Kōrero: Ethnic inequalities

Whārangi 8. Signs of change

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Population projections and ethnicity

A combination of natural increase (births minus deaths) among their comparatively youthful populations, and projected immigration levels, is projected to increase the numbers of Māori, Pacific and Asian people in New Zealand in the decades after 2010. Māori, 14.9% of the population in 2013, are projected to be 19.5% by 2038. The Pacific community will increase from 7.4% to 10.9%, and the Asian community from 11.8% to 20.8%. By then just over 50% of the population will be of these ethnicities. The overall number of people from Africa and the Middle East is also expected to rise. In contrast, a small decline is predicted in Pākehā numbers due to an ageing population and probable continued emigration. Gaps in the local workforce due to New Zealanders living overseas are likely to be filled by incoming migrants.

Barriers to beauty

New Zealand’s beauty business has been criticised for not lowering the barriers to all cultures. In 2009 a former Miss New Zealand claimed that the New Zealand Next Top Model reality-television competition ‘did not represent New Zealand’s diverse culture’. Her comments received support from bloggers: ‘No ethnic diversity … these girls are pretty, but they all look like Supre [clothing] store girls’ and ‘They look like clones. Where are all the Maori girls?’1

As a result of increasing ethnic diversity, life in New Zealand will become even more cosmopolitan, especially in the major cities. The impact of these changes on patterns of ethnic disadvantage will remain heavily influenced by regional and global economic and political forces. Much will depend on the rigidity of boundaries between ethnic and racial groups.

Enjoying ethnic diversity

In the early 21st century there were many signs that New Zealanders were already enjoying the variety of experiences that ethnic diversity offers. Increasing numbers chose to claim multiple ethnic origins and identities when asked to fill in official forms. Rising levels of cross-cultural intermarriage and partnership, mixing of different ethnicities in workplaces and neighbourhoods, and the blending of diverse family, church and voluntary association activities, all point to the breaking down of ethnic boundaries. The positive contributions of indigenous and immigrant minorities in many areas of New Zealand life also received more recognition.

Multi-cultural Auckland

In 2017 Auckland held the following cultural festivals: Tāmaki Herenga Waka Festival of Māori history, heritage and culture (January); Lantern Festival (February), New Zealand’s largest Chinese festival; Pacific Islands-themed Pasifika Festival (March); ASB Polyfest (March), claimed to be the biggest Polynesian dance festival in the world; and the Diwali Festival celebrating traditional and contemporary Indian culture (October). These events are now not only part of the annual calendar in Auckland, but also in other cities around the country.

Improvements in ethnic equality

In the early 21st century there were signs of real progress towards greater ethnic equality. Since the 1996 introduction of a mixed-member proportional representation system for national politics, indigenous and ethnic political representatives have increased in number and prominence. After the 2017 election, 27 members of Parliament identified themselves as Māori (23% compared to 13% in 1996), seven as Pacific (6% compared to 3% in 1996) and seven as Asian (6% compared to 1% in 1996).

Public policy in education, health and social development emphasised and invested in improving outcomes for disadvantaged ethnic groups. Since the mid-1990s Māori and Pacific peoples experienced faster improvements than the whole population in life expectancy, participation in tertiary education, employment and hourly earnings. Growing numbers of Māori and Pacific people were joining the urban middle class. Such trends reflected small but significant shifts in the balance of power between dominant and less privileged groups. However, substantial progress is needed to reduce inequalities if New Zealand is not to suffer long-term tension between its ethnic groups.

Kupu tāpiri
  1. ‘Next Top Model choices fail ethnic diversity test.’ New Zealand Herald, 4 April 2009, http://www.nzherald.co.nz/lifestyle/news/article.cfm?c_id=6&objectid=10565124 (last accessed 9 September 2010) Back
Me pēnei te tohu i te whārangi:

David Pearson, 'Ethnic inequalities - Signs of change', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/mi/ethnic-inequalities/page-8 (accessed 22 June 2024)

He kōrero nā David Pearson, i tāngia i te 5 May 2011, reviewed & revised 21 May 2018