Employment prospects for Pasifika worsened during pandemic- study

The Covid-19 pandemic has worsened labour market disparities between New Zealand European and Pasifika people.

New research from Auckland University of Technology's NZ Work Research Institute (NZWRI), showed the disparities were worse in particular for Pasifika women, those under 30 and people living in Auckland.

For example, pre-Covid-19 - for young (under 30 years of age) unemployed Pasifika women living in Auckland - there was no difference in their likelihood of moving into employment when compared to NZ European women.

But during Covid-19, there was a 5.5 percentage point drop in their likelihood of getting a job compared to NZ European women.

The research also found found that pre-pandemic, Pasifika men earned on average 22.5 percent less than NZ European men when entering employment.

The disparity increased by a further 2.4 percentage points during the pandemic.

It also found that pre-Covid-19, when compared NZ European women, Pasifika women were on average 0.4 percentage points less likely to exit unemployment.

But during Covid-19, the probability gap widened to 1 percentage point, meaning the pandemic deteriorated Pasifika women's chances of entering employment by 0.6 percentage points.

Lead author of the report, Dr Alexander Plum from the NZWRI, said it was important to tackle the gaps.

"There must be as a first step awareness of what is going on. Being aware [that] there is this large gap between both populations and [have] the willingness to try to somehow address this gap.

"The other [reason] why it's so crucial is because it's affecting young people, it can leave a long term scar on their career and make progression in the future harder."

It was important to improve access to education, training, building pathways to higher occupations or have active labour market programmes for displaced workers, Plum said.

AUT professor and NZWRI director Gail Pacheco said while the labour market was generally robust during the pandemic, not everyone managed to benefit from it.

"Covid-19 has amplified the prevalence of ethnic disparities in the workforce, but it did not create those disparities in the first place. Therefore, policy needs to not only tackle recent Covid-related disruptions to the workforce but be long-term focused on addressing the entrenched disparities evident before the pandemic hit."

The research was commissioned by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment.