Addressing low pay and the working poor: structures of argumentation in elite and public discourse

Skilling, P
Item type
Conference Contribution
Degree name
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
Association of Industrial Relations Academics of Australia and New Zealand (AIRAANZ)

In New Zealand's 2014 general election, a series of opinion polls demonstrated that the public was greatly concerned about inequality, poverty and "the wealth gap". Other work conducted that year indicated significant support for raising the minimum wage. In the actual election, however, the parties who campaigned most strongly on those issues (Labour, the Greens and Mana) achieved historically horrific results. Clearly, even when such issues are seen as important, other factors remain salient as people make their political choices. This paper offers insights into some of those "other factors". Drawing on survey, interview and focus group work conducted in 2014, and adopting Boltanski and Thévenot’s (2006) typology of the 'grammars of justification' employed in public debates, it focuses on the structures of argumentation that elite and lay actors draw on as they advance claims. The paper concludes that New Zealand's pragmatic-positivist political culture privileges arguments that appeal to 'market forces' and the constraints imposed by 'external forces'.

29th AIRAANZ Conference 2015 held at University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand, 2015-02-03 to 2015-02-05
Rights statement
NOTICE: this is the author’s version of a work that was accepted for publication. Changes resulting from the publishing process, such as peer review, editing, corrections, structural formatting, and other quality control mechanisms may not be reflected in this document. Changes may have been made to this work since it was submitted for publication. A definitive version was subsequently published in (see Citation). The original publication is available at (see Publisher's Version).