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Human Rights Commission Report - New Zealand

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Human Rights Commission Report 2010
The Human Rights Commission periodically releases an intensive report documenting human rights in New Zealand, mapping how they are being "promoted, protected and implemented." Of the thirty 'priority areas for action on human rights' released in the 2010 report, three were workplace and employment related. These included:

Implementing a new framework for equal opportunities that addresses access to decent work for disadvantaged groups such as Maori, Pacific youth and disabled people
Timetabling pay and employment-equity implementation with a minimum target of halving the gender pay gap by 2014 and eliminating it by 2020
Addressing barriers to the employment of migrant workers and ensuring the rights of temporary, seasonal and rural workers and those on work-to-residence visas are respected

Māori and Pasifika rights
Barriers to employment and promotion and equal employment opportunities continue to be one of the major issues facing Māori and Pacific peoples across the full range of occupations. The Ministry of Development's Social Report 2010 assessed the social and economic wellbeing of New Zealanders across a range of indicators. It found higher rates of unemployment for young people, Māori, Pacific peoples and other ethnic groups, and lower rates of median hourly earnings for the same groups as compare with Pakeha/European groups. This was in line with findings from previous years. The report also found that 14 per cent of the population live in low-income households. Since 2001, the annual Social Report, published by the Ministry of Social Development, has charted improvements in unemployment and employment rates and outcomes for Māori in socio-economic outcomes for Māori. Despite these improvements, average outcomes for Māori tend to be poorer than for the total population and the median hourly earnings, occupational spread, representation in senior roles and workplace injury claims. Despite improvements over the last decade, these gaps have widened due to the economic recession that began in late 2008. Unemployment rates in particular have risen, and are higher for Māori than for non-Māori. Māori youth unemployment rates stand as one of the highest figures of any group in New Zealand, sitting at 30.3 per cent in June 2010.

Disabled rights
New Zealand has ratified the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Currently, disabled people, though being protected by a number of domestic statutes (for example the Human Rights Act and NZBORA), are considered one of the most disadvantaged groups in New Zealand when it comes to the right to work, and barriers to employment such as gaining interviews. This was reflected in figures released in 2006 showing the New Zealand labour force participation rate for disabled people was 45 per cent, compared with 77 per cent for non-disabled people.

Gender rights
Despite having pioneered a number of rights issues in the international sphere, in 2010 the United Nations Human Rights Committee raised concern about the low representation of women in high-level and managerial positions and on boards of private enterprises with respect to compliance with arts 2, 3 and 26 of the ICCPR (  International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights ). It was recommended the state seek ways to encourage women participation in these roles including through enhanced cooperation and dialogue with partners in the private sector. Although the part-time employment rate in New Zealand has almost doubled for men since 1986, women continue to have a higher part-time employment rate than men (23.1 per cent and 8.7 per cent, respectively). There was also pervasive inequality found between men and women in the sharing of power and decision-making at all levels. The current mechanisms in place were considered insufficient at all levels to address the advancement of women and the gender pay gap was criticised with average median levels of difference sitting at 10.6%.

Immigrant rights
Immigration in New Zealand is governed by the Immigration Act 2009. While, New Zealand generally complies with and exceeds international standards in terms of its legislation and policies where it regards race relations, barriers to employment and promotion continue to be one of the major issues facing migrants and refugees living in New Zealand. The Human Rights Commission cited that plight of migrant workers in New Zealand has received extensive mainstream media coverage on a range of issues including discrimination, exploitation and battles over work and entry visas.


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