Economist Greg Clydesdale has released a report in which he says Pacific Islanders are a drain on the New Zealand economy (exhibiting “significant and enduring under-achievement” and “that can contribute little to economic growth” in his words). I accept Clydesdale’s cry that he is not a racist. No, he is just a fool who is encouraging racism.
How is he a fool?
He equates ethnicity with economic conditions. Pacific Islanders are more likely to be unemployed, in lower-paid work, and higher levels of other negative social statistics because Pacific Islanders are disproportionally working class. It’s not Pacific Islanders that are low paid, more likely to be unemployed, less healthy etc, it is working class people.
He disregards history. New Zealand’s immigration policy towards the Pacific Islands since the 1950s and continuing today has been to see the Islands as a source of cheap, disposable labour. Given Pacific Islanders were brought to New Zealand do working class occupations, it is not surprising they are overwhelmingly working class.
He shows no understanding of how an economy operates. Doing manual labour and other working class jobs, getting paid little for your work does not mean you are not contributing to the economy in an important way. Someone has to clean the offices, someone has to do manual labour, someone has to do rest home work, and all those other low paid occupations – they are vital to the functioning of the economy. Clydesdale is saying that if all the working class left New Zealand tomorrow we would be better off for it because we would no longer have this ‘drain’ on our economy. He is saying we would all be richer without poor people. He thinks we can be a nation of marketing executives and researchers and that we don’t need anyone to clean the toilets. He is a fool.
Clydesdale’s work is lazy and prejudiced. He displays a complete ignorance of class conditions and the realities of a modern economy. A disgrace.
UPDATE: A thoughtful analysis over at Jafapete’s blog.