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Ethnic minorities under-represented and under-paid

Ethnic minorities under-represented and under-paid in public service

Public servants from ethnic minorities continue to be under-represented in the senior management of government departments and they continue to be paid significantly below the average public service salary according to Multicultural New Zealand.

Citing a human resource capability report released by the State Services Commission last week, MNZ said that “apart from an increase in the past five years in the percentage of Māori in senior management positions, little has changed for Māori, Pacific and Asian public servants. The figures for the past five years show a lack of momentum and commitment to equal opportunities in government departments.”

The State Services Commission report notes that “there has been an increase in the proportion of Māori senior leaders, from 8.3% in 2010 to 12.0% in 2014, but Māori are still under-represented in senior leadership, compared to their representation in the public service workforce (16.6%). The proportion of Asian senior leaders has increased over the last four years (from 1.7% to 2.4%), but they make up 8.2% of the public service workforce.

There has been little increase in Pacific senior leaders over the last four years. They make up 1.8% of senior managers, although Pacific workers comprise 8% of the public service workforce.

The SSC report notes that the ethnic composition of the public service broadly resembles that of the New Zealand working-age population, except for the Asian group. In 2014, the European group remained the largest in the public service at 70.7%. This is slightly lower than the 73.3% representation seen in the working-age population. Māori had relatively higher representation at 16.6%, compared with 12.7% in the working-age population. Pacific people also had a relatively higher share at 8.0% compared with 5.5% in the working-age
population. In contrast, the Asian group had a lower share at 8.2%, compared with 12.5% in the working-age population. But Maori, Pacific and Asian public servants are mainly clustered in lower paid occupations and thus suffer from an “ethnic pay gap”.

The “ethnic pay gap” (defined by the SSC as the difference between the average salary for an ethnic group and the average salary of those not in that ethnic group, expressed as a percentage of the average salary of those not in the ethnic group) has reduced by only 1% over the past five years for Māori (from 11.4% to 10.4%) and in the same period it has actually increased for Pacific and Asian public servants (from 19.3% to 19.6%, and 10.6% to 11.6% respectively).

“While one might not expect the ethnic pay gap to reduce substantially from one year to the next, the almost total lack of progress (and actual regression) over five years is disappointing to say the least” said Multicultural New Zealand.

“Furthermore, the way the ethnic pay gap is calculated actually understates the difference, because other lower paid minorities are included in the average salary with which each group is compared. A truer indication of the pay gap would be for each group to be compared to the highest paid group,

or at least for figures also to be given for the European group in relation to the average. This is the approach taken by Statistics New Zealand in their annual Income Survey.”

“We will be urging the Minister of State Services as well as the Ministers for both Ethnic Communities and Pacific Peoples to convey a sense of urgency to public service chief executives about addressing the gaps in representation and pay and to require annual targets to achieve a significant improvement over the next five years.”


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