Trends in Wellbeing in Aotearoa New Zealand: 2000-2020 has been released. Take a read of the following:

"The proportion of people aged 15-24 with high or very high levels of psychological distress has increased from 5% in 2011/12 to 19% in 2020/21". What? Nearly one in five of our youth are now highly mentally distressed!?

Figure 14 in the report shows that psychological distress increased MOST amongst 15-24 year olds in the 2020-21 year, compared with any other time over the past decade. School closures, severe lockdowns and restrictions, as well as nearly three years on Zoom for tertiary students have been devastating for Kiwi youth.

"Loneliness is highest among people aged 15-24 & has increased between 2014 & 2018. Teen suicide rates are among the worst in the OECD. Cognitive skills at age 15 are also in decline. Levels of school attendance are declining & particularly low among those in more-deprived areas. We also have the highest rate of bullying in the OECD .. People aged under 25 are least likely to report a high sense of belonging to Aotearoa NZ, least likely to report that life is worthwhile & less likely to vote than young people in other OECD countries".

My God. What have the Key and Ardern governments gone and done to the youth of NZ?


Not much seems to be going on at the Reserve Bank of NZ in terms of research output these days, so when it does publish an article & features it on the website, it makes one curious. Their latest Research Note starts out with a strong statement, "Ethnic minorities experience consistently poor labour market outcomes across countries" (see page 2).

Hmmm. So lets take a look "across countries", starting with Malaysia, where there are three main ethnic groups: Malays at around 62%, Chinese at around 30% and Indians at around 8%. In other words, Malays are the majority whereas Chinese & Indians are minorities.

So who has the best labour market outcomes? Professor Snodgrass, at the Harvard Institute for International Development, says (below), "Malaysia's largest group (the Malays) is politically dominant but has far lower average income & wealth than the Chinese minority". Labor market outcomes are better amongst the minority Chinese.

How about crossing to Africa? The Tutsis in Rwanda formed a prosperous minority group, experiencing more favorable labor outcomes than the majority Hutus. Historians report that, "The Tutsis as cattle-herders were often in a position of economic dominance to the soil-tilling Hutus". As the Rwandan state developed, the Tutsis were apparently favored by the Belgian colonial administrators, fueling resentment. It is argued that these kinds of economic & political factors led to one of the world's worst ever genocides.

As for the Pacific Region, the Hawaiian State Government published a report on "Labor Market Impact During COVID-19". In terms of unemployment rates, it reports that, "Asians alone are most affected at first but have recovered relatively well. White alone are affected less at the beginning of the shut down, but their unemployment rate has plateaued. Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders are affected similar to other races".

Why make this point? Since most scholars would argue that it's a mistake to make sweeping generalizations about minority groups & labour market outcomes, as per the RBNZ Research Note. Better to look at each place as a Case Study and work out the particular historical & cultural features of that country that have led to disparities. In Malaysia's case, as in Rwanda's, as in a vast number of other countries in the world, without an appreciation of their own unique characteristics, one is unable to understand how different minorities have fared in different societies.




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Robert MacCulloch