Priority communities

We have the opportunity to enable priority groups to better participate in our labour market, to both help meet our skills shortages and to improve the outcomes for people.

If we can help make these communities more visible to employers and facilitate access to skills and employment for those who have traditionally struggled to access these, we can improve equity in our region. We can also create a workforce that better represents our population, we can reap the benefits of more inclusive and diverse workplaces, and we can tap into rich pools of labour and mitigate shortages.

The Government has identified seven groups as a priority in its Employment Strategy based on persistently poor labour market outcomes.

Employment strategy

Underutilisation rates across priority groups are illustrative of poorer labour market outcomes
Figure 4: Underutilisation rates for priority communities (note: Comparable data for former refugees and new migrants is not available).

Figure 4: Underutilisation rates for priority communities (note: Comparable data for former refugees and new migrants is not available).

Each priority community has its own unique challenges when engaging with the labour market, while some are common such as employers’ preconceptions. Challenges can also be intersectional, meaning that factors like gender, sexuality, and ethnicity can overlap to mean people are disadvantaged by multiple sources of prejudice and lack of opportunity. Intersectionality takes into account people’s overlapping identities and experiences in order to understand the complexity of prejudices they face.

Māori: Mana whenua and mātāwaka


  • Systemic racism – which manifests in unsafe work environments, wage disparity, recruitment practices and educational outcomes
  • Challenges within the education system lead to lower qualifications
  • Intersectional issues are more pronounced, especially for women and people with disabilities
  • Employer understanding of family and community responsibilities
  • Inadequate career advice, information and employment services
  • Workplaces not bi-culturally competent - institutional, unconscious bias limiting career opportunities
  • Need to earn and learn

Pacific peoples


  • Workplaces not culturally appropriate
  • Employer understanding of family and community responsibilities
  • Poorer educational access
  • More likely to be employed in sectors that are likely to be impacted by technological change or future shocks (e.g. manufacturing)
  • Career choices more likely to be influenced by parents - need for better career guidance
  • Employment services do not always understand Pacific peoples’ culture and values
  • Structural racism and bias of hiring managers
  • Need to earn and learn

Disabled people


  • Young people with disabilities, like many young people, lack work experience
  • Lack of employer confidence
  • Recruitment hurdles
  • Lack of visibility
  • Lack of flexible working arrangements
  • Lack of suitable workplace accommodations
  • Fewer networks
  • Physical barriers



  • Lack of labour market experience
  • Low or no qualifications
  • Lack of knowledge of systems and opportunities
  • Lack of connections into the job market
  • Limited work experience and soft skills
  • Poor physical or mental health
  • Caring responsibilities and lack of affordable and accessible childcare
  • Employer capability, tolerance and cultural competency
  • Limited access to transport and/or lack of drivers’ licences



  • Sexism and bias within the workplace
  • Caring responsibilities and lack of access to affordable and accessible childcare
  • Lack of flexibility in the workplace such as school hours
  • Wage scarring due to time out of the workforce
  • Systemically low wages and poorer employment settings in female dominated industries
  • Limited access to retraining and upskilling
  • Intersectional issues are pronounced

Refugees, new migrants and ethnic communities

Note this does not include migrant workers on temporary visas.

  • Bias and racism
  • Lack of understanding of workplace culture in Aotearoa New Zealand
  • Lack of recognition of prior work experience
  • Some qualifications not being recognised in Aotearoa New Zealand
  • Difficulty accessing training
  • Lack of connections
  • Language barriers
  • Higher risk of exploitation
  • Ongoing trauma for refugees
  • Differing cultural knowledge
  • Ongoing family obligations

Older workers


  • Employer perceptions about older workers and age discrimination
  • Limited connections and networks
  • Lack of knowledge around recruitment practices
  • Lack of knowledge around transferability of skills
  • Shame around accessing government employment support
  • Lack of flexible work opportunities
  • Need to upskill or retrain whilst in employment
  • Intersectional challenges