New Zealand's open tourism market still not offering Māori jobs

By Stefan Dimitrof

Parasailing above lake Taupo among tourism activities bursting back into life Photo/file

First-quarter labour market data has been released today, showing total unemployment has stayed at a low 3.2 percent but the Māori unemployment rate has stayed higher at 6.3 percent.

Meanwhile, international tourists are once again allowed into New Zealand, with vaccinated visitors from 60 visa-waiver countries able to travel here without isolation, as long as they do a pre-departure and arrival test for Covid-19.

Economist Shamubeel Eaqub said business owners should be patient as the influx of travellers start returning back to New Zealand as there is still uncertainty with the pandemic, the cost of travel and the fact that planes and routes are not back to full capacity.

“I'm very optimistic of a gradual return to those very strong economic contributions from the tourism sector.”

Eaqub said the national unemployment rate was already very low and New Zealand was in the best situation it had been in decades.

But on the Māori unemployment level, Eaqub said that there was a “structural difference in terms of the quality of employment and the sustained level of high employment”.

Persistent disadvantages

“This isn’t going to be fixed simply by a strong economy. The reasons for that are the discrimination of Māori and the persistent disadvantages that many from a Māori community are coming from.”

Eaqub said New Zealand was in the strongest labour market it had ever had but over the past year the country had had a major increase in living costs that would have major effects on low-income earners and rural people.

“if you are rural, you have fewer options as you spend more on travel and food because you have fewer options.

“Wages are starting to rise but they haven’t matched the very sharp increase in living costs. Yes, the labour market is strong but it's being eroded by the living costs, especially on the necessities like food, fuel and rent.”