The Salvation Army’s first State of the Nation report on Pasifika people in New Zealand reveals communities making modest progress in the face of great adversity.
The report, More than Churches, Rugby and Festivals, looks at Pacific people in New Zealand in the context of the five key social indicators: children and youth, incomes and poverty, housing, crime and justice and social hazards.
Co-author Ronji Tanielu says the report shows that while Pacific communities continue to face social, health, education, and economic problems that became pronounced in the 1970s, and in many cases have worsened, the Pacific community is tenaciously making progress in some areas, but struggling in others.
Despite lagging rates of Pasifika children accessing early childhood education and the concentration of Pacific families in low-income neighbourhoods and their children at low decile schools, Pacific students participation in tertiary education is at similar levels to non-Pacific students.
However, this could show gaps where some Pacific groups do as well as other New Zealanders, while others continue to miss out, Mr Tanielu says.
With 40 per cent of Pacific children living in poverty, The Salvation Army calls on the Government to put into action the solutions put forward by the Children’s Commissioner’s Expert Advisory Group to alleviate child poverty, including the eight recommendations specific to reducing Pasifika child poverty.
The Army also calls for the passing of legislation to introduce fully State-funded breakfast and lunch programmes into all decile one to four schools. Mr Tanielu says this would go some way to ease poverty and give these children a better chance of fully participating in education and in the job market as adults.
“With Pacific people now an intrinsic part of New Zealand society, it is crucial that policymakers include Pasifika people in their plans and decisions,” Mr Tanielu says.
Since the start of the recession, Pacific people are worse off economically than other New Zealanders. The average weekly income of Pacific people has risen only $2 a week over the past five years, compared to an increase of $54 for non-Pacific people.
Over the past three years, the unemployment rate for Pacific people has consistently run two to three times above unemployment for the general population. There is also evidence that a segment of unemployed Pacific people do not receive a benefit and are likely to be relying on family for support, compounding poverty in these families.
As we advance into the second decade of the millennium, the prospects facing Pacific people in New Zealand are both exciting and daunting, says Mr Tanielu.
“The social progress of Pasifika people is not just a responsibility of Pasifika themselves, but for all New Zealanders, if we are to honour our unwritten social contract where all Kiwis should be concerned about the safety, prosperity and social condition of one another.”