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Migrant Pay Gap Research Reveals Concerning Inequities

New research into the migrant pay gap in New Zealand has revealed concerning inequities between migrants from different countries of birth.

The report, commissioned by Diversity Works New Zealand, shows that migrants from South Africa, Northern America, the United Kingdom and the rest of Europe all earned a higher average hourly wage than migrants from Asia, the rest of the Americas, Polynesia, Melanesia, and Micronesia.

Even when the data was adjusted to compare migrants with similar levels of skills, English language ability, time spent in New Zealand and age, those born in places like Asia and South America earn significantly lower average wages than migrants from Europe and Northern America, says Diversity Works New Zealand Chief Executive Maretha Smit.

“In 2018, engineering professionals from the UK, South Africa, and Northern America all earned an average wage above $45 an hour. In contrast, engineering professionals from India, China, and Polynesia all had hourly wages below $40.”

Business and Economic Research Limited (BERL) looked a variety of datasets to determine whether there was a migrant pay gap in New Zealand.

Key points from the report

  • Migrants from South Africa, Northern America, the United Kingdom (UK), and the rest of Europe all earn a higher average hourly wage than migrants from Asia, the rest of the Americas, Polynesia, Melanesia, and Micronesia.
  • Even when the data was adjusted to compare migrants with similar levels of skills, English language ability, time spent in New Zealand and age, there are inequities based on place of birth and ethnicity.
  • Contributing factors to the migrant pay gap include cultural and language differences, institutional barriers, structural bias and discrimination.
  • Migrants who spoke English and another language were more likely to earn a lower wage than migrants who spoke English only.
  • Migrants from English-speaking, advanced countries can transfer their qualifications to the New Zealand labour market more easily than migrants from other countries.
  • Large pay gaps between migrant groups with the same occupation, level of education, and industry roles indicate that despite there being several pieces of legislation in New Zealand covering unjust treatment in the workplace, discrimination and bias persist.
  • Employers need to develop processes that ensure equitable and fair employment for all.
  • Pay gap metrics also indicate the extent to which people from specific groups are able to access leadership roles, and the data suggests that this might be a significant barrier for people from non-European countries.
  • Pay transparency has been very successful in addressing wage gaps. Reporting the pay gaps by gender and ethnicity ensures this issue is brought to light and addressed.

Download a summary of the research

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