Ethnic Communities add $64 billion to National Economy

Population share: 24%: GDP Share: 20%

Ethnic Communities Minister Priyanca Radhakrishnan (second from left) with Sense Partners Economist Shamubeel Eaqub, Waitakere Ethnic Board President Gurdeep Talwar (second and third from right) and other guests at the launch of the Report in Auckland on March 11, 2022 (Photo by Bharati Sonu)

Venkat Raman
Auckland, March 14, 2022

Ethnic Communities, categorised under minorities, contributed about $64 billion to the national economy in 2021, accounting for about 20% of the GDP, an economist has said.

The total economy was valued at $325 billion in 2021.

According to Shamubeel Eaqub, an Economist at the Wellington-based Sense Partners, the Survey, commissioned by the Waitakere Ethnic Board (WEB), has defined economic contribution as income earned, entrepreneurship and ownership of businesses.

The Report, released at the Trusts Stadium on Friday, March 11, 2022, was a dream project of WEB Manager Baljit Kaur who was keen to highlight the contributions of ethnic communities to the economic and social progress of New Zealand. She is currently battling Cancer and hence was represented by her son Karamjit Singh Bains, brother Azad Manjit Singh and niece Revinder Singh (from Sydney). Baljit explains her feelings for the ethnic communities in a special article that appears on Page 3 of this Edition.

Among those present were Diversity, Inclusion and Ethnic Communities Minister Priyanca Radhakrishnan, Disarmament and Arms Control Minister Phil Twyford, WEB President Gurdeep Talwar, members of the Baljit Kaur family and community and business leaders.

Waitakere Ethnic Board President Gurdeep Talwar, Sense Partners Economist Shamubeel Eaqub and Disarmament and Arms Control Minister Phil Twyford hold the first copy of the Report released in Auckland on March 11, 2022 (Photo by Bharati Sonu)

 

Some parameters

Eaqub said that it is common to use a national accounts approach to calculate ethnic contribution, taking into account the contribution of the stock of economic drivers including capital and labour. Income from labour is usually based on Household Income Survey and Census Data and income from capital.

However, the value of unpaid and voluntary work is not included in the calculations.

Eaqub said that measurement of economic contribution by an ethnic group has generally focused on the Māori economy, which has been developing over time.

“In the earliest efforts, the focus was mainly on economic participation (mainly through employment and incomes). This expanded to include the asset base or ownership of economic resources over time. Academic literature has argued for a wider wellbeing approach that also applies te ao Māori values, which may also be relevant for other ethnic groups.

Ethnic Communities

The communities included under Ethnic Minorities are Asian, European (excluding Pakeha), Middle Eastern, Latin American and African. European are those classified as British and Irish, Dutch, Australian, German, South Slav, Italian, Polish, Greek and other European.

Asian ethnicities taken into account in the Report were Chinese (247,770 people in 2018), Indian (239,193), Filipino (72,612), Korean (35,664), Japanese (18141), Sri Lankan (16.830), Vietnamese (10,086). Cambodian (9672) and Other Asian (57,630).

However, the problem arising from relying on the reasonably accurate number of people belonging to an ethnic group is that some people may declare themselves broadly as ‘New Zealander,’ or group themselves in more than one category. For instance, a Fiji Indian may have described himself or herself as ‘Indian’, ‘Pacifica’ or ‘Fiji Indian.’

“Ethnicity is a self-defined concept. The Statistics New Zealand Census collects the ethnicity information of all those living in New Zealand. Each person may pick more than one ethnicity. We report on the basis of those who identified as these ethnicities in the Census. The availability of the quality of the data at detailed ethnic levels is variable,” Eaqub said.

He said that minority ethnic communities are a growing part of New Zealand’s diverse population. Each new cohort is likely to have also spent more of their time in New Zealand than previous cohorts, which may lead to even better communication and cooperation across ethnic communities.

Karamjit Singh Bains, son of Baljit Kaur reading out her address, flanked by his uncle Azad Munjit Singh and his cousin sister Revinder Singh from Sydney

Skills mismatch

“However, their contribution is less than it could be because of skills mismatches and lower incomes. Reducing barriers faced by ethnic minorities will be better for them and New Zealand.,” he said in the Report.

According to an earlier report compiled by Eaqub for Waitakere Indian Association, the contribution of the Indian community to the national economy was $10 billion (or about 3% of the total value of the economy placed at $303 billion) in 2019.

In computing the data, Eaqub and his team have focused on what can be measured to create a common base to understand the economic connection, contribution and opportunities for improvement.

He acknowledged that economic contribution by ethnicity is difficult to be specific, as the economy is a complex and dynamic web of inter-relationships and ethnicity are not defined.

“Our analysis spans a broader set of indicators to paint a picture of the make-up of different ethnicities and their contribution to New Zealand. Our estimates of the contribution to gross domestic product (GDP) should be seen within this broader canvas,” he said.

It may not include all diversity – for example, some may identify as Asian and not provide any further detailed ethnicity.

Ethnic heritage may span vast or detailed geography and cultures. For example, European includes those with European ancestry from Australia, South Africa and Zimbabwe. Those who identify as Indian are from India as well as neighbouring countries and include those with Indian heritage in South Africa and Fiji. Indians may also identify as Sikh, Bengali and so on.

Asset to the Nation

In his Foreword, WEB President Gurdeep Talwar said that the Report reinforces the fact that ethnic communities are not a liability but an asset.

“Although ethnic communities are a minority in New Zealand the figures in this Report display that they contribute more to education, skills and talent that was otherwise not known before,” he said.

Earlier, Diversity, Inclusion and Ethnic Communities Minister Priyanca Radhakrishnan described New Zealand’s ethnic diversity as a powerful and dynamic source of strength.

“This report highlights the varied and hugely significant contribution that the members of our richly diverse ethnic communities make to the economy of our country and just how substantial that contribution has been over the years,” she said.

Please read Baljit Kaur’s article on our website or here.

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