Refugee and immigrant millennials in NZ struggling to get into high-paying jobs


Report by: Lincoln Tan, the New Zealand Herald’s diversity, ethnic affairs and immigration senior reporter.

Tuesday Feb 14, 2017

Despite having a better work ethic, refugee and immigrant millennials (RIM) still struggle to get good jobs in New Zealand, a study has found.

A “RIM @ work” study by AUT University Professor of Diversity Edwina Pio conducted 150 conversations and interviews with high-level managers, focus groups with millennials and parents and educators.

It found that RIMs had a “different” work ethic – they tended to take fewer sickies and breaks, and were not clock-watchers.

Migrant labour was here to stay, she said, and many employers did not realise how much they will have to depend on migrant labour in the future.

Millennials in New Zealand made up nearly a third, or 32.7 per cent, of the total population in 2013.

The population of Asian millennials, who represented 8 per cent of the generational cohort in 2001, increased to 15 per cent by 2013.

They are expected to make up the majority of the country’s workforce by 2020.

“Yet there are differences in terms of employment levels based on millennials’ ethnicity,” Pio said.

“Work is one of the single most important needs of RIM, however many are unemployed, underemployed or engaged in unpaid family-care work.”

They are also over-represented in low-paying positions in hospitality, construction and cleaning.

“They may also be perceived as low-hanging fruit ripe for exploitation by organisations focused on short-term quick profits who inhabit the grey areas of minimum wage with maximum servitude,” Pio said.

“While RIM may have interesting accents, which don’t wash away in a laundromat, knowledge of idiomatic English and Kiwiology are essential in progressing in New Zealand work places.”

Communication is key, and voluntary work can also help mitigate migrant minorities out of isolation and loneliness.

“Networking must be constant and education is seen as a way out of poverty and the pathway to success,” she said.

“Learn Kiwi ways of speaking in terms of phraseology and display sensitivity to issues such as age, religion, marital status and rainbow people.”

Pio said hidden bias, subtle workplace discrimination, unconscious and implicit bias and stereotyping could “work both ways”, with migrants and host country individuals “creating micro-generosities and kindness or micro-oppressions in everyday organisational and societal life.

“This may be particularly evident when ethnic minority women jostle and contend for positions of power and status in organisations, thus challenging the implementation of diversity and complicating simple dichotomies …such as ethnic and non-ethnic, migrant and non-migrant.”

Her study, however, concluded New Zealand to be “a hundred times better” than many other western countries in embracing diversity.

“It is very affirming of diverse cultures and is an egalitarian, tolerant and peaceful country, as expressed by all millennials.”

– NZ Herald

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