Mood of the Nation: Wages policy costs Labour Asian votes

By Yvonne Tahana, Jarrod Booker, Simon Collins

Small business owners Wayne Lin and Jing Jiao. Photo / Christine Cornege
Small business owners Wayne Lin and Jing Jiao. Photo / Christine Cornege

Small business owners Wayne Lin and Jing Jiao have been scared off the Labour Party by its proposal to lift the minimum wage to $15 an hour.

"We are doing our own business and can't afford much wages," says Mr Lin, 28, who came from China 10 years ago. Business was "not good at the moment" at the family's Kyle Grace Emporium in the main street of Thames, and the couple have a new baby to support.

Eleven of the 40 Asian voters interviewed for this series own small businesses. And like small business owners generally, they are most likely to vote National.

Half of those who express a voting preference - 17 of 34 - are backing National - the highest proportion of the country's four main ethnic groups.

At the other extreme, only three of the 26 Pacific voters with a voting preference endorse National, and one other is tossing up between National and two other parties, giving National only 13 per cent support (3.3 out of 26) in our summary figures.

More than half of Pacific people (55 per cent) are loyal to Labour.

Labour also rates better than its national average of 31 per cent among Asian voters in our sample - 13 out of 34, or 38 per cent.

But Asians are much less likely than others to support any of the minor parties. In our sample only two are voting Green and one each for Act and the new Conservative Party.

The sole Act voter, icecream business owner Harry Lu, 47, of East Tamaki Heights, is also worried about Labour's minimum wage policy. He voted National last time.

"This time I will vote Act because of Don Brash's policy about the economy," he says. "He does not agree with raising the minimum wage, otherwise there are more people unemployed."

Statistics NZ's September household labour force survey found that 12.6 per cent of Asians in the workforce are employers or self-employed, higher than Maori (5.9 per cent) and Pacific people (3.4 per cent) but lower than Europeans (17.6 per cent).

Perhaps because of their business interests, or by comparison with their homelands, Asians are almost alone in the survey in expressing concerns about crime.

"The laws are not tight enough, a lot of crime," says Greenlane nbaker Khy Huynh, 49, the sole Conservative voter.

Cafe owner Anushka Govinder, 39, of Botany, says: "Crime is out of control." She is especially worried about crimes against animals and is voting Green.

Chinese people are overwhelmingly National with seven votes in our sample against one for Labour, one undecided between National and Labour, one Green and Mr Lu for Act.

In 2006 Chinese made up almost half (42 per cent) of the total Asian population, and are under-represented in our survey because many do not speak English.

People of Indian descent (33 per cent of the Asian population in 2006) are split in our survey, with four for National, three for Labour and Ms Govinder for the Greens.

Koreans (9 per cent of the Asian population) are split one each for National and Labour. Southeast Asians (13 per cent of Asians in 2006) give eight votes to Labour, five to National, Mr Huynh for the Conservatives and one undecided between National and Labour.

- NZ Herald

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