NZ's Filipino community
through Wellington lens

A report published this week by the Asia New Zealand Foundation on the Filipino community in Wellington shows they flip the usual narrative of overseas Filipino workers elsewhere in the world.
Filipino community with flag

Unlike many of the Filipino diaspora living elsewhere in the world, Filipinos in New Zealand come to stay

It is estimated that more than 10 million Filipinos work or live outside the Philippines, many of whom are low-skilled workers on contracts who face unsafe working conditions without the possibility of gaining residency.

Making a Community: Filipinos in Wellington author Dr Rebecca Townsend says, “The policy by which Filipinos are allowed to enter and work here means they tend to arrive with specific and high skill sets and often with a job already arranged. They bring their families and raise their children here. Because of this, Wellington's Filipino community is more settled and stable than is typical in other countries."

As cited in the report, Filipinos in New Zealand are more likely than either the general Asian population or the New Zealand population to have a bachelor’s degree or higher.

In 2013, their incomes were roughly equivalent to European New Zealanders ($30,600 compared to $30,900) but higher than the general Asian ethnic population.

The report says Filipinos in New Zealand contribute to relieving significant and critical skill shortages in vital industries including dairy, healthcare, construction, nursing, aged care, information technology, and agriculture.

“Over the last few years, there has been a big demand for workers in the dairy industry and for the Christchurch rebuild, and Filipinos took advantage of that,” Philippine Ambassador to New Zealand Jesus ‘Gary Domingo says in the report.

“We are happy to be helping [in the] rebuild and to further build up New Zealand society both literally and figuratively," he says.

The report also reveals that the Filipino community in New Zealand is not as tight-knit as some other Asian ethnic groups, largely due to the great diversity of the many ethnicities and cultures of the archipelago.

Although Filipino is the country’s national language, there are over 100 dialects, which means Filipinos in New Zealand do not grow up speaking the same language. "They hail from vastly different regions, social backgrounds and cultures," Dr Townsend says.

“It’s difficult to pin down a homogenous national culture of the Philippines, an archipelago of 7,641 islands. This geography historically has separated communities."

This sentiment is reflected by one of the Filipinos interviewed for the report, Flora Muriel-Nogoy. “Our community is not united, it’s just the way we are,” she says.

Filipino cultural dancer

The Philippines is a country of many diverse ethnicities and cultures

The Foundation’s director of research and engagement, Pip McLachlan, says the report helps build an understanding of Filipino Kiwis – the third largest Asian ethnic group in New Zealand representing around one percent of our population.

Part of the Foundation’s mission is to build New Zealanders’ knowledge and understanding of the peoples and cultures of Asia, she says.

“We know from our Perceptions of Asia research that knowledge of and experience with Asia and Asian peoples go hand in hand with more positive attitude towards Asia."

The Asia New Zealand Foundation is New Zealand’s leading authority on Asia. It is a non-partisan, non-profit organisation, set up in 1994 to build New Zealanders’ knowledge and understanding of Asia.