty level and certainly not the average.
According to Statistics NZ, the median weekly income last year was $538; for people receiving income from wages and salaries, $760.
Is $60k the average income for a worker? Clearly not.
Now, the main, and more contentious point about how realistic that claim was: “That’s barely two minimum wage-salaries combined“.
For the record, two workers earning minimum wage would net just over $52k gross.
I pointed out that there are plenty of students, single/noncohabiting/divorced people, part-time workers, people on benefits, and those on low or minimum wage out there; NZ is not exactly a high-wage economy. Plus there’s that whole minefield of the definition of “average” – mean? median? – and that not all households have two incomes.
(Another point was raised about most households having multiple people spending the income – children I presume – and while that may be a fair point…I don’t know what the “average” household makeup is these days…but I don’t think outgoings are relevant to the matter of income for this purpose.)
So, what about for a household? Well, clearly it’s not hard for a dual-income household with both working fulltime to hit the mark. But I just wasn’t sure that those would make up the majority of households, and stood by the belief that calling $60k a “high income” isn’t inherently wrong.
According to census numbers and income surveys (also to be found on Stats NZ), the average household income derived from wages and salaries was $46,000 last year. So, not quite. BUT, the median annual household income was $63,867 (other contributing sources included government support, self employment and investments). So, it looks like I should concede on that point.
What do you consider an average wage, or high income, wherever you are?