The total number of ethnic Chinese in New Zealand was about 171,411 in 2013 – up from about 105,000 in 2001. This was about 4% of the national population, making the Chinese the largest non-European, non-Polynesian minority group. Nearly three-quarters of the ethnic Chinese in New Zealand were immigrants. 71% of the foreign-born came from China, with 8% from Malaysia, 7% from Taiwan and 5% from Hong Kong.
1987 immigration policy change
Among the immigrant Chinese in 2001, 69% had arrived in the previous 10 years. The increase in arrivals had been made possible by the introduction of an even-handed immigration policy in 1987. This overturned New Zealand’s longstanding preference for immigrants from the United Kingdom and Ireland. From the late 1980s, any person who met stringent educational, professional, business, age and asset requirements could gain a residence visa. Ethnic Chinese could now enter New Zealand in large numbers.
Income and employment
The Chinese in New Zealand today are generally high achievers, with significant skills and substantial savings. Yet while both locally born and immigrant Chinese are very well educated, their incomes and rate of participation in the labour force are below the national average.
A large number of new arrivals remain unemployed, partly because their qualifications are not recognised, and partly because of residual prejudice. Both now and in the past, Chinese have come to New Zealand in search of better opportunities. For many, these opportunities have remained out of reach.