LEANZ, Law and Economics in New Zealand

Next Wellington Seminar

Next Wellington Seminar


Title: Low wages - is competition a factor?

Speakers: Dr Bill Rosenberg, Economist and Director of Policy at the CTU; Peter Cranney, employment lawyer.

Location: Simpson Grierson, 195 Lambton Quay, Level 24 HSBC Tower, Wellington.

Date and Time: Thursday, 2 May 2019, 5:30-7:30 pm. Refreshments from 5:30 pm for a 6 pm seminar start. Further refreshments available until 7:30 pm following the conclusion of the presentation and question time at 7 pm.


There are numerous indicators that New Zealand’s employment relations (‘labour market’) are not working well. Low wages compared to the rest of the world, a low and falling wage share of New Zealand’s domestic income, real wage growth falling behind weak labour productivity growth, poor skill matching with jobs, and gender pay gaps are just some of them.

These problems are not unique to New Zealand, though we are at the most undesirable end of many of them. Internationally, there is considerable rethinking occurring among economists, particularly in the US, in the face of the falling labour share of income, growing extremes of income and wealth inequality, and stagnating real wages.

One strand of thinking is of particular interest for Law and Economics: the impact of reducing competition including the growth of ‘superstar’ firms, on labour incomes. While sometimes described shorthand as ‘monopsony’ (a single purchaser in a market – in this case, labour), it is considerably more complex, and leads to employer market power as described in the Employment Relations Act, backed by international conventions, as the “inherent inequality of power in employment relationships”. It has led to consideration in the US as to whether competition law should be more strongly brought to bear on labour relations. However some of the same authors have also come to the conclusion that competition law would not be sufficient and can only play a secondary role: other remedies are needed including strengthening labour regulation and unions. They describe proposals in that direction in New Zealand such as Fair Pay Agreements.

About the Speakers:

Dr Bill Rosenberg has been Economist and Director of Policy at the CTU since May 2009. He holds a B.Com in Economics, a B.Sc.Hons in Mathematics and a PhD in Mathematical Psychology. Bill was previously Deputy Director, University Centre for Teaching and Learning at the University of Canterbury, a Commissioner on the Tertiary Education Commission board, and was National President of the Association of University Staff for several years. He has written and spoken on many issues including labour relations, inequality, social security, privatisation, health funding, and globalisation.

Peter Cranney is a Wellington-based employment lawyer acting primarily for unions including in collective bargaining.

Queries about the event can be directed to:

Andrea Black, andreablack7@me.com


Lawyers may note that if this seminar is part of your learning objectives in your CPDPR, then the seminar can count for one hour of your 10 CPD hours. Please contact a LEANZ representative at the seminar to confirm your attendance.

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