The Catholic Agency for Justice, Peace and Development

Migrant worker research report

In response to ongoing accounts of the unfair treatment of migrant workers in New Zealand, we have released a report calling for communities to ‘stand up for what’s right’ and support this vulnerable group to get help.

"I spoke to some friends who moved here when they were nine, and they say: ‘you know it’s not right, so stand for what is right…and hopefully they will change because of that’.

Migrant worker (International student)

The report, Stand up for what’s right – supporting migrant workers, is based on a small-scale qualitative research project about migrant worker experiences that we undertook in the Wellington Catholic Archdiocese.

The aim of the study is to help the Church and wider community understand the experiences of migrant workers, the barriers that prevent people from asking for help, and the role that parishes, Catholic communities and the wider New Zealand public can play in supporting people experiencing unfair treatment at work.

Our research did not intend to quantify or assess the extent of worker exploitation or unfair treatment. It rather captures a range of workplace issues that migrant workers have experienced, and support persons working with migrant workers have witnessed. These challenges related to taking up employment below legal minimum work conditions, facing bullying and harassment, and being discriminated against in the workplace. 

In the situations we heard, most migrant workers eventually moved on from exploitative employers to find other work opportunities with good employers. However, they were reluctant to follow up and report cases of poor employment practice. Many did not want to confront their employer, who may be from the same community; others were daunted by the legal system and having to face government authorities. 

Our report calls on government agencies to do more to proactively monitor workplaces, and for communities to show care and concern by supporting migrants to seek help through clarifying basic employment rights, referring them to accessible legal experts, and helping them to look for alternative work.

The study was undertaken as a contribution to the focus on migration for Social Justice Week this year (11-17 September).

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