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Human Rights Commission Launches Inquiry Into 'Discriminatory' Pacific Pay Gap

The Human Rights Commission will embark on a ground-breaking inquiry into the persistent Pacific pay gap and lack of equal employment opportunities experienced by Pacific peoples.

Equal Employment Opportunities Commissioner Saunoamaali’i Karanina Sumeo made the announcement while launching the report “Talanoa: Human rights issues for Pacific peoples in Aotearoa New Zealand.”

“Through the Talanoa report, we heard directly from our Pacific communities about the human rights violations they are experiencing. Pay and racial discrimination continues to rank high,” says Saunoamaali’i Karanina Sumeo.

“In addition to low wages, Pacific workers say they are often overlooked for upskilling opportunities and promotions. These workers also fear retaliation in raising concerns with their employers. This is racist and discriminatory.”

“If we don’t act now, we continue to fail every Pacific child, adult, and household denying their right to live with dignity.”

Labour force data indicate that Pacific workers are the lowest paid across the country. The pay gap between Pākehā men and Pacific women in the public sector is a staggering 27 percent.

Under the inquiry, the Commission will examine the causes and contributory factors of the pay gap, conditions of work, promotion, and career advancement of Pacific workers.

“At the current rate of progress, it will take Pacific women 120 years to reach pay equity with Pākehā men.”

“Currently, we don’t even know what the pay gap for Pacific workers is in the private sector because there simply isn’t any reliable data. However, I can’t imagine it being any better than the embarrassingly huge gap in the public sector,” said Sumeo.

Through the inquiry, the Commission will make recommendations relating to legislation, regulations, policies, practices, procedures, and funding arrangements to reduce the pay gap, and suggest measures to alleviate human rights violations.

“The marginalisation of Pacific workers has been persistent and chronic for many years. The inequities continue to widen against a backdrop and history of racial discrimination against Pacific peoples. We cannot continue to tolerate this level of inequity. It must end with us.”

“The government and employers must realise this is a human rights issue. It impacts upon Pacific peoples’ ability to realise the right to equal employment opportunities, the right to be free from discrimination including their right to an adequate standard of living, housing, food, education, and health care,” said Sumeo.

As a precursor to the pay gap inquiry, the Talanoa report’s overarching recommendation is that the government and private sector engage Pacific communities in dialogue that places their concerns at the heart of activities to address human rights issues.

“A framework for human rights must be established in talanoa with Pacific communities and should be applied to areas of policy, regulation, and practice that currently cause human rights issues for Pacific peoples. This is how we ensure the realisation of human rights for Pacific communities,” said Sumeo.

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