Social inequality worsens

22:40, Aug 20 2014

The gap in social equality between European people and Maori and Pacific people is worsening and warrants greater Government attention before the problem gets worse, new research says.

The Victoria University study built on a 2003 report by the Ministry of Social Development and found in the decade since then social inequality has worsened for both Maori and Pacific people.

It examined 21 social inequality indicators including health, employment and standard of living, and found the gap had widened in 12 areas between Europeans and Maori and in 65 per cent of areas between Europeans and Pacific people.

The largest increases in disparity were in cigarette smoking, obesity, suicide (between Europeans and Maori), proportion of the population with a Bachelor's degree or higher, unemployment and employment, income and internet access in the home.

Victoria University associate professor Lisa Marriott said the findings were concerning and showed greater notice needs to be paid to this issue.

"We are seeing worsening outcomes for Maori and Pacific people, and even in cases where disparity is reducing, the gaps with the European population often remain large.

"Despite considerable attention paid to the issue of inequality, the data outlined in our research indicates that New Zealand's strategy to address inequality as it relates to Maori and Pacific people has not been successful.

"This growing gap in inequality clearly warrants greater Government attention to stop the problem getting any worse."
Although some gaps had closed marginally, the size of the gaps still remained large, the research said.

The only area in which the gap closed by any significant margin was housing affordability.

But even then, Marriott said Europeans were still better off.

"This measure relates to the proportion of households of that ethnic group where housing costs are at least 30 per cent of disposable income.

"Statistics show this worsening for European households and improving for Maori and Pacific households, although on the whole European households are still better off."

The only measure where a gap no longer existed was participation in tertiary education, she said.

"Although participation has increased for all ethnic groups, there has been such a large increase for Maori and Pacific people that participation rates are now similar."

> Read the full report here.