2005 Panz Conference people and place: communities, regions, diversity and change.

Author:Qiao, Chungui
Position:Population Association of New Zealand

Population issues are vital to many social, economic and cultural discussions in New Zealand, and multidisciplinary discourse contributes to our understanding of the implications of the complex population changes now emerging. The Population Association of New Zealand (PANZ) was established to facilitate informed public debate about population matters, and to identify the underlying population issues in other discussions. (1) The 2005 PANZ Conference (2) was held at the University of Auckland on 30 June-1 July. Its theme was "People and place: Communities, regions, diversity and change", and the New Zealand and international speakers covered:

* diversity and change across age, employment, ethnicity, region, family and fertility

* the demographics of communities, Maori, consumers and health

* economic demography

* infrastructure

* methodological issues

* migration

* population and policy

* services

* sustainability.

The Minister of Immigration provided an overview of the projected changes in the demography of New Zealand society, focusing on skill requirements. He also invited interested delegates to conduct in-depth research in support of decision-making on immigration policy. James Newell, the PANZ President, spoke on trends in population studies and related occupations and fields, which was based on his studies into human capital accumulation and the labour market. International keynote speakers included Associate Professor Brenda Yeoh from the National University of Singapore and Dr Kevin Dunn from the University of New South Wales.

In this review I will summarise selected conference presentations, beginning with overseas studies, and followed by New Zealand papers on immigration policies and the employment dynamics of immigrants, labour market participation, the planned 2006 census of population and dwellings, measuring and monitoring small populations, and issues and challenges in the study of the Maori population.


Regional and Ethnic Diversity and Women's Employment in Australia

Yaghoob Foroutan's presentation "Competing implications of regional and ethnic diversity on women's employment: An Australian case" reflected the fact that female labour-force participation throughout the world, particularly in developed and industrialised countries, has substantially increased over the last few decades, "one of the fundamental facts of gender relations in this century". The multi-ethnic and multicultural characteristics of this phenomenon in Australia provide a context to extend the literature and knowledge on factors influencing women's employment status. Based on 2001 census data, more than 20% of the Australian population were born overseas. Their socio-cultural and economic backgrounds and experiences may play key roles in their labour-force behaviour in Australia.

In this study, the labour-force activities of Australian-born and overseas-born women were compared. Results show that major factors influencing women's labour-market behaviour include:

* human capital investments (education, English-language skills, etc.)

* migration-related issues (such as duration of residence in the destination country and region of birth)

* family building (couple status, partner's income, presence of child and age of child at home)

* age structure.

The regional and ethnic diversity contributed the most among other competing determinants highlighted in the literature.

Urbanisation of Pacific Indigenous Populations

Richard Bedford, Elsie Ho and Robert Didham, in their paper "Urbanisation of Pacific populations: An international perspective", maintained that urbanisation of Pacific indigenous peoples has been profoundly influenced by migration from the island countries to metropolitan countries on the Pacific rim. For many eastern Pacific countries, less than 50% of the people live in urban places in the islands. But when their ethnic communities living overseas are included, levels of urbanisation are much higher. There is considerable circulation of Pacific people between the island and metropolitan countries, thus ensuring that the various components of the ethnic communities remain strongly interconnected. An international perspective on the urbanisation of many Pacific peoples is essential if the process is to be understood in its 21st century context.

Household-specific Social Problems in Singapore

Professor Brenda Yeoh spoke on "Trangressing the nation-state? Migrant domestic workers, civil society and nation-building in Singapore". In Singapore, where it is typical for both partners in the same household to work, many low-paid migrant workers are privately employed as household maids. The current legislation is regarded as an effective framework for regulating flows of skilled migrant workers to meet Singapore's ongoing economic development needs. The legislation, however, fails to address the civil rights of domestic workers, who are not regarded as skilled workers, and so they are very dependent on their host families. A recent incident of physical and psychological abuse leading to the death of one domestic worker sparked public debate on the need for policy that addresses the civil rights of migrant domestic workers and also meets the requirements of local households.


New Zealand's future depends on a high-skilled, high-waged economy, where a more skilled workforce contributes to New Zealand's skill base, improves productivity and promotes continued economic growth. Immigration provides us with some of the workers and skills that the economy needs. Short-term skill gaps can be filled by granting temporary work visas to overseas skilled workers, whereas longer-term gaps have to be addressed by new skilled-migrant policy that is responsive to the...

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