Providing reservation in jobs for Indians or Asians will be counter-productive, says a human rights activist in New Zealand.
Anthony Ravlich, chairperson of Human Rights Council New Zealand (not to be confused with Human Rights Commission) says it is absurd that “New Zealand may now provide affirmative action (job reservations/quota) for perhaps its highest achieving group. Consequently, I see such affirmative action as being far more of an ‘insult’ than a help.”
Anthony was responding to Human Rights Commission’s suggestion of ‘focus on inclusion’ to help address growing discrimination towards Asians.
According to a Human Rights Commission survey, an average of around 75 per cent of respondents identified Asian people as suffering “a great deal” or “some” discrimination”. (Race Relations in 2011, NZ Human Rights Commission report of March 2012).
The report adds that the commission will ‘actively focus on inclusion in all aspects of New Zealand life as a means to break down discrimination against Asian New Zealanders and other minority ethnic groups”.
The Race Relations Commissioner, Joris de Bres, told the New Zealand Federation of Multicultural Councils in Wellington earlier this year, “There are very few Asians on the boards of District Health Boards, not enough Asian teachers in our schools, not enough Asian local councilors community board members and Asian migrants continue to face discrimination in applying for jobs.’
Joris says that one of the organizations that has strongly focused on Asian recruitment over a recent years is the New Zealand Police. “All public agencies should be doing the same. Some private sector organizations, such as the major banks, have also reached out to Asian communities because it makes good business sense.”
However, Anthony is not in favour of job reservations for Asians.
“Asians are generally acknowledged to have a strong work ethic and are high achievers despite often being handicapped by having to learn English,” says Anthony.
“For instance, they are by far the highest achievers when it comes to gaining university entrance at school.”
Similarly, affirmative action is not widely used for other minorities, including Maori and Pacific peoples.
Replying to a separate query, Joris accepts that the use of “affirmative action” or “measures to ensure equality” in employment is not widespread in New Zealand, even though there is ample evidence of entrenched inequalities experienced by Māori in employment and elsewhere.
“Unless there is a specific reason in a specific circumstance, however, it would be unlawful to advertise specifically for people who are of Māori or of any other ethnicity,” says Joris.
What does the law say?
Part 2 of the Human Rights Act 1993 makes it unlawful to discriminate in employment on the grounds of race, colour, and ethnic or national origins.
However, it also provides at Section 73 (Measures to Ensure Equality) that “Anything done or omitted which would otherwise constitute a breach of any of the provisions of this Part shall not constitute such a breach if—
(a) it is done or omitted in good faith for the purpose of assisting or advancing persons or groups of persons, being in each case persons against whom discrimination is unlawful by virtue of this Part; and
(b) those persons or groups need or may reasonably be supposed to need assistance or advancement in order to achieve an equal place with other members of the community.”
Affirmative Action is permitted by the Act.