22 Jul 2016

Some NZ Asian families at risk of exploitation - study

7:32 pm on 22 July 2016

Asian families with young children are at risk of exploitation and are more likely to feel unease expressing their identities, a new study has found.

23062016 Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King. Busy streets in Wellington.

The study found there were alienation, isolation and exploitation risks for some Asian families. Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

The Families Commission, which operates under the name Superu (Social Policy Evaluation and Research Unit), has released its fourth 'Families and Whānau Status' report.

It focused on how families from different ethnicities were faring, as well as looking at different age groups and stages of families.

It found Asian families with younger children appeared to be more vulnerable in terms of money, housing and hours of work and pay.

Twenty years ago, Xiaoying Fu moved to New Zealand from China.

She works as a business consultant in Auckland, is married to a Chinese man and has two sons, and was not surprised by the findings.

Dr Fu said she did not know anyone in her Chinese community who would be on welfare, and often people would take whatever job they could get.

"And in my view, most likely that is lower paid than their qualifications. With the children and with the two incomes and quite often they are often very hard-working people, working long hours."

She said there were financial and housing stresses for some within the Chinese community.

The study also found young Asian families were more likely to feel uneasy about expressing their identities, saying there were alienation, isolation and exploitation risks for these families.

Dr Fu said many of the Asian people the study looked at could be like her and not have any other family in New Zealand.

She had no problem expressing her Chinese identity, but it was probably different for her 18 and 12-year-old sons and newer migrants, she said.

"I've been here for nearly 20 years and in my heart I felt I am a New Zealander right? But based on my face people always say, you know, 'you are Chinese' so that is why I didn't even bother to give myself an English name.

"Some people probably try to mingle with the mainstream and probably sometimes [they're] really confused... 'who I am', you know, 'what's the culture I should take?'"

Dr Fu is standing for the Ōrākei Local Board in this year's local election, and said one of the reasons for that was she wanted to connect people and have a more cohesive community.

Superu principal advisor Bev Hong said there could be repercussions for families feeling unease at expressing their identities.

"It sort of starts to, I suppose, ring bells in terms of future implications in terms [of] both that family function of instilling a sense of belonging in your children and in society more generally and also just in the future as we go forward."

Superu director of research Vasantha Krishnan said the study reflected the large amount of variation in the pan-Asian group, with different source countries, different generations and people who had different migrant status and different language abilities.

She said it showed there was not a single profile or story for Asian people and this country was becoming more diverse.

"I think New Zealand is a society that is accepting of Asian communities, obviously many of these communities are new and the profile of New Zealand is changing rapidly.

"We are becoming one of the most super diverse countries there is in the world and so we've got a lot of opportunities to both learn, adapt and grow."

The report said, on the whole, Māori families were faring relatively well but were more likely to live in deprived areas and have housing problems.

Young Pacific families fared less well but had strong relationships and community connections.

European families with young children, meanwhile, were generally faring well.