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Civil & Political Rights:

Perceived discrimination


The proportion of people aged 18 years and over who perceived selected groups as being the targets of "some" or a "great deal" of discrimination, as reported in surveys commissioned by the Human Rights Commission.


The freedom from unlawful discrimination is a core principle of democratic societies. Surveys on perceived discrimination towards groups of people provide one indication of the level and type of discrimination in New Zealand . As they do not measure actual levels of discrimination, it is not possible to conclude whether levels of discrimination have increased or decreased.

Current level and trends

In February 2006, just under three-quarters (72 percent) of respondents to the Human Rights Commission Survey 2006 thought Asian people were subject to a great deal or some discrimination, the highest proportion for any group. This was followed by recent immigrants (70 percent), refugees and people on welfare (both 63 percent). Perceived discrimination against all these groups has decreased since January 2004: by 6 percentage points for Asians, 2 percentage points for recent immigrants, 7 percentage points for refugees and 3 percentage points for people on welfare.

Table CP3.1 Proportion (%) of survey respondents who perceived selected groups as being subject to a great deal or some discrimination, December 2000–February 2006

Group Dec 2000 Dec 2001 Jan 2003 Jan 2004 Feb 2006
Asians 73 73 79 78 72
Recent immigrants 68 77 72 70
Refugees 68 72 70 63
People on welfare 75 70 68 66 63
People who are overweight 72 65 65 68 59
Gays and lesbians 74 65 61 58 57
Pacific peoples 71 65 65 57 54
People with disabilities 61 55 53 55 53
Māori 70 62 57 53 51
Older people 53 48 49 46 44
Women 50 44 41 38 38
Men 30

Source: Human Rights Commission (2006)

Around 60 percent of survey respondents in 2006 thought overweight people and people on welfare were the target of a great deal or some discrimination. More than half thought gays and lesbians, Pacific peoples, people with disabilities and Māori were discriminated against.

Between December 2001 and February 2006, the perception that different groups were subject to some or a great deal of discrimination fell for all groups, except recent migrants. However, there was a decline for this group in each of the last three years. The biggest falls in perceived discrimination were for Māori and Pacific peoples, both declining by 11 percentage points between 2001 and 2006. There was also a big drop over the period in the perception that gays and lesbians and people on welfare were subject to discrimination.