Are New Zealand Employers Racist?

New Zealand employers are racist

Yik Kun Heng won't be called John

Watch this video about a very personable New Zealand man of Malaysian descent, Yik Kun Heng, who is unable to find a job because of his Chinese sounding name.

Racism is the “ugly face of racism in New Zealand today” and kiwis still have a lot to learn about personal race relations”

All of his classmates with European sounding names have secured good jobs, but 170 job applications and three University degrees later, he’s been advised by his careers officer to change his name to something English sounding like “John” if he wants to do the same.

Yik has refused to do this, having a strong sense of personal identity and integrity.

The only work he’s been able to find is basic admin support for a Telco – far removed from his post graduate qualifications in political science. He is so ‘fed up’ that he has decided to go back to Asia after calling New Zealand home for the last 22 years, another talented and skilled migrant who may’ve contributed so much will be lost to New Zealand. No wonder the country is being left behind.

When asked what he will tell people from abroad about New Zealand, he says:

New Zealand is an amazing country, BUT in terms of the employment side they have to be really prepared to make the tough decisions on how much they’re willing to give up or how much they’re willing to sell because of the racism

Emigrating to New Zealand from an Asian country, or planning to study there with a view to applying for residency when you graduate? This video is for you.

Video Link Are New Zealand Employers Racist?

Prof. Paul Spoonley, mentionedin our other blog below, also appears in the studio discussion in the video. He is “Regional Director (Auckland) and Research Director for the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, Massey University.

He is project leader for the FRST-funded Integration of Immigrants Programme. He is past Chair of the Management Group for the Building Research Capability in the Social Sciences (BRCSS) Network. He is the author or editor of 25 books on topics such as ethnic relations and identity, political extremism and employment.” source

Human Rights Commission

The Human Rights Commission receives, on average, 472 complaints about racial discrimination, incitement and harassment each year.

Race complaints regarding employment are the most frequent and Asians are the most common target.

Race Relations Commissioner Joris de Bres said if you marginalise a community you are only hurting yourself.

“If people are employed below their level of qualifications then that is a loss to the economy. If they’re not employed at all, that is a loss to the economy.” source

You may also be interested in our other blog:

Migrants Changing Names To Get Jobs (April 2010)

Lincoln Tan has written another excellent article about the problems that migrants are having finding work in New Zealand during the present tough economic climate.

According to Mr Tan an academic says that businesses often eliminate Asian sounding applicants at a very early stage in the interview selection process.

Surely that is racial discrimination?:

Desperate job-seeking Asians are not only taking on Anglicised first names but also officially ditching their traditional surnames for European-sounding ones in the hope that will help them find work in New Zealand.

One Chinese woman even changed her name to Brenda Jones in an attempt to get a job interview in the tough economic climate.

About 21,000, or 9.2 per cent, of the Asian population are without jobs, and experts say their foreign-sounding names have contributed to their unemployment woes.

Massey University researcher Paul Spoonley says New Zealand employers, especially in small and medium-sized businesses, tend to eliminate Asian applicants very early in the process through surname discrimination…”

…Woman had been advised by Work and Income to change her last name to make herself more employable:

“[A migrant] who changed her surname from Teoh to May with an English first name, said a job interviewer at Work and Income advised her to do so.

She told me that with an Asian surname, employers will automatically think that I cannot speak English,” said Miss May, a former retail manager.

A University of Auckland School of Business survey in 2005 found anti-Asian discrimination to be significant among employers.

It found that even without immigration status consideration, having a Chinese or Indian name significantly raised chances of being considered unsuitable…”

But migrants have to pass English Language tests before being granted work visas so where does this ‘perception’ come from that they can’t speak English, or is there another reason for weeding out people… ?

read on

Also see Asians-ditch-identities-in-hunt-for

15 thoughts on “Are New Zealand Employers Racist?

  1. (Tongue in cheek statement): After the “Black Mesa” incident, and a short stint in Eastern Europe, Gordon Freeman decides that oppressing people, after observing the successes and benefits gained from alien regimes seen previously, is more his style:

    The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment investigated G.L Freeman Holdings Limited and its sole director and shareholder Gordon Freeman, who ran the Redwood Hotel and Sequoia 88 restaurant until early 2015.

    It brought a case against the company and Mr Freeman to the Employment Relations Authority (ERA).

    In a new judgement released today, the ERA has ordered the hospitality business to pay more than $22,000 in penalties and arrears to workers for breaching employment law.

  2. There are too many foreigners coming into new zealand not just asians we have limited resources we are only 4 million in new zealand I dont mean to be racist but they need to cap
    it too prevent backlash deny them work permits as its clear we cant provide what there after.
    Its always asians complaining dont come to n.z then plenty of other countries to go too.

    • Could you explain exactly what those limited resources are? Air, water, food…?

      Surely NZ’s most limited resource is taxpayers?

      (and yes, you did mean to be racist)

    • Jamie, you are one twisted fellow. Anyways, the dude in the news above, Yik Kun Heng, has since left NZ and now is the ‘Head of Business Services’ for British Council Malaysia

      Had he continued here, he would have never gotten to where he is now. Now, racist bogans like ‘Jamie Winter’ are below the dust of his feet. They can keep shouting ‘Asian invasion’, while the world moves on from the baser ‘chimpy’ instincts that folks like Jamie exhibit in NZ. Somewhere i read that humanity is predicted to split into two sub species, the later will be dim witted, low IQ moron with ancestors like Jamie Winter.

  3. It’s not just asians experiencing this. I was born in england and raised in england and New Zealand. I completed all of my education in New Zealand and have a conjoint degree. I also speak with a full New Zealand accent. However, my name is arabic due to my parentage. I have been applying for over 6 months whils my friends are getting jobs within 2 months maximum. Out of over 50 applications I have not even received a single interview. Starting to think that it is racism at play. It was suggested that I include all of my schooling and remove my ethnicity from my CV to make myself look more ‘kiwi’.

    • I can really relate to where you are coming from. After being born in NZ, raised here, and living here more than 4 decades I am STILL treated like an outsider. Both my parents are ex-Londoners who emigrated to New Zealand in the late 60s. I grew up in New Zealand, but because of my parentage our household was effectively British, as were the ideals I was taught, and the accent I developed. It seems that those connections alone are enough for the New Zealand racism machine to kick into high gear.

      It took me a long time to figure out what was going on, and why on numerous occasions I was passed over for jobs or promotions that I was better qualified for while incompetent and untrained ‘true Kiwis’ would get ahead. It was only when I observed similar treatment being given to immigrants that finally I realised what had been going on for most of my life, and that having foreign connections is looked at with such paranoia by the locals, even if you are New Zealand born.

      Nowadays I have given up on trying to hide my British heritage. I am proud of my connections with Britain, and I stand strong in my identity as a British man. It is my New Zealand heritage I have rejected; as far as I am concerned New Zealand is no longer ‘home’.

    • It was reported, in nzherald or stuff (need to check my archives), that a person with a name “Muhammad” (whether first or last name) … should expect not to be hired in New Zealand.
      Funny, considering a (former) NZIER economist is called Shamubeel Eaqub,
      and a senior lecturer in Massey is called Mr. Muhammad,
      but on the flip side:
      academia (university-level) is very different from the society outside of university.

      And the problem is, most times ethnic people will be working with the regular society, not the university.

  4. I have been in NZ for over 2 years and I still haven’t managed to find a decent job that matches my education or experience. I realized the heights of racial discrimination in NZ when my kiwi mate (with no university degree, relatively less experience and pitiable English grammar) received a call from the same employer who ignored my application. I found recruitment agencies in NZ to be the most racist and closed minded of all. To prove my point, I picked up one of those “never heard back “ job applications, removed most of my overseas experience, changed my Middle Eastern last name to European and reapplied for the same position. Well I wouldn’t say I was surprised when the same so called recruiter called me but I was disappointed and furious for choosing to move into such a pathetic, narrow minded and ignorant country like New Zealand.

    This country has no future and my partner and I can’t wait to move to Australia or elsewhere and by the way we are working on it. For all those arrogant, unschooled skinheads who want Asians to leave NZ, “I am willing to leave this imprudent, deteriorating country tonight if you can afford to pay us the money we’ve spent here to feed the uneducated and unemployed cowards like you”. For everyone who is planning to visit, study, work or whatever in New Zealand, please do your research before you make that big decision and DO NOT believe in the phony, spurious image that New Zealand is trying to create for itself in the outside world. All this country wants is your money and once they have it, you are welcome to bugger off.

  5. Hi, my name is Stella, I am an immigrant from Brazil. I go to school at Marlborough Girls’ College and would like to interview anyone who thinks have a story they could tell me about their experiences with racism while living in New Zealand for a Media Studies Assessment.
    So, please e-mail me at
    if you can help. It wil be very much appreciated and it will help me to put the truth out there.

    • Welcome Stella, good luck with your assignment.

      If people want to respond to Stella’s request and wish to preserve a degree of anonymity they may leave their responses here. Perhaps Stella could leave some questions?

      If people chose to respond via her hotmail account please ensure that you don’t give away personal or identifying information.

      • Thank you for the support E2NZ!
        Like it was said above if you want to be anonymous, that is okay. I would just make a name for you, or you can do this yourself. The probability of this been published is minimum.

        What I mainly want to know is:

        1) If there is anyone who has had a bad or unfair experience with the NZ immigration services that they would be okay to share.

        2) If you have been unfairly treated at work due to being an immigrant

        3) If your perspectives of New Zealand were different from before you came here, to when you arrived (eg. thought there was not as much racism in New Zealand than there actually is)

        I am sure most immigrants have been through situations like this.

        So please contact me. It will be very much appreciated and of great help to me.

        • Stella you may also wish to lookup a blog called Avalon’s Guide, lots of information there are about NZ’s immigration system.

  6. That’s the end result.
    From discrimination against international Asian students,
    to discrimination against Asian New Zealanders.

    It reminds me of what Pastor Martin Niemöller said, with “First they came…”

    Standing by while other people are discriminated against on the basis of race (even if your nationalities are different) …
    is a sure way to ensure that the problem gets worse, and WILL someday affect you too.

    BTW: I had a STEM qualification (the one with the 10% GRADUATION rate …), applied for jobs in my field.
    ZERO callbacks.
    ZERO interviews.
    Was told my CV was most likely headed for the bin.
    The HR firms told me only permanent residents (I was a student on the one-year work visa AFTER completion of my studies) would be considered for any jobs.
    Asking for career advice, the notion that “race” or “ethnicity” had anything to do with it, was gingerly danced around like a “Bouncing Betty”.
    I did enjoy the position I finally managed to gain, at University. However, it’s hard to keep fed on a position that’s only available 6 months in a year (when the university is accepting large amounts of students).

    So the comments in the stuff article

    “Paul343 #4 10:58 am Mar 25 2012

    I’m not so sure, I would suggest the ‘problem’ might be that he has a Political Science degree. I have one of those as well, and didn’t get a job until I got a more commercially focused degree. The fact is, universities are churning out grads with useless degrees. I’m sure if Mr. Wong had a hons degree in Engineering or even Accounting, he wouldn’t be having any problems with ‘racists’.”


    “Johnny #6 11:51 am Mar 25 2012

    As an arts graduate myself, I had a lot of trouble securing a position when I graduated some years back. This is probably the issue here, rather than racism.”

    are VERY uninformed indeed.

    • Personally I had NO problems getting a job once I graduated. In fact, I was successful with the FIRST job I applied for. Why? Well, it could have had something to do with the fact that it was an online position working for an AUSTRALIAN company.

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