23 Jun 2020

Covid-19: Māori more likely to be hit hardest economically

2:54 pm on 23 June 2020

Māori are more likely to be hit first, hardest and longest economically due to Covid-19 because they are over-represented in industries with less employment security.

Two builders in yellow and orange at the construction site

Photo: 123RF

That is just one of the findings in a new report by the Ngāi Tahu initiative, Tokona Te Raki.

Ka Whati Te Tai: a generation disrupted found around half of the Māori workforce were employed in industries which would be directly impacted by the response to Covid-19.

Tokona Te Raki executive director Eruera Tarena said that was because policy decisions by successive governments had channelled Māori towards blue-collar careers, which were more vulnerable to change.

"We kind of have this idea that all jobs are equal and any job is a good job, well actually it doesn't work out that way," he said.

"Māori are often concentrated in areas where we are last-on in terms of economic opportunity and first-off in terms of an economic bust.

"The report suggests that Māori are more likely to be hit first, hardest and longest because we are over represented in areas that have lower pay, lower security and less opportunities for on-job learning so those kinds of areas leave us more vulnerable to economic shocls like we anticipate to be experiencing over the coming years."

He said working in trades was not a bad thing, but striking a balance was important.

"It's not to say working in construction is a bad career for Māori but when we are overrepresented and concentrated in one area, and particular areas that are vulnerable to boom and bust like construction and tourism, that when we hit an economic shock like what we're currently experiencing, those harms are more concentrated for Māori.

"The opportunity with Covid is, how do we start to transition away from the notion of, 'any job is a good job', to really be focusing on up-skilling for a brighter future."

The report identifies skills that can support rangatahi and their whānau to transition to the new economy and be ready to adapt in the future.

"How do we pivot our curriculum to teach future-focused skills? The research is very clear, it's not just around hand-skills for Māori, the future us very much around heart-skills.

"As automation and AI take on the repetitive, predictable tasks and what gets left are all those complex things that are uniquely human. We need to extenuate those future-focused skills around enterprise, creativity, collaboration and around problem-solving and those are strengths that are really a good fit."

Employment Minister Willie Jackson said he had been been working hard to create pathways for Māori into secure employment.

"I have been concerned about this from the time I became the Minister of Employment, which is why the programmes I have been implementing such as Mana in Mahi and He Poutama Rangatahi, are focused on both employment and training, to gain industry-led qualifications or apprenticeships.

"We know from the Global Financial Crisis that not only were Māori amongst the hardest hit but the time to invest in skilled qualifications was then, and it didn't happen. We must not repeat the mistakes of previous governments.

"That is why we have increased our investment in our employment programmes; we have also announced a new initiative that will be delivered in partnership with Māori, and will be underpinned by pastoral care, to ensure our people not only have the best chance of success but are more resilient to labour market shocks."