Workers need an hourly pay rate of at least $19.80 to provide the necessities and be active New Zealand citizens, a Whanganui group believes.

A meeting on February 14 aims to form a working party to lobby and campaign for the Living Wage for people in work. It’s at 7pm in the Davis Lecture Theatre, facilitated by Jigsaw Whanganui CEO Tim Metcalfe.

The aim is to encourage employers to pay the Living Wage to all their staff, supporter David James said. It’s an national and international initiative.

“It will deal with one aspect of poverty and inequality, for people who are in work but on low wages.”

The first targets will be big employers who spend public money, such as councils and district health boards.

“It’s going to be more difficult for some small employers.”

In New Zealand the Living Wage is calculated every year by the Family Centre Social Policy Research Unit in Lower Hutt. The next calculation will be mid-2017.

In 2016 the unit calculated $19.80 an hour was needed to provide for food, housing, transport and other necessities and allow people to participate in the community as active citizens.

The current minimum wage set by Government is $15.25 an hour, rising to $15.75 on April 1. For trainees and people starting out the rates are $12.20 and $12.60.

The difference between that and the Living Wage isn’t huge, but the extra money makes a difference, Mr James said.

The $19.80 amount applies across New Zealand. For big centres where rent is more expensive it may not be enough and should be adjusted upwards.

The Anglican Church is an accredited Living Wage employer. Jigsaw Whanganui and Wellington City Council are working toward it.

Whanganui Mayor Hamish McDouall said he supported the Living Wage in his election campaign. Achieving it depends on the outcome of council planning processes.

A universal basic income (UBI) has been talked of, as another solution to poverty and inequality. But it’s too early for that and the Living Wage will help some people in the meantime, Mr James said.

“There’s a lot of work that needs to go into thinking [universal basic income] through and it will be some years before we are ready for it.”