Our Growing Community

The 2013 Census preliminary figures are finally out and when it comes to counting the ‘official’ number of Filipino-Kiwis residing in the country today, the NZ Statistic’s official tally is not too far off some projections that were made by the Filipinos in New Zealand Group in March of last year.


At that time, we ‘guestimated’ that the total population of the Filipino-Kiwi commu nity hovered between 36.5- to 37,000 all told. Last year’s census results which were release in December have now pinned down that number to exactly 37,299 – a number that has more than doubled since the previous census of 2006.


The Editorial Board-Filipinos in New Zealand Group



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In the 1970s, the Philippine government began actively encouraging emigration in response to high unemployment in the Philippines but also to large labour shortages in other countries. In that decade, the common destinations for Filipino migration to other countries were Australia, Canada, Japan, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia and the United States of America.


New Zealand has only recently become a popular destination for migrants from the Philippines, with previous census figures revealing that the number of Philippines-born residing in New Zealand had more than doubled from 7,000 to 15,300 during the decade of 1996-2006.


In the decade of the 1990s, 900 Filipino professionals arrived to reside in New Zealand. Of these 500 were women professionals, and of that number 300 were nurses and healthcare professionals. Of the 400 professional men, the largest occupational group included architects, engineers and other related licensed professionals.


In December 2003, New Zealand’s immigration policy changed with the intro duction of the Skilled Migrant Category. This category replaced the General Skills Category and introduced revisions to criteria for migrants seeking to reside in New Zealand.


What were these revisions? Firstly, New Zealand shifted from being a passive recipient of residence applications to becoming a more active recruiter of skills and talent. Secondly, by October 2007, a change was introduced under the Skilled Migrant Category largely recognising prior work experience gained in a ‘comparable labour market’, which included the Philippines as one of 30 other countries.


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With recognition of prior work experience and more active recruiting, this expanded the scope for the migration of professionals in other fields. In the June 2007 year, the main professional group of permanent long-term (PLT) female arrivals from the Philippines to New Zealand were by large business profess ionals group, which includes accountants, while men tended to be in the IT/ computing, architecture and engineering fields.


In the year ended June 2007, the Philippines was the second largest contributor to net PLT migration to New Zealand. There were 1,800 more migrants arriving from the Philippines than in the previous June year. In 2006, there were an additional 700 arrivals, when compared with 2005.


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With an increase in the number of Filipinos migrating to New Zealand during those inclusive years, there have also been changes in the gender-based charac teristics of Filipinos migrating here.


For most part of the 1970s, higher net PLT inflows of Filipino females were recorded, with a total net inflow of 900 females compared with 400 Filipino males. This trend continued through the 1990s, with a combined net PLT inflow of 2,300 Filipino women and 1,900 Filipino men.


However, by the June 2007, the female-to-male ratio of Filipino migrants began to change, with a slightly higher net PLT inflow of males (1,620) compared with females (1,484).


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The Philippines has emerged as the nation of source for employers across the globe. Filipinos are found working in most countries – from oil fields in Russia to providing engineers and skilled labour forces for mining operations in Africa, Australia and other countries.


Many large infrastructure projects found in the Middle East and elsewhere have been designed and built utilising the talents of Filipino architects, engineers and technical workers.


Filipino medical doctors and nurses man hospitals in most major cities found in all points of the compass, now including New Zealand.


They are legion in number. From bankers in New York, London and Zurich, farm workers and agricultural technicians in Japan, Hawai’i and Saudi Arabia to housekeepers and chefs in Israel, Italy and other EU countries, Filipinos provide the crucial labour needs that keep most economies across the world humming smoothly. Serving from cradle to grave, their skills are sought after by many because in no time they also manage to learn speaking the local and native language fluently as well.


The growing demand for Filipinos to work in developed countries in roles that require professional, commercial, executive, managerial, administrative, tech nical, creative or other highly-specialized skills does not all come as a surprise. They have all learned the art of both assimilating and integrating well in their host countries far better than any other Asian migrants do thanks largely to their common history as a people, upbringing, strong family values and unique cultural traits and attributes.


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The Filipino-Kiwi Community of 78-years ago were counted as consisting of just six people. They were officially documented as being born in the “Philippine Islands” based on the extant census records of 1936.


Thanks largely to the efforts of Karl Quirino and his group of associates who meticulously gather, organise and keep track of statistics of several ethnic communities in New Zealand, we now have a much clearer record tracing the growth in number of residents born in the Philippines who have made this country their home. These statistics also now include the official 2013 census figures for the Filipino-Kiwis as a community.


 1936 census: 6


 1951 census: 18


 1976 census: 234


 1981 census: 405 (¹)


 2001 census: 10,137 (²) ()


 2006 census: 15,285 ()


 2013 census: 37,299


(¹) – Mostly young Filipina women who had often met New Zealand men through friends and who eventually became the “better half” of these Kiwi-Filipino pairings.


(²) – This statistic shows a dramatic rise in number of the migrant Filipino-Kiwi Community when the country’s migration policy turned on its head in the late 1980s to attract well-educated professionals and their immediate families from the Phil ippines.


() – By 2001, including Filipinos of mixed pairings, there were 11,091 residents of Filipino heritage including the children of Kiwi-Filipino couples: 57% living in Auck land, 14% in Wellington and 13% in the South Island.


() – This census number excludes people who were asked to indicate if they belonged to more than one ethnic group. Those who did (probably the children of mixed Kiwi-Filipino pairings) counted up to 1,653 individuals, bringing up the total to 16,938.


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While Auckland Super City remains hosts to the largest contingent of Filipino-Kiwis, a growing number of Filipino migrants in the South Island have also been registered. More of them are moving into that part of the country to work predominantly in the dairy industry, nursing homes and in the ongoing Christ church rebuild. They are a people who integrate well.


While Auckland Super City remains hosts to the largest contingent of Filipino-Kiwis, a growing number of Filipino migrants in the South Island has also been registered as more of them are moving into that part of the country to work predominantly in the dairy industry, nursing homes and the construction indus try.


Pilipino (the national language of the Philippines which is generally based on the Tagalog dialect) is also the fastest-growing language in Canterbury, new census data reveals. The number of Pilipino speakers in Canterbury has more than quadrupled from 813 speakers in 2006 to 3,348 (up 411%), according to the latest census data (of 6th December 2013) released that year.


Nationally, the figure has also grown 132% – from 12,483 to 29,016 Pilipino speakers, with the most dramatic rise recorded in the South Island. The number of people now speaking the Pilipino language in the lower part of New Zealand apart from English as a second language has grown from 99 to 672 (up 678%) in Southland and 195 to 762 (up 390%) in Otago.


The mayor of Ashburton – Angus McKay, has even estimated that 5% of that town’s population are now Filipino-Kiwis. “They are a nation that likes to work and have opportunities and we have that in Ashburton,” he added.


In a similar vein, Dairy Chairman for Federated Farmers – Willy Leferink, said about 2,500 Filipinos are working on dairy farms run by this organisation’s members in New Zealand. He said these workers came to New Zealand on two-year visas, but could become residents through the usual immigration pro cess. “If you look after them, they are great employees and they move up the ladder very quickly,” he said.


In New Zealand, Filipinos are now becoming the preferred overseas-sourced employees for dairy farm owners. Many of them are found on dairy farms dotted around the country. Since the early-1990s, young Filipino migrants have also been filling other skills-based positions over the years and are well regarded in most areas of New Zealand’s society when it comes to getting their jobs done.


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When the Filipinos in New Zealand Group established its four community web sites in 2009, it mentioned in a section labelled “Diaspora” that in many places around the world, the dimension of Filipinos as an ethnic group or a nationality-based family is not appreciated nearly enough considering that there are many attributes of Filipinos that are beautiful and noble that are imprinted in their psyche as a people.


In addition to their colourful culture, history and traditions, the Filipino Diaspora to such countries as New Zealand today contribute to the further development of their host countries in many ways. Most of them work in skilled sectors that are of critical importance to their adopted countries. In time, they will accumulate more knowledge and perhaps establish and manage their own enterprises creating more jobs when they eventually are made to feel equally at home with the general situation and business cultures of their host countries.


What is significant too is that many of them have contacts with potential busi ness partners back in their home country and can facilitate the establishment of two-way trade and production links that promote market access to goods and services that help grow an economy either way. For a small country like New Zealand, that’s an added bonus considering there are 24x more consumers of goods and services in the Philippines than there are in New Zealand.


From an aspirational point-of-view, Filipino-Kiwis are just now only taking their first steps towards a life-long journey in New Zealand that will liberate them and their children beyond marginalisation to become an economically-, socially- and politically-empowered community within the greater fabric of this country’s society. Their unique trait called “utang na loob” (or ‘debt of gratitude’) inhe rent in Filipinos as a people to give back more than they’ve received is legend ary particularly when they are enabled to do so.


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In this day and age of experimentation and innovation, some people believe that anything, everything, is possible. But what essentially defines them is their vision. They take it into their own hands and shape it into their own destiny. This is what marks one apart from the rest. It demarcates the line between stagnation and progression.


Thus, when speaking about Filipino-Kiwis as a growing ethnic community in New Zealand and particularly in Auckland, our regular contributor Karl Quirino submits several insights which Filipinos in New Zealand Group finds useful when pondering about their future as a potentially vibrant migrant community. These include:


 If we desire to get things done for ourselves as a community that is growing and contributing to the common weal and to the long-term nation-building efforts of New Zealand, we need to mobilise, energise and engage ourselves more often with local government at first to eventually eliminate development of any unjust hierarchies of knowledge, governance, and economic distribution.


 The goal of participation, therefore, is also an empowering process. It allows people to handle what they see as opportunities and challenges and influence the direction of their own lives and future. But, it needs to be done together in solidarity with the much wider community because as a force, it eliminates the “tokenism” which governments around the world invariably create where only a few “hand-picked” voices are allowed to speak out on behalf of the wider community and its components but invariably results in nothing in that which truly empowers those communities and all their constituent members collect ively.


 In New Zealand – and among all migrants from Asia and Southeast Asia that include Brunei, Burma, Cambodia, Laos, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thai land and Vietnam, the Filipinos embody the synthesis of both East and West in the western side of the Pacific Rim. They are the most widely dispersed migrant peoples in the world today and are masters of adaptation, reinvention and integration. Because of this exposure, they rank as one of the most under standing, insightful, tolerant and accommodating of people.


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As migrants in many lands across the world, Filipinos are very good at organising themselves into small associations, societies and club groups mostly along religious or regional lines. In these environments, they do manage to shine through as individuals, even perhaps as a small group of individuals but utterly fail to come together on a unified national scale collectively and as a community. As a result, their contemporary achievements as a people in these lands still fall short of their own historical, social, cultural and even economic achievements.


It is not a character fault. Rather, this inclination has much to do with some of them wanting to always be ahead of the pack, instead of running along with the pack. But when they get it right, the results are often outstanding, even astound ing.


Is it hard to believe this? Have Filipinos forgotten that – in the modern world, they as a people along the lines of Mahatma Gandhi, Dr. Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela are the authors of people empowerment.


In 1986, millions of unarmed Filipinos surprised the world by non-violently overthrowing the brutal and kleptocratic regime of their home grown dictator Ferdinand E. Marcos. They called their movement “People Power”. United as one force, they demonstrated an amazing way how the power of truth and active nonviolence could bring about meaningful change.


In that particular circumstance, the reason why Filipinos banded together as one was that their country was failing miserably. Twenty years of a Marcos dictatorship had produced weak political and economic institutions ushering in failure to transition towards an inclusive environment wherein extractive growth could not be sustained. Just to be clear in use of terms, extractive growth pertains to power and opportunity being held only by a few – namely, a grotesquely rich and entrenched elite. Inclusiveness means decentralising it so that the whole nation prospers and not just a few.


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Let us all honestly ask ourselves some simple questions like where are the opportunities that allow the sum of all individuals to flourish on the basis of an inclusive but competitive economy, free initiative, and social progress. Is it possible to establish a third way, so to speak, as opposed to just being offered a choice between a socialist (The Left) vs. laissez-faire (the Right) platforms and agendas of New Zealand’s opposing political parties at each and every election? There is more to life than just watching a game of ping-pong.


Do the bureaucratic mindsets and infrastructures of government and the business sector consistently exhibit a sustained commitment to doing what is best for all its constituents and their families particularly towards improving the well-being and quality of life for all?


Is it unfeasible to maintain a good balance between a high rate of local economic growth, low inflation, more employment, good and safe working conditions and public services which together create community livelihood opportunities?


If that were so, then it might help explain why so many New Zealand families, including those of Filipino-Kiwis, to this day still struggle to make ends meet in a relatively advanced and prosperous country. Therefore, shouldn’t we our com munities who make up the population of this country get on with a journey of active engagement whose outcomes produce some meaningful change – ones which together that help shape the form of the future of our communities for the better?




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Filipino-Kiwis need to be extremely mindful about being labelled as a “model minority” in New Zealand, and for that matter, in any other part of the world where they have settled. For many of us, it doesn’t help to ignore that label (sometimes even accept it) because of the stereotype’s so-called “positive” connotations. It’s the wrong kind of ‘pat in the back’ because the other hand holds a dagger.


There are two justifications for taking such caution seriously:


(1) The stereotype is in fact detrimental to ethnic minority communities. For example, it is used to justify the exclusion of such minorities in the distribution of public assistance programs paid for by taxpayers, and to understate or slight the achievements of individuals within that minority. It is essentially a benign but corrosive form of discrimination.


(2) The idea of being labelled a “model minority” pits minority groups against each other by implying that non-model groups are at fault for falling short of a model minority’s level of achievement, advancement and assimilation. Who needs more enemies?


We and our children who are here are but one Filipino and now also Kiwi at that. We need to continue to work harder, but also much smarter. So in that fundamental aspect, we must learn to look after one another first no matter who, what or where we are in our stations in life, especially the stronger ones who have managed to build up their capabilities and capacities and use this to tend to those in this growing community (Filiinos or otherwise) who because of cir cumstances might be in greater need – the destitute, the sick and dying and the more disadvantaged of us who are our brothers and sisters and who may be cold, hungry, less knowledgeable, or desperate.


If those of us who are more established and stable do not do enough for those who are not, then the rest of the world would have basis to also say to us in our collective face that we do not take care of our own and others, that our people are without honour, lack conscience or worse, don’t know who we really are and have been all along.


As our community continues to grow, let us all then breathe free and fulfil the promise of living a life with dignity and honour.


Filipinos in Auckland | Our Growing Community






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Filed under Filipinos in Auckland, Filipinos in New Zealand, Migrant Issues

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