Need for skills trumps prejudice
The need for skilled workers is overcoming employer prejudice, employment law specialist Max Whitehead believes.
His comments come after Equal Opportunities Trust chairman Michael Barnett expressed disappointment that racism was an ongoing issue in workplaces.
Barnett was not impressed with the results of a recent online survey in which 30 per cent of respondents said they were "definitely not" comfortable with Auckland's changing ethnic mix.
Barnett also cited Statistics New Zealand data released last month showing one out of 10 New Zealanders felt discriminated against. "The majority of them say it's because of their skin colour or race," he said.
"People who identify as Asian had the highest incidences of racism, followed by Maori and Pacific people."
Whitehead, who is managing director of employment relations firm Whitehead Group, said he chaired a debate on racial discrimination at a small to medium enterprise summit last week.
"The theme from that conference was that people are desperately needing a highly-skilled workforce and they can't get it," he said.
"I think there's a turnaround - my perception is that employers are getting that desperate for a skilled workforce that they will take on other cultures now as a second choice."
Whitehead said the tide was turning.
"I don't think the Kiwi employer is going to have any choice because of the hollowing out of our society of the young people leaving (as part of the) brain drain," he said.
"It is going to force them into actually recruiting these individuals and (maybe) older people which they've also discriminated against."
Barnett said businesses could not afford to judge people because of their ethnic origin.
Some large companies were starting to "get it", and employing a diverse range of workers made good business sense, he said.
"But many others seem slow to appreciate the positive contribution diversity offers to any workplace.
"If workplaces don't embrace diversity, their bottom lines will suffer as a looming shortage of staff is also predicted with the ageing workforce."
- © Fairfax NZ News