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Inequalities for Pacific Island peoples

Social Report highlights inequalities for Pacific Island peoples

Press Release 8 August 2006 -

Service & Food Workers Union, Nga Ringa Tota For immediate release.

"The Ministry of Social Development's recently released Social Report highlights disastrous inequalities for Pacific Island Workers in Aotearoa," said John Ryall, National Secretary of the Service and Food Workers Union, Nga Ringa Tota.

Low hourly rates for Pacific workers
The report shows that in June 2005, Pacific Island workers faced a median hourly rate of $13.79 per hour. While this rate is low, it disguises the much lower average for Pacific Island women as a group. This compared poorly with Europeans who had the highest median hourly rate of $17 an hour.

Dangerous jobs for Pacific and Maori workers
Pacific Island and Maori workers were significantly over-represented in low paid jobs. These jobs were clearly more dangerous, with accident rates Pacific Island and Maori workers much higher than for workers of other ethnicities.

Income disparities increase
Since 1998, the top 20% of income earners have had an increase of 30% in their income. In the same time period, those on the lowest incomes have barely experienced an increase at all.

Pacific Island Families scraping by on low incomes
There has been no change in the number of Pacific Island families living on insufficient resources - in fact the Social Report notes that being a Pacific Island family was the feature most likely to determine a lack of resources. Long lasting low family incomes have an extremely negative impact on children, resulting in poor health and low educational achievement. The proportion of children living in low-income families is higher than it was in 1998 with 54% of families with a Pacific Island member having low living standards.

Overcrowding - Pacific Island families are living in overcrowded settings
41% of Pacific Island families living in homes needing 2 or more additional bedrooms. There was a clear correlation between income levels and levels of overcrowding.

Pacific Island workers face severe hardship and are campaigning for change.
"Pacific Island workers want to have real choices about their lives, their education and their housing, but low wages keep them locked in the poverty cycle."

"That's why cleaners are campaigning for better jobs, respect for the work they do, and better lives for their families through our union's Clean Start campaign," said Mr Ryall

Auckland cleaner Sue Lafaele said "we are campaigning for a Clean Start in the cleaning industry and telling property owners and contract cleaning firms to take responsibility for the poverty wages that are destroying our lives."

No bank will give us a loan to buy a house for our family
"What we would really like is to have a house for our family, but how can we afford a house on these wages? No bank will ever give me a loan when I earn $10.95 and how can I save money on my wages?" said Ms Lafaele.

We feel like second-class citizens

"We came to New Zealand to work so our kids could get a better education and a better life, but the reality is that life in New Zealand working as a cleaner is really hard. We feel like second class citizens." said Ms Lafaele.

Why can't I buy new socks like everyone else?

"My socks have holes in them. That's because I have to buy my socks from the second hand shop. I can't even afford the two-dollar socks from K-Mart," said Ms Lafaele.

"Cleaners need respect for our work and to be paid a living wage - why shouldn't I be able to buy new socks like everyone else?" Sue asked.


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