Fears of Māori unemployment 'tsunami' post Covid-19 lockdown

Source: 1News

There are fears economic upheaval in the wake of the Covid-19 coronavirus lockdown will lead to a "tsunami" of unemployment for Māori.

Thousands of jobs have been lost already, and with Māori unemployment sitting at double the national average at eight per cent before the lockdown - a rate that's even higher in the regions - it's feared effects of the economic slowdown will hit them hard.

"We're expecting unemployment to rise, I expect a lot of people will get quite quickly absorbed into the labour force but the difficulty is that generally Māori are less skilled than non-Māori," economist Dr Brian Easton said.

Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones fears "unemployment is about to hit us like a tsunami".

One person feeling the pain already is Littoria Paku, who worked as a waitress at a Wellington hotel for a year.

One the eve of lockdown, she lost her job.

"I felt a lot of pride where my work was concerned, and to have it swept away within a day, that was very hard," she said. 

She is now looking a retraining as a life coach or counsellor, with Dr Easton saying upskilling is key to helping Māori flourish in the post-lockdown world.

"We've always been weak on training, we've always been weak on upskilling Māori and hopefully we will think smarter."

Mr Jones said he was seeking a top-up in this year's Budget for the provincial growth fund, with an eye on rural Māori communities.

"Primary produce expansion is absolutely essential. Māori already are significant players in the primary produce sector."

"There will be opportunities for Māori owners of small and medium-sized enterprises because many of them are key players already in the Tai Tokerau (Northland), Tairāwhiti (East Coast) and Waiariki (Bay of Plenty)."

Employment Minister Willie Jackson said they wanted to "partner up" with iwi and Māori organisations.

"Through the mayhem, we might be able to find light."