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Source: New Zealand Ministry of Health

This report presents information on adults’ experiences of racial discrimination in the past 12 months and over their lifetime. This includes the experience of ethnically motivated personal attack (physical or verbal), and experience of unfair treatment in healthcare, employment or housing. Data was collected from the racial discrimination module included in the 2011/12, 2016/17 and 2020/21 New Zealand Health Survey.

Racism is an important determinant of health that contributes to health inequities. Eliminating all forms of racism is critical to achieving health equity and the vision of pae ora – healthy futures for all New Zealanders.

A racial discrimination module has been included in the adult New Zealand Health Survey questionnaire intermittently. This report contains data from the last three modules included in the 2011/12, 2016/17 and 2020/21 New Zealand Health Survey. It presents information on how adults in New Zealand experience racial discrimination, including through ethnically motivated personal attack (physical or verbal), and unfair treatment in health care, employment or housing.

Data is available on people’s experience of racial discrimination over 2 time periods: in the 12 months before the survey and over their lifetime. Results are also shown by ethnic group for Māori, Pacific, Asian and non-Māori/non-Pacific/non-Asian people.   

Please note

The data is based on self-reported experiences, and may underreport experiences of racism, particularly for Māori, Pacific and Asian people.

People may be reluctant to report their experiences of racial discrimination or may not recognise that that they have experienced racial discrimination. They may also not recall all previous experiences of racial discrimination, particularly when reporting experiences that occurred over 12 months ago.

In the 2020/21 New Zealand Health Survey, the sample size for Pacific and Asian ethnic groups was small and this means that estimates are less precise than usual.

For information about procedures and protocols followed to produce high-quality data from the New Zealand Health Survey please refer to the Survey’s Methodology Report.

Key findings

  • Māori, Pacific and Asian adults are more likely than non-Māori/non-Pacific/non-Asian (non-MPA) adults to experience racial discrimination. In the 12 months before the 2020/21 survey, 13.8% of Māori, 9.5% of Pacific, 12.3% of Asian and 4.8% of non-MPA adults experienced racial discrimination.
  • More than one in 3 Māori (37.6%) and Asian (35.3%) adults, more than one in 4 Pacific (28.7%) adults and nearly one in 6 non-MPA (16.2%) adults experienced racial discrimination over their lifetime.
  • The proportion of Māori who experienced racial discrimination in the past 12 months increased from 10.8% in 2011/12 to 13.8% in 2020/21. In particular, the proportion of Māori women who experienced racial discrimination in the past 12 months increased, from 9.7% in 2011/12 to 16.8% in 2020/21.
  • Verbal abuse was the most common type of racial discrimination that all ethnic groups experienced in the 12 months before the 2020/21 survey (9.0% of Māori, 6.4% of Pacific, 9.9% of Asian and 3.6% of non-MPA adults).
  • Racial discrimination is associated with higher rates of psychological distress, lower rates of good/very good/excellent self-rated health, and higher rates of unmet need for primary health care.

Ao Mai te Rā is the Manatū Hauora | Ministry of Health initiative to support the health system to better understand, react and respond to racism in health.

If you have any queries about this New Zealand Health Survey report on racial discrimination, please email [email protected]