Labour has failed in its bid to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour.
David Clark's member's bill was defeated 61-59 on its first reading in parliament on Wednesday night after the government said it would cost thousands of jobs.
The MP says the "working poor" can't earn a living on the current minimum wage of $13.50.
"There are economic consequences for under-paying people - hungry children in school, preventable illnesses caused by poor living standards ... the case for opposing this bill doesn't stack up," he said.
All the opposition parties backed the bill but National had the support of its partners ACT and United Future for a majority that killed it.
National's Michael Woodhouse said an increase of that level in the minimum wage would have a knock-on effect, with workers already on or above it demanding increases which small businesses wouldn't be able to afford.
"Official advice is that 5500 people would lose their jobs," he told parliament.
"Labour is telling only half the story and it's deceitful to say this wouldn't increase unemployment."
NZ First MP Barbara Stewart said her party was supporting the bill because people were struggling to make ends meet.
"We have 300,000 workers earning the minimum wage," she said.
"In Australia it (te minium wage) is the equivalent of $20 an hour and our young people are moving there because they get a fair deal. Those high wages are a magnet New Zealand just doesn't compete with."