M¯aori largely insulated from job losses caused by Covid-19
A new report on unemployment shows that Ma¯ ori have not done as badly as might have been expected during the pandemic.
In fact, Ma¯ ori had the smallest increase in unemployment compared to other groups, ANZ’S chief economist Sharon Zollner said.
Ma¯ori employment has typically been more vulnerable in previous recessions in New Zealand but 2020 was different. ‘‘It just so happens that industries where Ma¯ ori are currently more likely to be employed have been the ones that have experienced some of the most robust recoveries.’’
The traditional gap between Ma¯ ori and general unemployment had a number of reasons, but two in particular leapt out, ANZ said. The Ma¯ ori population was much younger than the overall population, and younger people tended to have much worse unemployment outcomes than average.
‘‘In addition, Ma¯ ori have historically been more likely to be employed in industries that are particularly exposed to the economic cycle, such as construction and manufacturing,’’ Zollner said.
The difference was particularly large during the 1980s and 90s, and while unemployment have improved both generally and for Ma¯ ori, the gap had never quite been erased. Even in 2019, Ma¯ ori employees earned a median income of $925 a week, compared to $1000 a week for the country as a whole.
But the Covid downturn had been ‘‘nothing like’’ other recessions. Construction and manufacturing recovered well, as did the retail sector, all key job sectors for Ma¯ ori.’’
The top five industries Ma¯ ori were employed in were retail trade and accommodation (14 per cent), manufacturing (13.8 per cent), construction (10.3 per cent). health (10.2 per cent) and education and training (9.9 per cent).
So while the overall unemployment rate was still higher than it was in 2019 at 4.7 per cent, Ma¯ ori unemployment was already back down to its pre-covid levels – albeit still high at 8.4 per cent, ANZ said.
Kiwibank economist Mary Jo Vergara said the unemployment rate for Ma¯ori might not have risen steeply, but the fact that it remained relatively unchanged to pre-pandemic levels was a concern.
The blow to tourism had disproportionately affected Ma¯ori women with 4000 fewer Ma¯ori women employed in tourism industries in the June 2020 quarter compared to the year before.