Embrace youthful migrants for Southland's future - Mai Chen

Mai Chen speaking to an audience at a breakfast meeting at the Kelvin Hotel in Invercargil on Friday morning.

Mai Chen speaking to an audience at a breakfast meeting at the Kelvin Hotel in Invercargil on Friday morning.

Southland needs to embrace youthful migrants to sustain its future as the region's ageing European population shrinks, lawyer and public policy expert Mai Chen says.

Chen was in Invercargill on Thursday to speak at a breakfast function at the Kelvin Hotel which was attended by more than 100 people.

Speaking later, she said she had been looking at diversity in New Zealand from a legal and public policy perspective, but also from a business perspective.

Chen's latest book Superdiversity Stocktake is about to be released. Superdiversity occured when a significant percentage of the community are from overseas and when suburbs and workplaces showed this in their makeup, she said.

The book argues that there would be economic benefits from catering for this new set-up in a better way, such as higher levels of employee productivity and innovation, and a boosted demand for goods and services sought by new New Zealanders.

Superdiversity was an economic and social issue, not a race issue, she said.

READ MORE: Mall, museum and expanded SIT campus proposed for Invercargill CBD

Businesses were dependent on being able to attract and recruit great talent and youthful migrants were "part of the salvation" when Southland's ageing demographics was taken into account, Chen said.

It was great that the Southern Institute of Technology had attracted so many international students and their families to Invercargill, and the challenge was to get people to settle there beyond their study.

Employers needed to be receptive to migrants and not be turned off by receiving a foreign CV from someone whose name they could not pronounce, she said. 

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Southland Chamber of Commerce chief executive Sarah Hannan agreed that to attract people to live and work in in the region Southland needed to be open to a more diverse workforce and focus on building cultural capability.

"Mai Chen's presentation was very relevant and timely for Southland. We need to be focussed on understanding the growing cultural diversity of New Zealand, as the regional development strategy has identified," she said.

 - Stuff


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