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NZ can't be smug or complacent, economist warns

Although New Zealand has been a "bit of an oasis" in the global financial crisis an economist has warned that we can't be smug or complacent.

British professor and author Guy Standing talks to Q+A about how the future of works in New Zealand. Source: Q+A

Professor Guy Standing says inequalities in New Zealand are shocking with the housing crisis and more and more young people not able to get onto a ladder to develop their lives.

"The insecurities are out there, there's a sense that neither the government nor the opposition are yet able to understand the precariat and their aspirations and needs," Mr Standing told Q+A this morning.

The precariat is a class in the making, says Mr Standing, referring to people having to accept a life of unstable labour with no occupational identity and having to do a lot of work that doesn't get counted as labour.

"For the first time in history an enormous number of people have a higher level of education than the level of labour they're expected to perform."

The professor is a a keynote speaker at Labour's future of work conference this week and says in the political spectrum the precariat don't see parties and politicians representing their interests.

"It's been growing throughout the globalisation period and is a reflection of both globalisation and neo-liberal policies that governments have pursued."

Mr Standing believes the New Zealand Labour Party needs "to wake up and has been missing the boat for too long".

The left has failed to understand what the challenges are about, he says, citing working class communities that no longer have jobs and are fearful, living in insecurity.

People are looking for exciting progressive politics. - Professor Guy Standing

Then the Donald Trumps and neo-fascists of the world play on their fears and demonise other groups, Mr Standing says.

"They're looking for a better life.

"The left has got to realise that the biggest single problem is that the income distribution system of the 20th century has broken down - it's dead."