Superdiversity: We have crossed the Rubicon

The face of New Zealand is changing, quite literally. Never before has New Zealand had such a large number of people living here who were not born here. And that offers real opportunities and challenges for every business and every business leader.

By Annie Gray.  

Lawyer and company director Mai Chen’s dedication line in her Superdiversity Stocktake: Implications for Business, Government and New Zealand, rather beautifully sums up the message this impressive study aims to get across.

She has dedicated the 500-page report to her 12-year-old son, Jack Chen-Sinclair, “The face of New Zealand’s future.”

Chen tells Management that Jack has Scottish grandparents on his father’s side and Taiwanese grandparents on his mother’s side. Chen, whose family migrated to New Zealand when she was six years old, has recently celebrated her 30th wedding anniversary with her Scottish-born husband, Dr John Sinclair.

She says that increasing rates of intermarriage means there is no longer “them” and “us”. Jack, she says, is New Zealand’s future, not just Kiwi, but Scottish-Asian Kiwi.

The basis of the Superdiversity Stocktake, Chen says in the foreword, is that she does not believe the status quo is sustainable. “There can be no business as usual, as the talent pool, customers and citizens have changed. It is clear that superdiversity, and its benefits and challenges, are here to stay. Many agencies, organisations and businesses are enjoying the diversity dividend from superdiversity. But investment is now needed to keep that diversity dividend high and sustainable because New Zealand’s superdiversity has reached a critical mass; never before has New Zealand had living here such a large number of people who were not born here, and this puts us in a small group of nations,” she writes.

“We have crossed the Rubicon. It is important that we understand what the demographic statistics show us and understand that the diversity dividend will not continue if we do not invest and remain responsive to New Zealand’s cultural evolution.”

She sees the stocktake as a contribution to New Zealand, and since the launch in November 2015 the report has been downloaded more than 90,000 times, with15,000 copies downloaded over the statutory Christmas-New Year holiday period.

Chen, who is the chair of the Superdiversity Centre for Law, Policy and Business, has been contacted by many CEOs in the private sector, who have downloaded the report to get advice and to discuss the implications of superdiversity for their business.

Superdiversity is a “no brainer” she says, but the report is helping to get the message out on how New Zealand as a whole, both government and business,
can benefit.

The stocktake notes that academics have defined superdiverse cities and countries as those where more than 25 percent of the resident population is comprised of migrants, or those where more than 100 nationalities are represented.

According to the stocktake: “New Zealand is superdiverse now – predominantly in Auckland, where almost 50 percent of the population are Māori, Asian and Pacific peoples; where 44 percent were not born in New Zealand; and where there are over 213 ethnicities, as of the 2013 Census.

“New Zealand is now home to 160 languages, and this is forecast to increase. Auckland will become younger and browner as the New Zealand European population ages and shrinks, and the projections out to 2038 show that Māori, Asians and Pacific peoples will go from being 34 percent of New Zealand’s total population now to 51 percent of New Zealand’s total population. The European population will still remain over 50 percent because ethnicity is self-identified, and people may identify with more than one ethnicity.”

The reason is the “the higher birth rate of the Māori, Pacific and Asian populations (who are younger and predominantly of child-bearing age), together with a high rate of intermarriage between different ethnicities”. This means that cultural evolution will occur faster in New Zealand than in most other countries.

“Business and government need to be quicker off the mark to seize on the opportunities from superdiversity, and to capitalise on them, for the benefit of New Zealand’s economy. New Zealand needs to adjust faster and invest now in measures to ensure we are maximising the benefits of superdiversity (the diversity dividend) while managing the risks and challenges from a large number of new migrants living in New Zealand, some of whom come from very different linguistic and cultural backgrounds.”

So what to do?
Chen says there are four things the Superdiversity Centre has developed that can help business. First up is a Culutral Capabilty Assessment Tool which allows businesses and organisations to self-assess how culturally intelligent (‘CQ’) and capable they are.

The Superdiversity Centre’s team can then visit an organisation or business and independently audit its cultural intelligence self-evaluation and recommend how the organisation can measurably increase its cultural capability and improve its business performance.

The centre also offers cultural capability training, and has undertaken this at the Southern Institute of Technology in Invercargill, where 20 percent of the students are international students. The centre is also teaching a module on cultural competence for tourism operators for the International Travel College in Auckland, to help operators adapt to the increasing numbers of tourists from different cultural backgrounds.

The centre also undertakes Asia capability training together with New Zealand Asian Leaders (NZAL), which Chen also chairs. It has almost 200 top New Zealand Asian leaders from business and other sectors, who use their expertise and influence to ensure greater success for New Zealand’s economy, and who help to ensure New Zealand understands the contribution Asian New Zealanders make, she says. Chen explains that there is some unconscious bias going on, with Asian managers sometimes seen as technically competent but not leadership material. NZAL challenged that stereotype.

The stocktake includes a number of detailed case studies on businesses which have adapted their focus to cater to a much more diverse society.

Chen’s message, essentially, is that if your business is not catering to the new New Zealanders, then someone else will, and you will miss out on their business.

“If you want their dollars, then you need to consider whether changes are needed in the product or services you are providing, or the manner in which you are marketing those products and services.”

There is also good business to be done between Asians and Māori, so it is important for Asians to understand the Treaty of Waitangi and its place in New Zealand society, so they respect Māori culture and language, and for Māori to understand the benefits that come with increased diversity.

What are the implications of superdiversity for business?
In in the summary of findings section of the stocktake, Chen says that the status quo, where New Zealand European-staffed businesses service New Zealand European customers, is unsustainable given New Zealand’s ongoing demographic disruption.

“Businesses will only retain market share if they win more diverse customers. Migrant customers, including international students and tourists, represent a significant, untapped revenue stream for some businesses. The advantage of migrant customers is that they are new in New Zealand, so businesses do not have to win them away from competing businesses – they just have to win them in the first instance, and then hold onto them.

“New Zealand’s focus on attracting investor migrants also represents an opportunity for businesses seeking capital, and for service industries wanting high value customers. The talent pool to service diverse customers will also be increasingly comprised of the diverse as they need high or essential skills to get in such as for the Christchurch rebuild, in health or as farm managers. It also makes sense to recruit from the market to service the market.”

The stocktake goes on to say that if businesses want to break into ethnic networks for prospective customers, they can recruit ethnic workers who are part of those existing networks. Employers and managers will need to learn how to evaluate and assess foreign CVs and to recruit for culture, values and language abilities.

“Employers need to allow for the fact that new migrant employees may take longer to adjust to the New Zealand working environment.”

The stocktake also looks at how to create a fit for the future business to retain and grow market share.

“Target the most accessible customer base in the first instance: Businesses should target the lowest hanging fruit amongst the diverse as potential customers, such as those customers who have good English language proficiency. For example, the two biggest Asian subgroups in New Zealand are Indians and Chinese. The Indian population, in general, has good English language proficiency because English is an official language in India and because of their Commonwealth history, whereas North Asian migrants (particularly from China) are the most likely to face barriers due to English language ability. The Philippines also has a history of American occupation, so Filipinos tend to have good English proficiency, as do migrants from Singapore, where English is an official language.

“Businesses also need to adapt their services and products to the different culture and values of diverse customers: Understand differences between migrant groups. Migrants have different needs depending on whether they are first generation, 1.5 generation or second or on-going generations, which has implications for employers recruiting migrant staff and for how businesses target migrants as customers.

“For example, after undertaking market research, Foodstuffs identified three core customer types that it needed to target: Westerners who wanted to learn about Asian food, “Western Asians” (that is, those born in New Zealand or well settled in New Zealand), and “Asian Asians”.  

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