New Zealand’s Asian century

Published in Insights, The New Zealand Initiative’s newsletter, 31 July 2015

lanternsOver the past weeks, we have heard a lot of talk about Asian buyers allegedly being responsible for skyrocketing house prices in Auckland. You sometimes get the impression that in New Zealand’s relationship with Asia and Asians, all that matters are their combined effects on Auckland property.

And of course we hope Asia will drink more of our milk, eat more of our cheese and send more tourist dollars our way.

But what about people of Asian ethnicity living in New Zealand?

When preparing a speech on New Zealand’s Asian Century, which I delivered to Russell Investments on Tuesday, it occurred to me that we ought to be celebrating the contribution of Asian New Zealanders more often.

Here are a few things you may not know about your Asian neighbours:

  • New Zealand’s Asian population keeps our demographic profile relatively young. The median age of European New Zealanders is 41 years, whereas Asian New Zealanders are only 30.6 years on average (Mâori and Pacific peoples are younger still at 23.9 years and 22.1 years respectively).
  • Asians are typically more qualified than the New Zealand average. Only 12 percent of all Asians in New Zealand have no school qualification compared to 25 percent of the total population.
  • The differences in education are highly visible in school results. Of all Asian school leavers in 2014, 73 percent achieved NCEA level 3 or above. This made them stand out against European (54 percent), Pasifika (38 percent) and Mâori (27 percent).
  • Though Asians account for 11.8 percent of the total population, their share of criminal offences is only 1.6 percent.

It is a populist temptation to deplore the effects that Asian property investors or Asian migrants have on our property market (when we only have ourselves to blame for the lack of housing supply). However, too many people underestimate the huge contribution made by New Zealand’s Asian community.

New Zealand’s Asians are living by the rules of the law. The cultural value they place on education is exemplary. We have every reason to believe that they are making a contribution to our economy.

That is something to celebrate – and in the long run the Asian contribution to New Zealand is more important than discussing the ethnicity of property buyers in the Auckland housing market.