Ethnic communities, former refugees & recent migrants

Tāmaki Makaurau is the most cosmopolitan city in the country with 40% of the city's population born overseas.

Two women talking to each other at a desk with one laughing.

Photo: Sara Orme

Tāmaki Makaurau region’s diverse ethnic communities, former refugees and recent migrants are often credited for their vibrant social, cultural and creative contributions. Such communities not only add colour to the region, but they also contribute significantly to the Aotearoa New Zealand economy. Accordingly, they are an essential asset to the region’s workforce, contributing experience, education and skills. In previous years, there has been an improvement in labour market participation by these communities, and yet they have also been susceptible to high unemployment. They struggle to find meaningful employment where they feel they can bring their cultural identities into the workplace. Such issues have been deepened by the pandemic.

Key labour market and workforce insights

  • Former refugees, recent migrants and members of the ethnic community face challenges in finding meaningful employment and career progression due to a lack of recognition of experience.
  • A lack of recognition by occupational regulatory bodies and some employers of overseas gained qualifications and prior work experience is a barrier to attaining good jobs.
  • The community is generally young and well qualified but still find it difficult to secure stable work. The community also spoke of barriers faced within workplaces, in the recruitment process and in accessing relevant government services as well as pay equity issues.
  • Workplace exploitation, especially for recent migrants in occupations with low level qualifications, is widely acknowledged.
  • There is concern that there is not enough entrepreneurial support and recognition of the contribution that ethnic minorities make to the workforce.
  • While the qualification data shows that ethnic minorities in Tāmaki Makaurau represent a highly qualified labour pool, they still tend to earn less on average. This is relevant to the regional skills matching and job assistance services action highlighted in the Consultation on the Draft Former Refugees, Recent Migrants, and Ethnic Communities Employment Action Plan.
  • There is a need to support workplaces to modernise, support workers and businesses to be resilient, and support a more inclusive labour market recognised in the consultation Draft Former Refugees, Recent Migrants, and Ethnic Communities Employment Action Plan.

Ethnic communities, former refugees and recent migrants actions

  • The RSLG advocates workplaces to make the most of Tāmaki Makaurau region's increasingly diverse workforce by establishing practices of pay equity, recognition of prior education and work experience and most importantly, freedom of cultural expression, fairness and human dignity across workforce operations and supply chains.
  • The RSLG advocates for skills and entrepreneurial support initiatives, including career guidance to be given to former refugees, recent migrants and ethnic communities for enhanced labour market participation.
  • The RSLG supports more accessible opportunities for English language courses for ethnic communities and migrants.
  • The RSLG will review the recommendations of the Former Refugees, Recent Migrants and Ethnic Communities Employment Action Plan and incorporate those, where appropriate, into the ongoing work of the RSLG.
  • The RSLG supports community and government-led initiatives, including recognition of relevant skills and experience, and also supports the recent Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment (MBIE) report on eliminating worker exploitation.

MBIE report on modern slavery

MBIE report on temporary migrant worker exploitation review