Responding to ethnic perspectives
The growing ethnic diversity of New Zealand's population provides new challenges and opportunities for research and evaluation, the Office of Ethnic Affairs (OEA) says.
The OEA role is to advise primarily on ethnic groups originating from Asia, Africa, Central and South America, continental Europe and the Middle East. This includes people born in New Zealand, established migrants, recent migrants, and refugees.
The overall ethnic composition of New Zealand is changing in size and complexity. More than 200 ethnic identities were recorded in the 2001 census. By 2021, OEA expects the ethnic sector to account for around 18% of the population, up from 10% recorded at the last Census and 5% in 1991. The biggest increase will be people who identify with Asian ethnicity, who are projected to comprise 13.4% of the 2021 population. Projections indicate there will also be more Māori and Pacific peoples than today.
"It is important for research and evaluation to recognise this diversity and to inform on the situation of these distinct ethnic groups. For example, there are more than 60 ethnic groups from the Asian region living in New Zealand, and they can vary widely in terms of customs, language, religion and world views," said Vas Gavriel, Senior Policy Analyst for OEA.
"While some good research is being done, overall there are still huge gaps in data about the ethnic sector. In our experience, there needs to be more effective training in how to work across and between cultures, as this can have huge implications for research design, ethical considerations, and so on."
Vas said people in the ethnic sector contributed to society in every way, yet they tended not to be seen, heard or included in public policy process.
OEA has published Ethnic Perspectives in Policy as a resource for public policy makers. It provides a framework of values, and outcomes for agencies to consider, and other resources to facilitate working with ethnic communities. The outcome areas identified are acceptance of diversity, economic participation, education and training, settlement, health and housing. "These are areas that all deserve further research," Vas said.
"By using the framework outlined in Ethnic Perspectives, each department will be able to identify issues and assess the impact of their activities on ethnic groups. Achieving these outcomes also has significant implications for research and evaluation. There is a strong demand for authoritative information on the wellbeing of 'other ethnic groups', in order to provide a sounder basis for policy decisions. This information may come from a variety of sources including surveys, administrative data and official statistics.
"The limited data available suggests social and economic outcomes for some ethnic groups are poor compared with those of what we might call the 'average New Zealander'. We need a consistent approach to information obtained through research and evaluation, to make ethnic communities more visible to public policy," Vas said.
"There is also a need for information to be reported consistently across government. Statistics New Zealand has reviewed the measurement of ethnicity, and implementation of the recommendations will help to improve the relevance and robustness of official ethnicity statistics for policy development, monitoring, and evaluation."
OEA is keen to develop best practice guidelines for monitoring, research and evaluation with ethnic groups, to provide greater transparency and accountability, in consultation with relevant agencies. "It is important that information about a range of ethnic groups' wellbeing is collected, and that data is reported in detail, consistent with Statistics New Zealand requirements," Vas said.
Ethnic Perspectives in Policy is available at www.ethnicaffairs.govt.nz
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