Pacific women

The growth of the Pacific population in New Zealand has been one of the defining features of New Zealand society in recent decades.

Pacific peoples are a diverse population made up of cultures from many different Pacific islands. The seven largest Pacific ethnic groups in New Zealand are Samoan, Cook Islands Māori, Tongan, Niuean, Fijian, Tokelauan and Tuvaluan.

The migration of Pacific peoples into New Zealand has been outpaced by natural increase as a factor of growth. In 1999, 57 percent of New Zealand’s population of Pacific peoples had been born in New Zealand compared with 43 percent who had been born in the Pacific.

By 2021 it is projected that people who identify as Māori, Asian or Pacific will make up a greater proportion of the New Zealand population. Across these ethnic groups is a consistent pattern of a slightly higher percentage of females than males. This pattern is projected to remain constant until at least 2021 for all but Pacific peoples, where the ratio will reverse and males will slightly outnumber females. Overall, these trends will mean a more ethnically diverse female population.

Pacific females have a similar age profile to Māori females with a much higher concentration of females under the age of 15 than European and Asian females.

Overall, the proportion of females under the age of 15 years is projected to decrease by 2021. However, the proportion of Pacific females in this age group is expected to stay high compared with European and Asian females.

Pacific women have played a significant role in their communities, creating strong networks and support structures and working to keep Pacific traditions alive with strong family and church networks. P.A.C.I.F.I.C.A., which Pacific women established in 1975 to acknowledge the positive difference that Pacific women make to New Zealand, recognises this contribution.

There are now more Māori and Pacific women successfully participating in tertiary education, which includes certificate, diploma, degree and post-graduate levels, where they do so at a greater rate than either European or Asian women.

Women’s ethnicity greatly influences their likelihood of living in an extended family. Thirty-five percent of Pacific females live in this type of household, compared with 20 percent of Māori females and 5 percent of European females.

Ethnic differences also exist in the occupational distribution of women. European women and Asian women are more likely to work in legislative, administrative, managerial and professional occupations, while Māori and Pacific women are more likely to work in low-skilled manual occupations.

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