Pay equity and other policy change ideas shaping a more equitable New Zealand for us all

August 24, 2022

Last month we launched a podcast series called #PassTheMic that focused on the deep and vulnerable stories of fifteen New Zealanders from migrant and former refugee backgrounds. As you can imagine, there were many beautiful topics and themes across these stories.

One of the questions we asked everyone is “What would be one policy you proposed to our New Zealand Parliament?”.

We compiled all their answers below so read on and get some inspiration for future campaigns, petitions, votes to cast! :)

1. Updated Pay Equity Policies

As defined by Employment NZ, “pay equity is about women and men receiving the same pay for doing jobs that are different, but of equal value. That is, jobs that require similar levels of skills, responsibility, and effort.”

Nina Santos would review the Equal Pay created 50 years ago:

“The Equal Pay Act, which is turning 50 in October. It's out of date, and it's not working. It takes into account the gender aspects, but says nothing about intersectionality, nothing about women of colour, nothing about people of colour, nothing about migrants… Government, this is a call to you, please review and amend the Equal Pay Act, or better yet introduce new pay gap reporting legislation, pay transparency legislation, because this is well overdue.”

And Nina’s work as Delivery Manager with Mind the Gap is taking major strides to make pay equity a reality. 

Scrap book poster with two cut-out images on a purple and blue background. One of statistics indicating the ratio of earnings for every $1 earned by a Pākehā man in relation to other races (for Pasifika women it is 75 cents) and genders in New Zealand. The other image is cut-out of Nina Santos.

While there are lots of initiatives to close the pay gap, the stats are pretty sad. As per Stats NZ: “Female (wāhine) and ethnic minorities doing the same work as European (Pākeha) male (tāne) generally are paid less than their male/European colleagues. Female-dominated occupations continue to be lower paid than traditionally male-dominated occupations. Female and ethnic minorities are still under-represented in leadership and females still undertake the majority of unpaid work.”

“And it's our women and our ethnic women who are bearing the brunt of it. If you're listening, and you're able to speak about the gaps, question your seniors about them, talk to your family about it, normalise conversations about pay. This is your chance to do so. I have a feeling we are really close. We haven't been this close in history to passing this piece of legislation, so constant pressure, my friends constant pressure.”

Through pay gap reporting, Mind The Gap aims to bridge the pay gaps for those majorly affected ie. Pasifika women and Māori women, compared to the average Pākehā male. You can check out the registry here where organisations publicly declare their pay gaps.

2. Immigration and refugee policies

Our immigrants and refugees face major costs and strict policy requirements as they settle into Aotearoa and these impact on their overall quality of life:

Resident visa immigration fees

As per INZ, the total cost of the 2021 Resident Visa is $2,160. This comprises a $1,330 application fee and $830 immigration levy, which puts a lot of people out of pocket. Maria Khaydar would drop this fee: 

“It’s just the first thing that came to mind. $1,500. Guys, that's like buying a new car. Can we please make it free? We are already here, we’re paying taxes. Please drop the fee. Thank you. And refund me as well, please!” [laughs]

Bringing your parents with you to New Zealand

As of 2020, the Parent Visa for immigrant children working in New Zealand is on hold. Previously, children of parent visa applicants had to earn more than $104,000 a year. The Retirement Parent visa remains open and according to INZ, people with only a resident visa or NZ citizenship can bring their parents to NZ permanently with this visa. Their parents have to earn $60,000 NZD per annum or have $1 million NZD to invest over 4 years and a further $500,000 NZD to live on. Nilofer Faizal would make it easier to bring your parents over with you:

“I didn't know this about New Zealand until we moved: in order to have your parents here with you, you need to be in a certain salary bracket. You have to earn so much to be able to bring your parents here. Culturally speaking, from our Asian cultures we have that sense of responsibility to our parents. They take care of us, we take care of them kind of thing. We pride in being able to take care of our parents. It would be a huge thing  for migrants or anyone to be able to, you know, actually take care of their parents and bring them here.”

Policies around refugees  

Kat Eghdamian makes a great point around how we should be constantly reviewing our policies for refugees rather than being complacent:

“I've said this before that I think that our policies and practices towards displaced people is a litmus test for how we view humanity and how we view our own society and our own, whatever our own people means, but New Zealand could do a lot better with its refugee policies. I think we do comparatively quite well to many other countries in the world. If we're seeking relative distinction, then fine, maybe we can close our books and just move on with our life but we have the opportunity to be exemplars, and to to make some really brave choices.”

Scrap book poster on a purple and blue background, with a cut-out image of Kat Eghdamian holding her baby son who is looking at her. Her quote about policies and practices appears above the image of her.

3. Immigrants and Mental Health

All the amazing folk in the #PassTheMic series spoke about how important representation was in their journey. And there were two angles to it, some highlighted how people gave them inspiration along the way but on the other hand, they also talked about how difficult it was to thrive in NZ without people who understood them and their ethnicity. Lovely Dizon would ensure that there was culturally safe counselling:

“Mandatory cultural safe counselling, training for counsellors but also for school Deans. And for whoever looks after other people, all the way from primary to to high school”

Representation is important in all forms and Ola Shahin highlights a good point. She would ensure that there was free therapy for all age groups.

“Free therapy for all people independent of age. Because at the moment, there's a lot of initiatives for younger people but the older generations need it just as much.”

4. Inclusive Communities in New Zealand

Communities should be built to cater for all our differences so that we can all thrive. This means a place where people have access to the things they need no matter their race, gender or ethnicity among other things. Earlier this year, the NZ government released a guide for government agencies and policy advisors on how we can develop more inclusive communities. You can read more about that here. This is a great step and perhaps they should also speak to a few of our interviewees :)

Ajaz Patel called out the fact that we should have more multi faith prayer rooms:
“Have a multi-faith prayer room, at every venue, that would be probably the number one. Cricket can be a five hour day, or it can be four or five days in a row. And if I want to pray, even now, a lot of the places don't actually have a dedicated room”.
Marie Ysabel Landingin would ensure that people could get to where we need to with free transport:
“I was talking earlier about access to opportunities and being able to freely move around cities is a big part of it. If we can get people to first stop killing the environment with their cars, and to be able to access where they need to go: free public transport.” 

Scrap book poster on a purple and blue background, with a cut-out images of four of the PassTheMic podcast interviewees and the topics of their 'Inclusive Communities 'policy changes. These include Sun-Min Elle Park in a red t-shirt and red and white polka dot bandana on her head; an upside down image of Andrew Tui in a pink t-shirt and black and white check shirt; Ajaz Patel in his white Black Caps uniform waving and Marie Ysabel Landingin in a light brown polo neck top.

And Sun Min Elle Park would sort out our housing crisis:

“Housing reform, because it's become a crisis, a catastrophe. Just build more houses and give it to the poor [laughs].”

We agree!

As Andrew Tui calls out, education is such an important part of helping us all progress: 
I think it would be about access to resources. I would love it if they could make education free or really subsidise it for people because again, the heart of progress is education.”

5. Indigenous relations and Immigration

As Pok Wei Heng points out below, an immigration policy informed by Te Tiriti o Waitangi is fundamental to building an inclusive NZ community. In the 1840 version of the treaty signed by Māori chiefs, immigrants from the United Kingdom, Europe and Australia were acknowledged in the preamble (see more here). Since our community now includes immigrants from other countries, how can we best shape that up in a way that honours Te Tiriti? Pok would take a Te Tiriti informed approach to immigration in New Zealand.

“A Tiriti–informed approach to migration, one which understands the increasing demand for migration, but also respects Māori as tangata whenua and essential partners, especially in migration. Because migration can significantly compromise our relationship as articulated in Te Tiriti.”

Scrap book poster on a purple and blue background, with two cut-out images of Pok Wei Heng and Vira Paky and their quotes. Pok Wei Heng is in a green sweater and black jacket laughing and Vira Paky is in a yellow top smiling.

Aotearoa has a rich and tumultuous history, as do many places. Acknowledging and learning from this past is critical to forming an inclusive community. Marie Ysabel Landingin spoke about this in her interview: 

“ I think there is an obligation where because you've moved to New Zealand, and you want to help marginalised communities, you should probably look to the people who have been here for far longer than us and have been marginalised. It’s learning more than what you get taught in Social Studies, actually going back and reading up on it. Also, trying to understand or use Te Reo as much as you can, in a respectful, non-tokenistic way.” 

And if Ashley Petau-Ah Poe had her way she would resolve some of those painful mistakes.

Radically, I was like, yeah, give the land back to Māori, to tangata whenua. That's all I was thinking.”

No lip service please

And lastly policies define how we operate but it's our mindsets that will help create a society where we all feel like we belong. That also means owning up to issues and problems we face. Vira Paky sums it up nicely:

“My policy would be that whenever something big and negative happens here, no one from the press is allowed to say: “Well, this isn't New Zealand.” Because I think one of the biggest issues that we have is that we don't claim our problems. And we treat every big issue, whether it's racism, xenophobia, homophobia, transphobia like it's imported from somewhere else, you can't even begin to go into the solutions phase before you claim the problem.” 

And Suki Xiao would ensure that we are not just providing lip service :)

“I used to be a policy advisor so I’m thinking: is this practical? [laughs]. How do we bring an implementation policy about real inclusion, really diving deep into what that means, rather than the tokenistic lip service type of inclusion, which we've had a lot of.”

There you have it folks, a wonderful summary of how Aotearoa could be different if this crew had anything to do with it. Paints a good picture doesn’t it? As Medulla Oblangata said: “Proposing a policy is too powerful” It sure is Medulla! But we think that this awesome bunch have it covered!