Research reveals stark differences in salaries for migrant workers

6:46 am on 3 February 2022

New research into the migrant pay gap in New Zealand has shown "concerning" inequities between migrants from different countries.

Structural engineer teamwork discussing hardworking in the office on building structure concept of worldwide building project.

File photo. Photo: 123RF

The report from Diversity Works New Zealand, showed migrants from Canada, the United States, South Africa, the United Kingdom and the rest of Europe, all earned a higher average hourly wage than migrants from Asia, the rest of the Americas and much of the Pacific Islands.

Diversity Works chief executive Maretha Smit said 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 earned significantly lower.

"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," she said.

There was also systemic bias and discrimination at play Smit said.

"There are definitely some institutional biases and areas that we need to work through as well, and some of those would be how do we value qualifications, for instance.

"Do professional registering bodies acknowledge the skill sets that were acquired in countries that aren't our traditional skills trading partners?"

Smit said the issues were worrying and conversations needed to take place to address it.

The report also found that 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 were able to transfer their qualifications to New Zealand more easily than those from other countries.

The report also said employers needed to develop processes that ensured equitable and fair employment for all.

It said pay transparency was very successful in addressing wage gaps.

Smit said jobs advertised should have salaries or pay bands included in the adverts.

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