UPFRONT Missed opportunities?

New Zealand is losing both growth opportunities and competitive advantage because its equal employment opportunities (EEO) programmes lag behind those of other countries, according to report by University of Auckland political studies researchers Michael Mintrom and Jacqui True. The report, entitled Framework for the Future: Equal Employment Opportunities in New Zealand, was produced for the EEO Unit of the Human Rights Commission and compares our EEO progress with that of the UK, US, Australia and Canada.
Despite our overall poor performance, handful of companies are using EEO initiatives to become employers of choice and improving their image with customers. These initiatives, according to EEO commissioner Judy McGregor, “reflect global trend among forward-thinking companies to pursue equal opportunities in terms of wider company image about human capital development”.
The financial benefits may not be immediately apparent but there are positive spin-offs in staff attraction and retention, morale and heightened public image, says McGregor.
And while New Zealand women, like those in the UK, achieve the highest levels in the education system they still lag behind men on pay and status. Righting the balance, say Mintrom and True is “not matter of political correctness but economic survival”.
New Zealand exhibits the hallmarks of society “where the best and brightest are not getting ahead as they should”. The authors argue that for New Zealand to return to the top half of OECD rankings, the labour force participation rate needs to improve and productivity increase.
“Efforts to ensure people are not discriminated against in job searches or promotions leads to more transparent procedures that increase the confidence of all employees that they are treated fairly,” says McGregor. “Rather than cynically viewing the pursuit of EEO as yet another instance of political correctness, it should be seen as building policies that benefit everyone.”

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