Equality with the stars: the Ardern/Gayford baby and social inequality

Posted: June 22, 2018 by Admin in Class Matters, Economics, New Zealand economy, New Zealand history, New Zealand politics, Unemployment, Women's rights & women's liberation, Workers' rights

It’s easy to have woman working and stay at home dad when the woman is being paid over $470,000 a year; but what about poor families?

by Don Franks

NZ prime minister Jacinda Ardern’s bearing of a baby while in office has understandably launched many words.

Michelle Duff writing in the NZ Herald enthused: “When her partner Clarke Gayford is excited about being a stay at home dad, it’s equally inspirational.

“It sets a precedent.  It normalises powerful women and nurturing, caring men.  It decimates outdated ideals of where a mother ‘should’ be – at home, with the children, while dad earns the money.  It smashes those boring boxes and makes room for new shapes, new ways we can all live our lives.

“It creates a conversation about pregnancy, and motherhood, and what’s expected, and what sucks. It means we are thinking and talking about how workplaces and attitudes can be improved.” 

Something in that I think.

Just, not in Duff’s mind-numbing fairytale conclusion:

“One last thing,  Apart from a few naysayers, New Zealand’s reaction to its prime minister’s pregnancy has basically been a collective “Sweet as”.  As a country, we’re mostly cool with this, which suggests we’re well on our way to true equality.”

“We” are nothing of the sort.

The trend has been in the opposite direction, for decades.  Kickstarted by the fourth Labour government’s anti-worker Rogernomics, inequality increased markedly in New Zealand in the late 1980s and 1990s.

Today, the distribution of wealth among households in New Zealand is skewed heavily in favour of those at the top. 

The wealthiest 20 per cent of households in New Zealand hold 70 per cent of the wealth, while the top 10 per cent hold half the wealth.  According to a recent Oxfam report two Kiwi billionaires have a combined wealth greater than the bottom 30 per cent of the adult population of New Zealand. 

This while, increasingly, full-time workers are driven to food banks to get by, while working people sleep in their cars, while New Zealand babies born today, next week and for the foreseeable future enter a life of poverty and hopelessness. 

No party in New Zealand’s parliament has anything approaching a radical programe to turn this injustice around.  Every party in parliament is committed to supporting capitalism, the root cause and perpetuator of inhumane inequality.

It’s alway nice to see another baby, we need them for the future.  Just as urgently, we need a social revolution.


  1. Susanne K says:

    The discussion on the Ardern/Gayford baby, typified by Michelle Duff’s comments in the NZ Herald, indicate the degree to which the working class has been disappeared in New Zealand. Michelle Duff is not really talking about “women”; she is talking about corporate women and them alone. This is a minuscule layer of women.

    For the working class, stay-at-home dads are not possible because no working class women – or men – earn enough to keep a household. In fact, stay at home dads are nigh on impossible in much of the middle class, especially in a city like Auckland. Only in the most upper layer of the middle class and the actual bourgeoisie are stay-at-home dads.

    Jacinda Ardern’s salary and allowances provide her with an income of more than $490,000; moreover she had an MP’s salary and allowances for the previous nine years and Clark Gayford hosts his own TV show, so they have had significant financial resources already to draw on.

    The gendered division of labour is not primarily about gender stereotypes these days because very few people still believe in them, despite what Ms Duff’s article seems to suggest. The gendered division of labour in 21st century New Zealand is overwhelmingly about economic necessity. It’s about income, including lower pay in female-dominated areas of work; housing affordability; child care availability and cost; etc. And, as Don’s article points out, these problems got worse under Labour, not just National.

    While the Ardern/Gayford household can afford a stay-at-home dad, health workers have to struggle for pay increases that just keep up with real inflation and the struggle for equal pay goes on.

    And the vast majority of family households require two (or more) people working two (or more) jobs just to make ends meet. That is not going to change under any Labour government. And that’s why this baby is a reminder of why we really do need a social revolution.

  2. Alan Scott says:

    Jacinda and her baby! Oh, God! No more, please!

  3. Phil F says:

    At least there isn’t any sign of a wedding yet, so maybe we should be grateful for small mercies. Imagine a wedding and the gush there would be around that.