Wellbeing and the Precariat

By The Marsden Living Wage research team

Currently, there are many conversations in policy circles about low-income households experiencing unlivable wages and insecure employment. There is also increasing recognition that indecent work, inadequate incomes, inflation, and the rising costs of housing, have detrimental impacts on the physical and psychological wellbeing of people and families. The current Government has introduced various initiatives to render assistance, but often treats issues such as work, income, housing, food, and health as separate policy topics. These issues are interrelated in the everyday lives of households participating in our three-year Health Research Council of New Zealand funded research project entitled ‘Wellbeing and the precariat’.

This kaupapa Māori project considers what impacts recent efforts to help, such as the rising of minimum wages and the Families Package are having on low-income households. The Māori-led project is being conducted by a diverse team of researchers and students from four universities (Massey, Auckland, AUT and Waikato). The overall research aim is to document and understand the role of work, policy, and wellbeing in the everyday lives of households in Auckland. More specific objectives include:

  • documenting why having a job is often not sufficient for households to resolve issues of in-work poverty
  • considering how various insecurities associated with income, housing, food, and so forth impact everyday household life with a view to informing effective policy responses
  • exploring how different initiatives to address issues of poverty and insecurity impact the wellbeing and everyday health-related practices of precariat whānau.

The research has three interrelated components. The first involves detailed repeat interviews and mapping exercises with 40 ethnically diverse (Māori, Pacific, Pākehā, Asian) low income working households. The second involves two national quantitative surveys of the employment situations, concerns, struggles, and wellbeing of approximately 1000 low-income workers. Components one and two inform the third component, which involves leveraging off insights to inform government policy and service responses to in-work poverty through a governmental advisory group, the production of policy briefs, and documentary theatre workshops. These workshops involve the use of creative methods to deepen understanding of the impacts of policy initiatives on the everyday lives of households experiencing in-work poverty.