Is the government and Labour working together to better Pasifika quality of life?
There is general agreement, from a number of announcements this week by the government and opposition that their respective education manifesto and policies are prioritising Pasifika communities onto a path for a brighter future.
Both parties have their own focus, their priorities differ slightly but the outcomes are very similar: to arm Pasifika so they are better able navigate and succeed in a future ‘world of work’ that is changing dramatically due to the digital revolution.
As Labour’s Grant Robertson pointed out earlier this week during the release of one of the papers by the ‘Future of Works’ commission, “46 per cent of jobs in New Zealand [are] likely to disappear in the next two decades it is essential that government makes sure the transition is a positive one by planning properly and ensuring Pacific people are a full part of the new economy.”
The paper noted that Pacific people are overrepresented in occupations that are most at risk of becoming redundant such as labouring and machinery operations. The concern is that these people have no post-school education which “is why Labour’s Working Futures policy is so important to help them re-train for new jobs,” said Mr Robertson.
It would not have been by design but the announcement yesterday by Education minister Hekia Parata that the percentage of Pasifika students gaining NCEA Level 2 has risen 48 per cent to 75.2 per cent since 2008 – is complementary to Labour’s Working Futures policy.
“NCEA Level 2 is the passport to a better future so this increase is great news for our young Māori and Pasifika students,” said Ms Parata.
“Since then , their achievement rates have risen faster than for any other group of the population and the achievement gap is closing.”
The brightening outlook for Pasifika from the government perspective was further highlighted on Wednesday, with Pacific People’s minister, Peseta Sam Lotu-Iiga pointing to labour market figures for the year to December 2015 confirming the rate of Pacific people not in employment, education or training had decreased from 17.9 per cent to 16.2 per cent.
“This signals that government initiatives such as Pasifika Trades Training and Count Me In are working well,” said Peseta.
Ms Parata and Peseta’s announcements together are complementary to Labour’s ‘Future of Works’ paper, where the bottom line states: if Pacific Islanders are to be winners in the changing nature of work “Education, re-training and entrepreneurship must be key priorities.”
The entrepreneurial side was singled out by Labour’s Pacific spokesperson Su’a William Sio. He said that boosting the level of self-employment and business ownership among Pasifika from just 1.6 per cent, by addressing the barriers to business ownership, will help lift the floor for Pasifika communities and families.
“Many Pasifika languish in the bottom of the socio-economic ladder. We must make the most of the coming changes to fix that. We have to think about what to do today to make a better tomorrow,” said Su’a.
“I would like to see our community use this paper to debate and generate ideas that will help create a new vision for a prosperous and thriving Pasifika community proudly making Aotearoa New Zealand their permanent home.
The two parties will be vying for the right to occupy the Beehive’s 9th floor next year, but in terms of the future lot for Pasifika – there appears to be at least, a semblance of agreement to look more closely at prioritising Pasifika communities.