NZ guilty of "significant" name discrimination

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New Zealand employers are guilty of “significant” name and accent discrimination – that’s the unsettling claim from one Auckland-based academic who says he’s experienced the behaviour first-hand.

Business lecturer Terence King – who was born Wang Lai Ming – told the BBC that he was overlooked for a number of jobs because of his Chinese name.

King studied for his master’s degree in the UK and moved to New Zealand in 2000 but said he struggled to secure work – until he changed his name.

"I'm confident there will always be a job for me somewhere with my English name and qualifications to match," he said to the BBC.
Paul Spoonley – a distinguished professor from Massey University – studied the issue and said many employers were averse to foreign names out of fear the potential recruit wouldn’t fit in.

"We have surveyed employers, many of whom feel that immigrants, especially from Asia, do not understand New Zealand and local cultural practices," he told the news channel. “They are particularly concerned with English language proficiency."

While discrimination against race, ethnicity or national origin is prohibited under human rights law, data gathered by Statistics New Zealand shows it’s still very much a problem.

According to the data – collected between 2008 and 2010 – an estimated 77,700 people claimed to have experienced racial discrimination in employment situations with Maori, Pacific and Asian people most likely to report an incident.

However, a number of New Zealand employers are already taking steps to combat any unconscious discrimination that may be tied to international names – including the country’s civil service.

Earlier this year, former State Services Commissioner Iain Rennie told the Global Government Forum that New Zealand’s civil service was looking at introducing “name-blind” recruitment.

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