Story: Ethnic inequalities
Page 7 – Housing, health and justice
Many Māori and Pacific people and other members of ethnic minorities live in inferior housing compared to the majority. This is partly explained by their lower incomes, fewer educational qualifications (limiting employment prospects) and higher unemployment rates. Social barriers in local housing markets are also significant.
There was a general decline in the number of New Zealand residents owning their own homes through the 1990s. However, Māori and Pacific people were significantly less likely to own, rather than rent, their homes. In 2001, 47% of Māori households owned their homes, as did 38.2% of Pacific households. By comparison 72.8% of European households and 62% of Asian households owned their homes.
Quality of housing
Māori and Pacific homes were more crowded. In 2001 almost 20% of Pacific households had two or more families living in them, compared with under 3% of European homes. While Europeans had 0.84 people per bedroom, in Pacific households the figure was 1.33. Of Pacific people, 43% lived in households where they had to share bedrooms, as did 23% of Māori and 20% of Asians, but only 4% of Europeans.
While 77.4% of Asians had access to the internet in their homes in 2006, figures were far lower for Māori (46.7%) and Pacific people (37.7%). The figure for Europeans was 70.4%.
Also, some Māori found that the houses they rented or owned were not well-designed for their needs and cultural traditions. The properties did not have large common areas which could function like a mini-marae and accommodate visiting whānau, and there was sometimes no clear separation between the kitchen and the laundry (infringing traditional taboos).
Ethnic minories, with close-knit family, tribal and religious ties, often choose to live together when shifting to urban areas. Arrivals with limited resources may also face discrimination. While New Zealand has no ghettos comparable to those in many overseas cities, there are clear signs of residential segregation between ethnic groups. In Auckland, for example, over 40% of Manukau City residents were Māori or Pacific in 2006, compared with just 10% of North Shore residents. Houses on the North Shore were worth considerably more on average than those in South Auckland.
Overcrowding and substandard housing sometimes led to poorer health among Māori and Pacific people. In 2000 over a third of Pacific families reported problems with dampness and mould in their homes, and over half reported cold – factors that were correlated with higher levels of asthma and post-natal depression. Pacific and (to a lesser extent) Māori people had significantly higher obesity rates, and smoked more, while Asians had significantly lower levels of obesity and smoking. 2006/7 almost 38% of Māori and Pacific people exhibited potentially hazardous alcohol drinking patterns, compared with 23% of Europeans and 9% of Asians.
Not such a ‘white plague’
One of the diseases most feared by people until the introduction of antibiotics was tuberculosis, sometimes called the ‘white plague’. But tuberculosis has not disappeared and remains an illness associated with poverty. Between 1995 and 2004 the incidence of tuberculosis among Māori was about 10 times the level found in Pākehā New Zealanders.
Such conditions helped produce lower life expectancy. In 2005–7 life expectancy at birth was 8.6 years lower for Māori than non-Māori males, and 7.9 years lower for Māori women than non-Māori women. The gap had narrowed since the early 1950s, but it remained significant. (Figures for Pacific and Asian people were not available.) However, age-standardised death rates were significantly higher for Māori and Pacific than Pākehā or Asian people. Asians had the lowest rate of all.
Māori, in particular, are strongly overrepresented in the criminal justice system. In 2006 Māori were one-eighth of the population aged 15 or over – but they comprised half the prison population and over 40% of all criminal apprehensions. Of women in prison, 60% were Māori. On an age-standardised basis, the Māori imprisonment rate in the early 2000s was 514 per 100,000 – compared with 152 per 100,000 for the whole population.
These figures reflect complex factors, ranging from historical and current bias in the operation of the justice system to other forms of inequality faced by Māori, such as lack of education, high levels of unemployment, and poorer living conditions. Age profiles, socio-economic status and media stereotyping also need to be considered.