Rangatahi face high levels of exclusion and disadvantage, but the inequalities can be addressed - researchers

6:20 pm on 20 October 2022
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Many young Māori have to surmount inequality as they are just getting started in life. Photo: 123RF

Rangatahi Māori face exclusion and disadvantage at a much higher rate than Pākehā youth, and researchers say there are steps that can be taken to address systemic problems.

Last year, 38 percent of young Māori encountered exclusion and disadvantage, compared to 14 percent of Pākehā.

The research, titled Taiohi Insights, was released by the Vodafone Aotearoa Foundation.

The foundation's rangatahi insight lead Ta'ase Vaoga said the disparities were more pronounced some areas.

"[In] different regional centres some of those rates are a lot higher," Vaoga said.

"Income is a big driver, some areas particularly for 19 to 25 year olds, education and employment is quite a big factor.

"And then for the younger ones ... [having] interaction with care and protection [services] are quite prevalent."

Rangatahi Māori who experienced exclusion and disadvantage were 4.5 times more likely to interact with care and protection services, the research showed.

Bold action was needed to address the problems the study highlighted, Vaoga said.

And that action should ensure that the voices of youth were kept central in work to help address those inequalities.

There also needed to be collective responsibility for the problem, including businesses taking some responsibility, she said.

"We've built many systems and using systems that were designed to oppress and control. And we've seen that playing out for Māori communities and other minorities.

"But those systems go beyond government as well, it's about our community response, it's about business response.

"For business, that might look like higher wages, employment policies that give greater flexibility and work."

The report called for action.

"This [disparity] is unacceptable. It is intolerable to think we, as a nation, would accept any level of exclusion and disadvantage," it said.

We don't need to fix our young people. We need to fix the systems that view them through a deficit lens - systems which consistently exclude them from opportunities.

"We have a responsibility to this generation and generations to come to address the systems which perpetuate exclusion and disadvantage for our rangatahi; for our mokopuna. This will ensure that we can work towards an Aotearoa we are proud of, one where all rangatahi have the resources they need to realise their aspirations."

The researchers' seven recommendations remain unchanged from last year. They are:

  • Make Te Tiriti o Waitangi central to systemic changes
  • Ensure when data is gathered and used it is examined for biases
  • Address inequality and material deprivation through increases in wages and benefits
  • Promote systemic reform by welcoming and listening to the voices of those with lived experience of exclusion and disadvantage, and promoting their expertise in decision-making
  • Ensuring empowering policies are enacted in businesses, including fair pay and leave and fostering well-being
  • Empower and resource the communities where change is needed, to lead change themselves
  • Embrace our national identity - we have it within our own communities and the leaders of tomorrow... to pave a path where rangatahi thrive

When asked on Midday Report about the National Party's proposed social investment fund, Vaoga said there needed to be more solutions.

"We have a collective responsibility to respond to the inequities that are playing out in our communities, so there shouldn't be just one approach.

"I think that philanthropy can be a leader in this area and so can business, but also the government needs to take responsibility. They are the key actor, ensuring that ...our society can thrive."

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