|Written by Lachlan|
|Wednesday, 25 July 2007|
Section Three: New Settlers
3.1 New Chinese – Changing Characteristics: A New Settlers Programme Profile.
Changes in immigration policy have affected both the number and characteristics of new Chinese immigrants settling in New Zealand. The removal of the traditional source country bias in 1986, in favour of selection on personal merit, qualifications, financial and entrepreneurial contribution to New Zealand, opened the doors to increased immigration from Asia (see McKinnon, 1996; Ip, 1995; Trlin, 1992). Not only did Chinese arrive in unexpectedly large numbers as a result of the changes in immigration policy, but "the new migrants of the 1980s [were] very different from their predecessors who came in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries" (Ip, 1995: 187). Predominantly urban entrepreneurs and technocrats, these new Chinese came mainly from Hong Kong, Taiwan, Malaysia and Singapore rather than the People’s Republic of China (hereafter PRC where ambiguous, otherwise China) itself. Some were astronauts (tai kong ren) and "reluctant exiles" (Skeldon, 1994). Many were wealthy "with ready cash and no time to shop around [for houses], and no time to bargain" (Ip, 1990: 7).
Further policy changes in 1991, notably the introduction of the General Category "points system" for the selection of skilled immigrants, resulted in a sharp increase in arrival numbers, particularly from Asia. With points accrued for settlement and investment funds in the General Category the division between entry on human capital grounds and entry on capital investment grounds was blurred; entrepreneurs could, if they accumulated enough other points, qualify for permanent residence under a subsection of the General Category – the General Investment Category (GIC). As this category required less capital investment commitment than was needed in the Business Category, it was often a preferred option (see Trlin, 1997 for a discussion of policy implications). Subsequent policy changes in October 1995 would seek, among other things, to institute a clearer separation of business and skilled criteria for entry, so curbing the use of the General Category for business immigration (New Zealand Immigration Service, 1995a, 1995b).
Policy changes introduced in October 1995 were significant in terms of their effect on the number of skilled and business immigrants from Asia applying to come to New Zealand. Important among these changes were: the introduction of more stringent residency requirements for taxation purposes; a two year maximum time period (later reduced to one year) between approval in principle and the taking up of permanent residence; the requirement that professionals obtain statutory registration as and if required in their profession before points were awarded for qualifications as part of their residence application; and the requirement that General and Business Category Principal Applicants (PAs), plus Non-Principal Applicants (NPAs – spouses/partners and dependants) over the age of 15, exhibit a "modest user" level of English by attaining at least Band 5 (for each skill) in the International English Language Testing Service (IELTS) test (the level lowered to Band 4 for Business Investment Category applicants in December 1997), unless competence in English could be otherwise "proved" (e.g. by living and working in an English speaking country or by having studied in an English medium course). The IELTS 5 language requirement for NPAs could be waived on payment of a (NZ)$20,000 refundable language fee/bond (see Henderson et al., 1997).
Large inflows of visibly different immigrants within a short time span drew varying responses from other New Zealanders and attracted considerable media and political attention. While extant Chinese groups in New Zealand had tended to keep a very low profile, some of the new arrivals were more visible and visibly wealthy. Stereotypes of wealthy Asians buying large houses in the eastern suburbs of Auckland, of parents leaving children in New Zealand to study while they returned home to work, of teenagers with flashy cars and triad connections, of Asian businessmen buying up New Zealand, all provoked negative, xenophobic reactions (Legat, 1996; Trlin et al., 1998). However, the combination of human and financial capital in the General Category tended to disguise differences between different groups of Chinese immigrants, and to foster a myth that all Chinese immigrants, including those who gained entry without points for either settlement funds or investment funds, were rich. Ip (1996) notes that the new influx upset the delicate balance, cracking the "veneer of tolerance". Policy changes, too, were attributed to the strains being placed on the fabric of society by the new arrivals. Roger Maxwell, the then Minister of Immigration, is reported to have admitted that the large numbers of Asian arrivals were the catalyst for the October 1995 changes and that the new English language requirements were introduced because "tolerance and acceptance of new immigrants without some disruption or adverse reaction had reached its optimal level" (Barber, 1996: 12).
The arguments which identified bias and racism as sources of disharmony (for example, Chen, 1993; Bedford and Pool, 1996; Pool and Bedford, 1996; Friesen and Ip, 1997) went largely unheard. Public opinion polls and media reactions seemed to concur with political perceptions and responses: schools in Auckland complained of too many new Asian students, and cornered most of the then existing national ESOL funding provision; journalists wrote of the "Asian invasion"; and Winston Peters used the Asian immigration issue (when numbers were already declining) in his pre-election campaigning (Trlin et al., 1998). According to Vasil and Yoon (1996: 22, 40), even New Zealand-born Chinese felt strong resentment and considered more recent arrivals as "expatriates" without commitment to New Zealand.
Who then are these "new" Chinese New Zealanders who have stirred such reactions in the resident community? Do they fit the portrait presented by Anderson (1997: 67) in her recent publication for Form 7 (Year 13) geography students? According to this, they are:
…sophisticated urbanites with high levels of qualifications and skills…from cities with advanced education and business systems where English is taught as the language of international business [who are] more affluent than most New Zealanders, so have concentrated in elite suburbs of selected cities … and have found occupations where they can use their expertise.
Or are such stereotypes of "the new Chinese" as a single entity unhelpful? Has a failure to identify Chinese as individuals led to a blanket identity and blanket criticisms, as Ip (1996) claims? Is it, as Friesen and Ip (1997: 15) conclude from their survey of new Chinese New Zealanders, that "more attention needs to be paid to migrants from the PRC, as their settlement patterns and employment profile have revealed them to be quite distinctive"?
This paper will address such questions in its investigation of immigrants from China (including Hong Kong post-June 1997). Using data collected as part of the New Settlers Programme, it will examine and discuss the characteristics of three groups of skilled immigrants from China, namely: approvals under the 1991-1995 General Category; "new" China-born immigrants identified in the 1996 Census who took up residence during the previous five years; and a group of General Category/General Skills Category immigrants who have taken up residence since 1 August 1997. Attention will be paid to such factors as age, qualifications, occupations, language backgrounds and points of origin in China, in order to provide a profile of PRC immigrants approved for residence status under the points system. Through such an analysis, factors which are likely to affect the settlement of new arrivals from China and to distinguish them from earlier and other groups of Chinese immigrants in New Zealand, will be highlighted.
1991 – 1995 Sample of Approved General Category Applicants
The introduction of the points system in November 1991 saw an increase in the numbers of approved applications from China. Most Principal Applicants (PAs) reached the required threshold "autopass" mark without the benefit of points for investment capital. Only 3.8 per cent of the 3,693 total approvals from China between November 1991 and December 1995 were identified by the New Zealand Immigration Service (NZIS) as General Investment Category (GIC) approvals (i.e. those gaining points through promised capital investment of between $100,000 and $300,000). The list from which the sample was to be drawn was found to contain a number of Hong Kong (203) and Taiwanese (23) applicants who were born in China. When these were deleted, the total approved applicants from China dropped to 3,467. A systematic sample of 151 was drawn from these General Category files for the period November 1991 – December 1995 (including GIC approvals), selecting 1:24 with a random start point. File data included application forms, Record of Information Management System (immigration status and points summary) sheets and other correspondence pertaining to individual applications. While the focus was on PAs, some data was collected on spouses and dependants included in these approved applications.
Approved Principal Applicants were found to be, as expected, relatively young. Ages ranged from 25-44, with a little over half (51 per cent) of the sample aged 30-34 and a further third (34 per cent) aged 25-29. The majority of the sample (117, or 77.5 per cent) were married, 33 had never married and one was divorced. Four married applicants were approved as individuals, without other immediate family members. Four more left spouses, approved for residence, behind in China. One-child families predominated. In all, a total of 86 PAs had children, ranging in age from under one year to 14, with over 50 per cent under five years of age (i.e. preschoolers) and 84 per cent under 8 years of age. As well as the eight spouses who were not coming with their respective PAs, 13 children were to be left behind initially, usually with grandparents, because they were considered too young to travel and/or they were to wait until their parents were settled.
Some 107 (70.9 per cent) PAs were male and 44 (29.1 per cent) were female, a more even distribution of the sexes than was evident among similar samples drawn from other countries (Males: India - 88.8 per cent, South Africa - 82.8 per cent, Taiwan - 78.2 per cent). In large part this could be attributed to the fact that husbands and wives tended to be about the same age and to have similar qualifications, often having been classmates at university and/or colleagues at work. This meant that not only would the decision to emigrate be more likely to be a joint one but they would gain similar points for age, qualifications and work experience. So, whichever scored marginally more points, and therefore was more likely to reach the current "autopass" mark, would be the Principal Applicant.
With regard to their qualifications, only four of the sample held less than a bachelor’s degree. Ten (6.5 per cent) held bachelors degrees in non-science subjects, 125 (82.8 per cent) had bachelors degrees in a science, technology or engineering field, and 12 (8 per cent) held postgraduate degrees, mainly in similar science-related subjects. That the General Category sample had proportionally more PAs with science/engineering/technology degrees at the bachelor’s level and fewer postgraduate and non-science degrees, is probably because maximum points could be accrued for the former.
Engineers (35 per cent), doctors (12 per cent) and computing professionals (12.6 per cent) were the three largest occupational groups. Most of the sample had graduated between 1982 and 1988, and had 6-12 years of relevant work experience in their field at the time the application was approved. However, 9.3 per cent had just graduated. This last group would disappear from applications with the introduction of the 1995 requirement of two years work experience, but is expected to reappear as a result of the October 1998 provision for applicants (except New Zealand Overseas Development Aid [NZODA] assisted students) "with a New Zealand qualification recognised under the General Skills Category [to be] exempt from the requirement to gain points for work experience" (NZIS, 1998:2). The fact that for the period 1991-1995 those who had offers of employment in New Zealand tended to be on-shore applicants who were recent graduates (albeit often NZODA assisted) of New Zealand universities, raises questions as to why the ability to apply without two years of work experience was dropped in 1995, only to be reinstated in the latest policy changes (NZIS, 1998).
The minimum English proficiency levels required of General Category arrivals were generally somewhat lower than those that would be required of later post-October 1995 General Skills Category applicants. However, in the course of completing their degrees most applicants would have had to study English as a support subject for two years and, most likely, read some material in English. While their English language skills did not match their technical skills, English levels reached during two years of compulsory university English language study within a science-oriented undergraduate degree would generally be considered adequate to meet the minimum level of English language required, as assessed in the obligatory NZIS interview requirement – about that of a native speaking 12 year old. This is the level that underpinned the NZIS test administered to those who struggled to communicate in the required face-to-face interview situation (Henderson et al., 1997). Moreover, some applicants would also have used English quite regularly for their work (e.g. computer scientists), and 14.5 per cent were already in New Zealand when approved (compared with only 2 per cent of the Taiwanese sample), often having completed a New Zealand qualification.
While home addresses at the time of application and access to sponsorship from the predominantly Cantonese New Zealand Chinese Association lend support to the view that some of these new settlers would be natives of Guangdong Province, there is a clear swing away from the historical preponderance of Cantonese with rural roots (see Butler, 1977; Ip, 1990, 1996; Ng, 1996). More of the 1991-1995 Chinese sample (31, or 20.5 per cent) gave their home address at the time of application as Guangdong Province than any other single area in China. It cannot be assumed, however, that all of these approvals were natives of Guangdong Province, since Shenzhen is a magnet for Chinese from all over China wishing to capitalise on its special economic zone status and Guangzhou is similarly attractive to young entrepreneurs and professionals. Seventeen approved applicants recorded home addresses within Fujian Province, another area of traditional out-migration (Seagrave, 1995), though usually to Southeast Asian countries. Notable, however, are the numbers who applied from large cities and other non-traditional sources such as Shanghai, Beijing/Tianjin, the northeast and the northwest (see Appendix 1). Addresses given on applications lodged outside of China hide the point of origin in China, but the fact that these applicants applied for permanent residence under the General Category rather than the Family Category suggests that they did not have close family ties in New Zealand.
Home addresses and a general lack of family or New Zealand Chinese Association sponsorship similarly suggest a shift away from almost exclusively Yue/Cantonese-speaking arrivals to increasing numbers of speakers of other Chinese dialects among skilled arrivals. While no information regarding dialects or languages other than English spoken by the applicants was provided in the files, some could be expected to be native speakers of other southeastern dialects – Min or Hakka/Kejia, some of the Wu dialect of Shanghai and the Yangtze Basin area, and many of putong hua/Mandarin. This creates linguistic distinctions not only between different eras of immigrants from China (earlier sojourners and settlers versus post-1991 arrivals) but also between and within different categories of recent immigrants. While most Family Category approvals could still be expected to be Yue/Cantonese speaking, the result of chain migration to join earlier settled families, General Category approvals rarely declared family links in New Zealand and therefore would be less likely to be Yue speakers. The fact that formal education in China now generally takes place (or is meant to) in putong hua has meant, however, that educated and urban applicants approved from China in all categories would normally have a lingua franca, whether or not it was their first dialect. In this they are unlike their Hong Kong counterparts, whose "…language culture remains a regional [Canton dialect] one …[that] continues to assert itself powerfully, regardless of other pressures" (Dudbridge, 1996:7).
The sample in part, then, fits Anderson’s profile. They had high levels of both qualifications and skills. Most came from large urban areas, where English is widely taught (and required in university study), though not only as a language of international business. They are Chinese- if not western-"sophisticated" professionals. But are they "more affluent than most New Zealanders" and have they concentrated in elite suburbs of selected cities"? While information collected on the sample cannot address the second question (since application forms did not include information on the post-arrival address in New Zealand), the evidence available suggests that they were far from affluent. That so few gained the two points for the $100,000 settlement funds (45, or 30 per cent, compared with 99.4 per cent of Taiwanese) and even fewer any points for investment funds (only 2, or just over 1 per cent, compared with 53.8 per cent of Taiwanese) reflects a lack, rather than a surfeit of capital. These young, skilled immigrants were rich in qualifications and work experience, but not in money.
1996 Census: Profile of Chinese Resident in New Zealand for 0-5 Years
How does the sample of 1991 - 1995 General Category applicants approved for residence compare with all those born in China and settling in New Zealand between 1991 and 1996 (i.e., immigrants admitted under the General Category, the Business Investment Category, the Family Category, etc.)? To answer this question, information made available from the 1996 New Zealand Census of Population and Dwellings will be briefly examined before an analysis is offered of some of the most recent mainly General Skills Category arrivals.
As general census tabulations do not identify respondents by date of arrival, special tables were ordered from Statistics New Zealand to cover those born in China for whom the normal place of residence in 1991 was China. Thus "new" (intercensal) settlers from China could be identified as a separate group. By March 1996, the total number of ethnic Chinese in New Zealand was some 81,309, and "new" ethnic Chinese born in China accounted for a little over 8,000 of all "new" Chinese. This 8,000 plus was, in turn, around a quarter of the total usual resident population of 31,512 whose birthplace was China (of whom 17,718 were 15 and over). While numbers of applications and approvals for permanent residence under the General Skills Category from Taiwan, previously the largest source country of Chinese, have dwindled markedly since 1995, China has continued to be a steady source of skilled immigrants.
1996 Census figures for those resident in China in 1991 (Table 1) indicate a considerable bulge in numbers for the 30-39 age bracket, the age group into which most of the above 1991-1995 sample falls. Numbers for children aged 5-14 are also high as could be expected with so many adults in the 30-39 age bracket, but adults aged 30-39 outnumbered the sum of the 0-4, 5-14 and 15-19 age brackets by nearly 2:1, suggesting that family sizes are small, as one would expect from China’s one-child policy.
Source: 1996 New Zealand Census of Population and Dwellings, unpublished data.
(census figures randomly rounded to base 3)
Females outnumbered males in four of the eight age groups specified (20-29, 40-49, 50-59 and 60+) and in the population overall (Table 1). Though little can be inferred regarding immigration decisions from the preponderance of males in the younger age groups (except, perhaps, that their parents’ migration has not necessarily been motivated by the desire to have a first son - and so second child), the greater number of males in the 30-39 age bracket is a marked turnaround from the dominance of females in the 20-29 years age group, and mirrors the large numbers of skilled points arrivals, an area where males still predominate.
Table 2: Highest qualification of "new" settlers from China, by selected ages, 1996 Census.
Source: 1996 New Zealand Census of Population and Dwellings, unpublished data. (figures randomly rounded to base 3)
In terms of qualifications, new arrivals in the 25-39 age range, and particularly those in the 30-34 age bracket, reflect very high intakes of tertiary qualified immigrants (Table 2). This is in tune with the large numbers of skilled General Category immigrants falling within these age groups. In the 25-29 age group females outnumbered males (828 compared with 426) and were better qualified (e.g. bachelors degrees, 267 to 192). In the older age groups, however, the sex balance was more even (1,116 males to 1,044 females aged 30-34, and 429 males to 441 females in the 35-39 bracket) with higher qualifications for males in both categories.
Despite these high qualifications, the proportions employed as "Legislators, administrators and managers", "Professionals" and "Technicians and associate professionals" (Table 3) were very low, though it is in these areas that one would have expected to find graduates with science, engineering, medical and similar qualifications. The proportions in the categories "Service and sales workers", "Plant and machinery operators and assemblers" and "Elementary occupations", on the other hand, were relatively high, suggesting that skilled immigrants might be holding jobs in these categories if they were not among the nearly two-thirds of the total aged 15 years and over recorded as "Not employed". Most of those who have returned to study to improve their English or to obtain New Zealand qualifications would be included among those "Not employed". Whether new arrivals ended up in unskilled occupations, returned to study, or were unemployed and not studying, it is clear that in a high proportion of cases their qualifications and professional expertise were not being used.
Table 3: Occupation by sex, "new" settlers from China aged 15 and over, 1996 Census.
Source: 1996 New Zealand Census of Population and Dwellings, unpublished data. (figures randomly rounded to base 3)
Little information on languages is offered in the Census beyond the numbers who identified themselves as being able to hold a conversation about everyday things in specific languages. In total, 10,551 China-born residents identified themselves as having this level of competency in English, with 3,720 (35.2 per cent) of these being "new" immigrants. With a language requirement consistently imposed on PRC General Category applicants between 1991 and 1995, involving a face-to-face interview in Beijing plus an NZIS test if ability to communicate adequately in English was in doubt (see Henderson et al., 1997), it would be expected that all PAs (and many adult NPAs) in this category would be included in these numbers, unless they were exceptionally self-effacing or very unsure of themselves with respect to their English language speaking ability.
The Census confirmed an increase in the number and proportion of putong hua (Mandarin) speakers. While the numbers of Yue/Cantonese speakers increased by less than a quarter, adding 2,229 to make up a total of 9,774 for all those born in China, half of those identified as born in China and speaking putong hua had arrived between the 1991 and 1996 censuses (1,857 out of 3,660). A sizable portion of those identified as "Sinitic, not further defined" would also, one may presume, be putong hua speakers who have identified their language (in English) as "Chinese" rather than as "Northern Chinese" or "Modern Standard Chinese". The Wu dialect intercensal increase of only 48 seems low, considering the numbers in the 1991-1995 sample of approved General Category applicants who gave their place of normal residence as Shanghai, but this may reflect earlier internal migration to larger eastern seaboard cities. Low, too, were the Census figures for Fujian-related dialects other than Min hua, although this might also be a reflection of internal migration. While the Census offers no more specific point of origin than "China", the numbers identifying themselves as speakers of dialects other than Cantonese support the proposition that among new arrivals increased numbers are from the north of China and other non-traditional areas of origin in terms of the history of Chinese settlement in New Zealand.
The Longitudinal Sample
The longitudinal panel sample comprises 36 General Category/General Skills Category (GC/GSC) Principal Applicants (7 GC and 29 GSC) who took up residence between 1 August 1997 and July 1998. Each PA was interviewed as part of the first round of the New Settlers Programme longitudinal study. These interviews were carried out between May and July 1998 in Auckland (31), Palmerston North (3, ex-Auckland or Wellington) and Wellington (2). The interviews, which normally took nearly three hours, were conducted (mostly) in English with open-ended questions audio tape recorded. While many of the respondents were obtained through networks of personal contacts or snowballing, they are felt to provide a representative sample of those who met the points and other criteria for the General Skills Category.
On arrival, the 36 PAs ranged in age from 28 to 44 years of age (with only two under 30, one over 40, and a mode of 31). The mean age was 34, just over one year younger than that of the 1991-1995 sample. This would have placed most of those interviewed in either the highest or second highest scoring age bracket for points under the GC/GSC points system (25-29, ten points; 30-34, eight points) at the time they lodged their applications.
One third of the PAs were female, as compared with 29.1 per cent of the 1991-1995 sample. There are a number of possible reasons for this increase in female PAs among recent applicants, including compulsory registration and English language requirements. First, the increase is likely to have been influenced by the compulsory registration prerequisite for PAs. There were a number of doctors, for example, who had not received statutory registration and would not, therefore, have met GSC application criteria. Their spouses, with other occupations, not requiring statutory regulation, became the principal applicants. The higher English language requirement introduced in October 1995 is also likely to have increased the number of female PAs. They tended to have rather better English than their husbands, and had even in a number of cases taught English in China. Since an IELTS score of 5 or more (in each skill) is a prerequisite for PAs in the General Skills Category, all other things being equal it was the spouse with the better English who became the PA.
Married couples with one young child again predominated, and most had arrived as an intact nuclear family. There were only five unmarried single applicants. Five arrived with a spouse but no children, and six married applicants took up permanent residence alone (including four instances which involved families split at least in part because of the English language IELTS requirement). In several other cases families had arrived intact but spouses had since returned to China to work (having been unable to find employment in New Zealand) or to take care of a relation, or had gone elsewhere overseas to do research.
The recent arrivals – both PAs and spouses - were very well educated, each holding a formal tertiary qualification, usually at a bachelor’s level or higher. Among the PAs, only two held a highest qualification assessed by the New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA) as less than the equivalent of a New Zealand university degree. Over one third of the sample (14) held postgraduate degrees. An equivalent number (14) had undergraduate degrees in some area of science, technology or engineering, with engineering fields predominating, and six held bachelors’ degrees in non-science subjects. Most of these qualifications seem to have been completed at institutions identified as "key" universities (i.e. among the top 36 in China).
Before migrating to New Zealand most were employed in a field that used their professional qualifications, typically in some branch of engineering. All of the engineers were struggling to find suitable work in New Zealand, despite the fact that professional engineers are not required to be registered to practise, and many have returned to study to obtain recognised local qualifications. Computer graduates have been a little more fortunate, several being able to move into the wholesale/retail trade with friends. A doctor in both western and Chinese medicine is able to practise only the latter here. A nurse was able to gain registration, aided by the fact that the original degree was from an Australian institution. A veterinary scientist, an agricultural scientist and an agricultural economist have all returned to study. Two business and international trade graduates were endeavouring to set up businesses similar to those they left behind but were finding the business environment difficult to break into. Those with language, literature and culture degrees (4), all teachers or lecturers in China, were contemplating or had already gone back to study. In all, only seven reported being employed, and this often in part-time work unrelated to their qualifications and experience.
Considering the patterns of socialisation in universities and work units, similarities between the qualifications and occupations of PAs and their NPA spouses is not unexpected. Eight spouses held postgraduate degrees and 18 held bachelors degrees (12 science/technology/engineering related). Two others held diplomas or certificates assessed at below the equivalent of a bachelor’s degree. Only one spouse was working in New Zealand at the time of interviewing, in a job different from that held prior to migration.
While most were struggling to find suitable employment, the levels of English language proficiency exhibited by these General Skills Category immigrants are, as could be expected, generally higher than levels reported for other categories of immigrants from Non-English Speaking Backgrounds (see, for example, Boyer, 1996; Friesen and Ip, 1997). Moreover, not only did PAs meet the IELTS Band 5 requirement, but many of them scored considerably higher with a mean of 6.0 and mode of 6.5 on a band scale with a maximum score of 9. This suggests that most have studied English for some considerable time and have also used the language for communication, a supposition supported by their feedback on the use of English for work and study. While not always speaking with a standard English accent, and often reporting that they initially experienced difficulties with the New Zealand dialect, most, when relaxed, expressed themselves with a good degree of fluency. It was not surprising to find that many of the PAs interviewed, and their spouses, were studying in an area other than English to Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) at a tertiary level, preferring to use their English for further study rather than entering ESOL classes for more English.
In terms of first language, an interesting feature of the interviewed sample is the frequency with which putong hua (Mandarin, or "Northern Standard Chinese" as it is identified in the 1996 Census data) is reported as the respondents’ main or other dialect of Chinese. All but one Cantonese-speaking PA (ex-Hong Kong) reported speaking putong hua (including regional variations), with 22 identifying it as their best spoken dialect. Other dialects spoken included Yue/Cantonese (12), Wu/Shanghai hua (10), and Min hua (2). A similar pattern was evident among spouses ( e.g. putong hua 26, Yue/Cantonese 8).
The predominance of putong hua speakers and the use of dialects other than Yue/Cantonese indicate that a large number of this group originate from more northern areas of China, from hitherto non-traditional source areas in terms of New Zealand’s history of Chinese immigration. This is borne out by an analysis of birthplace, which identifies only a quarter of the 36 interviewees as born in Guangdong Province (8) or in Hong Kong (1). The rest were born in a wide variety of regions (see Appendix 1). While a large number have come from the large eastern seaboard cities, as would be expected of highly educated professionals, this is not a universal pattern and it is interesting to note the migration from the northwest, a movement which seems to be connected with a large engineering institution in Xi’an, which at some point had a New Zealand teacher. Friends who were fellow students at the university have engaged in a form of chain migration more often associated with family groups. Friendship links were also common among other interviewees (26) when compared with family relationships (4).
Finally, differences between birthplace and place of residence when a GC/GSC application was approved indicate considerable internal migration prior to taking up permanent residence in New Zealand. Movements into Guangzhou and Shenzhen, highly developed southern cities, are particularly noteworthy. Others, while not necessarily residing in such large, expanding cities, also lived in major metropolitan areas. Salaries and living standards are comparatively high and business opportunities greater in such cities than elsewhere in China. Hence, those interviewed from such sources could be expected to have received relatively higher salaries and accumulated more savings than the majority of Chinese. However, the sharing of housing with non-family members during the initial period of settlement in other than elite suburbs (Trlin and Henderson, 1998), concerns regarding the repayment of loans raised to meet the $20,000 language bond, the urgency as well as desire to find suitable work, and their eligibility and need to claim emergency benefits and student allowances, indicate that these skilled new Chinese settlers are not "more affluent than most New Zealanders".
The profile of new General and General Skills Category points immigrants from China presented above does not fit either of the commonly held stereotypes of Chinese in New Zealand. They do not exhibit signs of the wealth generally associated with new Chinese immigrants by the media and those who would wish stricter controls to be placed on immigration from other than traditional sources. Nor do they have the rural Cantonese and historical gold field links of earlier waves of Chinese immigrants. They are, rather, young, highly qualified, and usually experienced professionals coming predominantly from large urban centres. Some are the "sophisticated urbanites" of Anderson’s description. To this extent her description fits. But the contention that they are "more affluent than most New Zealanders …and have found occupations where they can use their expertise" (Anderson, 1997: 67) is not supported by this study. General Category (1991-1995) approvals rarely indicated investment funds, relying on their personal qualifications – age, education and work experience – to get the points required to meet the pass mark for entry. While those interviewed have settled initially in Auckland, following the trend of most "new" arrivals, they have not concentrated in the "elite…quality suburbs like Howick, Pakuranga, and Remuera" identified by Anderson (1997: 69). Nor have the great majority yet found occupations where they can use their expertise.
The new skilled arrivals studied are very different from earlier Chinese arrivals, not only in their educational and employment backgrounds but also in their points of origin in China and therefore dialects spoken. These more diverse origins have significant implications not only for their settlement and adaptation but also for the nature of the future Chinese population of New Zealand. Being from predominantly urbanised and Mandarin or Wu (Shanghai/Yangtze Delta) dialect speaking areas, many do not fit the traditionally rural, predominantly Yue/Cantonese-speaking linguistic profile of earlier Chinese in New Zealand.
Despite their differences, however, one would not normally go so far as to claim that "[t]he Chinese …consist of quite different ethnic groups such as the Cantonese, Hakka and Fukienese" as is mooted in a Statistics New Zealand publication on Asian New Zealanders (Statistics New Zealand, 1995:1). While many of the dialects of Chinese are mutually incomprehensible they are still generally considered to belong to the same language as they share a script, albeit one which has different forms, and the Han people who speak these dialects generally regard themselves as belonging to the same ethnic group, regardless of claims of other differences (Dudbridge, 1996; Norman, 1988).
On the basis of the profile presented in this paper it can be seen that new Chinese immigrants offer New Zealand new challenges. If the most is to be made of their "skills and innovation, not just [or rather than] the amount of money they can bring here." (Delamere, 1998), we must understand them better and avoid crude, inaccurate stereotypes. It seems, as Friesen and Ip (1997: 15) conclude from their survey of new Chinese New Zealanders, that "more attention needs to be paid to migrants from the PRC, as their settlement patterns and employment profile have revealed them to be quite distinctive." It is hoped that this paper, by offering a profile of skilled Chinese arrivals approved under the General and General Skills Categories, has gone some small way towards doing this.
The data presented in this paper was collected as part of the New Settlers Programme, a research project supported by the New Zealand Foundation for Research, Science and Technology (FRST) with a grant from the Public Good Science Fund (PGSF). Dr Regina Pernice and Dr Nicola North’s contributions as members of the New Settlers Programme team to the development of the longitudinal survey questionnaire are gratefully acknowledged. The assistance of the New Zealand Immigration Service, which granted access to immigration files for General Category approvals (1991-1995), and that of all the Chinese participating in the longitudinal research panel are also very gratefully acknowledged.
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Appendix 1: Where the "new" Chinese arrivals/approvals come from.
During the migrant adaptation process, the immigrants’ identity as members of their ethnic group and their identity as part of the dominant society both change over time. This paper explores how new Chinese New Zealanders deal with their dual identities, and factors affecting their adaptation and integration, using data from two surveys of Chinese migrants in New Zealand conducted in the 1990s. Consistent with contemporary international literature in this field, our studies found that many Chinese new immigrants maintained a strong sense of ethnic identity while seeking to become an integral part of the dominant society. Main features of the dominant society such as attitudes towards immigrants, as well as the immigrants’ own psychological characteristics (such as their desire to settle in the host society and social support), can influence the migrants’ ability to integrate. We conclude our paper by pointing out that not only new immigrants undergo changes in cultural identity. Long established immigrants, the local-born and the returnees also experience such changes and this indicates that an individual’s cultural identity continues to change over time.
TORN BETWEEN TWO WORLDS?
In 1998, the grand winner of the New Zealand Netherlands Foundation writing competition was Femke Meinderts, a 17-year-old student born in the Netherlands. Femke’s prize-winning essay described the angst of a young immigrant who lacks a sense of belonging:
In the field of migration and mental health, there is a considerable literature discussing the problems of dealing with two cultures among adolescent children of immigrant parents. The literature published between the 1920s and the 1960s revealed that immigrant adolescents showed higher rates of rebelliousness, occupational instability and mental health problems than nonimmigrant adolescents (Koenig, 1952; Myerson, 1922; Zubrzycki, 1964). It also suggested that immigrant adolescents had more conflicts with their parents than nonimmigrant adolescents, and that their special conflicts typically involved the immigrant adolescents’ attempts to put into practice the values of the host society on the one hand, and the parents’ attempts at preserving the values of the old society on the other (Banchevska, 1966; Derbyshire, 1970).
The above literature assumed that culture conflict was inevitable if immigrant parents objected to their children’s adoption of host society values. However, if immigrant parents encouraged their children to adopt the values of the host society, they were actually encouraging their children to separate from themselves and in so doing, reduce their own influence and support towards their children. Thus, adolescent children of immigrant parents were often seen as being caught between two cultures and belonging to neither (Child, 1943; Kovacs and Cropley, 1975). This state of cultural conflict was believed to be the main cause for the additional problems in adaptation faced by adolescent immigrants.
Underlying all of these studies is also the assumption that the immigrants’ cultures were incompatible with those of the dominant society, and hence the only desirable way for immigrants to overcome their culture conflict was by replacing their own cultural values, behaviour and identity with those of the dominant society, eventually alienating themselves from their own culture (Gordon, 1964; Park and Burges, 1921). In other words, adaptation implied assimilation.
In recent decades, the assimilationist perspective has become increasingly unpopular in pluralist societies (Glazer and Moynihan, 1970; Inglis, 1972; Price, 1969). The culture conflict model, which promotes assimilation as the most desirable outcome of immigration, has also been criticised. Contrary to the predictions of the culture conflict model, studies have found that culture conflict is not inevitable among immigrant adolescents (Johnston, 1972; Taft and Johnston, 1967). Some studies also show that immigrant adolescents do not necessarily have lower self-image and poorer adjustment than is the case of nonimmigrant adolescents (Arredondo, 1984; Rosenthal, Moore and Taylor, 1983). However, those who reject the old culture in favour of the new are likely to experience greater feelings of identity conflict than those who are well integrated in both the dominant society and in their own ethnic community (Rosenthal, 1984; Rosenthal and Hrynevich, 1985).
Nowadays, integration is promoted as a preferred outcome of immigration in many pluralist societies (Berry, 1980; 1997; Hurh and Kim, 1984; Rosenthal, 1987). The integration model proposes that immigrants can integrate into the dominant society without surrendering their own cultural identity. Underlying this model is the assumption that immigrants of different cultural backgrounds can live in harmony in a pluralist society which recognizes their contributions and seeks to promote mutual understanding and respect among individuals.
Preference for the integration option over assimilation can be found in many recent studies of immigrant adaptation. Some scholars argue that because assimilation involves cultural loss, individuals choosing the assimilation option may experience more psychological stress than those taking the integration path, where selective involvement in both the dominant society and their own ethnic culture may provide the most supportive sociocultural base for their mental health (Berry et al, 1987). Integration also involves being flexible in personality and hence the ability to adapt to the demands of different situations, thereby avoiding conflict (Bochner, 1982). Studies also suggest that a strong, stable cultural identity in adolescence can help resolve identity conflict and foster the development of a positive self image (Rosenthal, 1987; Rosenthal et al, 1983).
The successful integration of immigrants into the host society depends, in part, on the willingness of the dominant society to allow it. This paper focuses on the integration of Chinese immigrants into the New Zealand host society. We begin with an overview of Chinese adaptation in New Zealand, noting in particular, changes in New Zealand society’s attitudes towards immigrants and their effects on the Chinese. This is followed by a discussion of how contemporary Chinese new immigrants deal with their dual identities, and factors affecting their integration, drawing on two surveys we conducted in the 1990s. We conclude our paper by pointing out that not only new immigrants undergo changes in cultural identity. The Chinese who were born in New Zealand, the long established immigrants, and even those who have returned to their original countries to work continue to redefine their cultural identity over time.
CHINESE ADAPTATION IN NEW ZEALAND
Historically, Chinese in New Zealand were subjected to adverse discrimination and antagonism. Part of the prejudice against Chinese was manifested in a number of laws designed both to restrict their immigration into New Zealand (O’Conner, 1968; Roy, 1970) and to limit their right to naturalisation of those who were already living in the country (Fong, 1959). As a result, the early Chinese never really became a part of the dominant communities: they withdrew into peripheral occupations, occupied inferior social status and lived exclusively in tight ethnic communities (Fong, 1959). Discriminatory laws against the Chinese were repealed in the 1940s and 50s. In the postwar decades Chinese in New Zealand were expected to relinquish their heritage culture and become assimilated into the dominant host society (Ip, 1995). Yet despite pressures to assimilate, studies conducted during this period revealed that many Chinese in New Zealand still retained their Chinese identity, as well as a number of key cultural characteristics such as Chinese food habits and Chinese values pertaining to family life (Fong, 1959; Greif, 1974).
Since 1986 New Zealand’s immigration policies have favoured cultural pluralism, in which immigrants are encouraged "to participate fully in New Zealand’s multicultural society while being able to maintain valued elements in their own heritage" (Burke, 1986, p.11). In pursuit of this goal the "traditional source" restrictions on occupation immigration have been removed, and prospective immigrants are selected on personal merit without discrimination on grounds of race, national or ethnic origin (Burke, 1986; New Zealand Immigration Service, 1991; 1995; 1998). These policy changes have significantly altered the composition of immigrant flows to New Zealand. Prior to 1986, immigration to New Zealand was predominantly from Europe and the Pacific Islands. From 1986 onwards, Asian immigration has increased substantially, particularly the entry of Chinese from the People’s Republic of China, Hong Kong and Taiwan (Lidgard, Bedford and Goodwin, 1998a). For the first time, large proportions of the new Chinese immigrants are entrepreneurs and highly educated and skilled professionals.
Although policies towards Asian immigration have been relaxed since the mid 1980s, attitudes towards Asian immigrants are not often favourable at the community level (Spoonley and Bedford, 1996). Recent Asian immigrants have been stereotyped as extremely wealthy, materialistic and status symbol conscious. They have been variously criticized for sticking to themselves as a group, not creating jobs for New Zealanders, and having little long-term commitment to the country. There has also been the allegation that the sudden increase in Asian immigrants, combined with their concentration in Auckland, has placed considerable strain on education and social services. Clearly, these negative and sometimes hostile perceptions held by New Zealanders towards Asian immigrants can hinder the recent immigrants’ ability to integrate into their new society. In the next section, the adaptive experiences of Chinese recent immigrants are further examined. Our central concern is to understand the changes in their Chinese identity as well as their identity as part of the dominant host society during the adaptation process.
RELATION OF TWO CULTURAL IDENTITIES OF CHINESE NEW ZEALANDERS
Of the many kinds of change that immigrants undergo as a result of adapting to a new environment and culture, the change in their cultural identities forms a crucial area of study. Until the 1960s, such studies assumed that the immigrants’ perception of their identity as part of the dominant host society and their identity as a member of their own ethnic group formed a bipolar continuum (Johnston, 1965; Taft, 1961; 1965). For example, in order to study the extent to which Dutch immigrants identified with the Australian host society, respondents were asked to describe themselves as completely Australian, more Australian than Dutch, equally Australian and Dutch, more Dutch than Australian, or completely Dutch (Taft, 1961). The bipolarity of the Australian-Dutch (or Italian, Polish, etc.) identity construct implied that immigrants could achieve an Australian identity only by giving up their own ethnic identity.
The method of measuring the majority-minority identity on a continuum has been challenged in recent years. As we have argued above, in pluralistic societies which have greater tolerance for cultural diversity, immigrants can seek to adopt elements of the host society culture without abandoning their own cultural distinctiveness. Based on this argument, some scholars suggest that the immigrants’ two cultural identities should be measured separately instead of on a continuum, and the findings from their studies support the notion that immigrants’ own ethnic identity and their identity as part of the dominant host society are not necessarily in conflict with each other (Der-Karabetian, 1980; Rosenthal, 1984; Zak, 1973; 1976). The methods developed by these scholars have been applied to study the change in cultural identities amongst Chinese recent immigrants in the New Zealand host society. Relevant findings from two studies are discussed below.
The experiences of Chinese adolescent immigrants
The first study was a questionnaire survey of 283 Hong Kong Chinese immigrant school children. The survey was carried out as part of a larger study into the adaptation of Chinese adolescent immigrants in New Zealand (Ho, 1995a). It was conducted between October 1991 and April 1992 in Hong Kong and New Zealand.
The main characteristics of the respondents in the questionnaire survey are summarised in Table 1. The Hong Kong sample consisted of 60 Chinese adolescents who had obtained New Zealand permanent residence status and were planning to emigrate to New Zealand within the next 18 months. The New Zealand sample included 223 Chinese adolescents who were immigrants from Hong Kong arriving in New Zealand between 1987 and 1992. They were divided into four groups according to their length of residence in New Zealand: less than one year (N=79); between one and two years (N=68); between two and three years (N=52) and between three and four years (N=24). All of the respondents were between 14 and 18 years of age (Mean Age =15.8 years), and gender distribution was balanced across the subgroups.
The study looked at how Hong Kong Chinese adolescents dealt with their two cultural identities in the host society. Respondents were asked to rate on a 10-point scale (from 1 showing "not at all" to 10 showing "very much") "how much like a New Zealander do you feel?" and "how much like a Chinese do you feel?" Responses to these questions were coded as strongly (6-10) or weakly (1-5) New Zealander or Chinese. The study also provided information on how Chinese new immigrants adapt to change in a variety of domains of daily activities, language, friendship and school learning in the host society, and factors affecting their adaptation and integration.
Figure 1 Relation Between Two Identity Ratings and Migration Phase
Figure 1 gives the relationship between the two identity ratings and migration phase. Respondents who had longer residence in New Zealand had higher New Zealand identity ratings than those whose residence period was shorter, suggesting that Chinese adolescents’ acceptance of the host society culture and lifestyles increased with time. Nonetheless, Chinese identity ratings had not decreased with time, except respondents who had been resident in New Zealand for less than one year (Figure 1).
Entering a new culture is a potentially confusing experience. Overseas studies have found that during the first year of immigration, most immigrants tend to experience a sense of loss arising from being uprooted from their original environment and a feeling of estrangement in the new one (Arredondo, 1984; Taft, 1979). Immigrants’ frustration and confusion gradually decreases as they develop strategies for coping with their new environment.
Depending on whether or not the immigrants choose to retain their cultural distinctiveness and adopt elements of the host society’s culture, four acculturation strategies may be manifested within a culturally pluralistic society (Berry, 1980; 1997). In this study, four cultural identity states were derived from the ratings respondents gave to describe their New Zealand and Chinese identities. They were: assimilation – strong (6-10 points) in New Zealand identity but weak (1-5 points) in Chinese identity; integration – strong in both New Zealand and Chinese identities; separation – strong Chinese identity but weak New Zealand identity; and marginalisation – weak in both New Zealand and Chinese identities. Each cultural identity state has been found to be associated with a fairly consistent pattern of behaviours and attitudes in a variety of domains of daily activities which are similar to those used by Berry (1980; 1997) to describe immigrants’ acculturation strategies (Ho, 1995a, 185-187).
Individuals who had strong New Zealand identity but weak Chinese identity were found to use English more than those individuals weak in New Zealand identity but strong in Chinese identity. As well, they considered it less important to retain the Chinese language and keep Chinese friends in New Zealand, whereas individuals in the separation mode considered it more important to retain the use of the Chinese language, and keep Chinese friends in New Zealand. Thus, assimilated individuals were characterized by non-maintenance of ethnic culture combined with penetration into the host society, whereas separated individuals were characterized by both retention of ethnic culture and a lack of participation in the host society.
Individuals strong in both New Zealand and Chinese identities considered it more important to retain the use of Chinese language and mix with Chinese people than did assimilated individuals. However, they did not differ from assimilated individuals in terms of the amount they used English, and the degree of importance they attached to mixing with New Zealand friends. Hence, integrated individuals were characterized by maintenance of ethnic culture as well as active participation in the host society. Finally, individuals weak in both New Zealand and Chinese identities did not differ from assimilated individuals by preferring to use English over Chinese, and to mix with New Zealanders rather than Chinese friends. However, in terms of actual behaviour, they did not use the English language, nor mix with New Zealanders as often as assimilated individuals. Hence, marginalised individuals tended to have a strong desire to assimilate into the host society and therefore gave up their Chinese identity, but in practice, they were unable to participate fully in the host society probably because they had inadequate interpersonal skills, or were rejected by members of the host society.
Figure 2 gives the percentage distribution of the four cultural identity states across migration phase. Almost 80 percent of the pre-migration respondents described themselves as strongly Chinese but weakly New Zealander, 8 percent strong in both identities, and 2 percent strongly New Zealander but weakly Chinese. After migration, the proportion of assimilated and integrated respondents both increased, while that of separated respondents decreased. Assimilated and integrated respondents continued to increase with length of residence in the new country: they comprised 13 and 33 percent of the respondents who had been resident in New Zealand between three and four years, whereas separated respondents decreased to 46 percent. About 12 percent of the pre-migration respondents reported themselves to be marginalised. The proportion of marginalised respondents increased during the first two years of settlement in New Zealand, and then decreased with time (Figure 2).
Table 2 Main Characteristics of Chinese Immigrants in the 1998 Survey
Figure 2 Percentage Distribution of Cultural Identity States Across Migration Phase
Consistent with contemporary international literature in this field, the analysis of the outcomes of adaptation of Hong Kong Chinese adolescents in this study shows that integration is a more preferred option of adaptation than is assimilation. Although a majority of Hong Kong Chinese adolescents had minimal understanding of the New Zealand society and culture before migration, one-third of them were positively identifying with the New Zealand host society while retaining a strong sense of Chinese identity after three years in New Zealand.
The dynamic changes among the four cultural identity states over time has also been investigated (Ho, 1995b). Regarding movement from integration to other states, none of the respondents in this study reported having moved from integration to separation. Movements from integration to marginalisation were found during the first two years in New Zealand whereas movements from integration to assimilation occurred during the first three years. After three years in New Zealand, the probability of moving from integration to any other state was equal to zero. This pattern of movements suggests that as time passes, integration becomes the most preferred option of adaptation taken by Hong Kong Chinese adolescents.
It is clear from this study that length of residence in New Zealand is an important factor influencing the Chinese immigrants’ ability to adapt. In addition, individuals who have low levels of perceived support from non-family members have a tendency to become marginalised (Ho, 1995a). New immigrants tend to experience a disruption in their support networks upon migrating to a new country. Before new social networks are established, the newcomers may be dissatisfied with the lack of support in the new environment. Adolescent immigrants may be even more dissatisfied if, in addition, they feel that their parents are not supportive, probably due to a lack of understanding of their anxieties and concerns and sometimes also as a result of their parents being frequently absent from the household (Ho, 1995a).
There is also evidence that voluntariness of migration combined with a strong desire to settle in the host society facilitate adaptation (Ho, 1995a). However, whether or not children of immigrants can be considered as "voluntary migrants" seems a very moot point. Children are often regarded appendages of adults, and their ideas and wishes are ignored when their parents make decisions about migration (Sung, 1987). In the essay introduced at the beginning of this paper, the young Dutch immigrant said,
Even among adults, voluntariness of migration is not an all-or-none phenomenon. The migration of large numbers of Chinese families from Hong Kong and Taiwan to New Zealand since the mid-1980s is motivated, in part, by the desire to secure a politically stable environment for their children to live in (Ho and Farmer, 1995; Lidgard, 1996) Many of these recent Chinese migrants in New Zealand are well educated and highly skilled professionals, but they have had to take up much less fulfilling careers, or less interesting jobs in their new country. Some of them have become "astronaut" spouses, with their husbands returning to their countries of origin to work while they live in New Zealand with their children (Ho, Bedford and Goodwin, 1997). They may be reluctantly voluntary in their desires to migrate (Skeldon, 1994). The next section reflects on the experiences of some of these Chinese migrants, particularly what it means to them to be Chinese in New Zealand.
The experiences of some Chinese adult immigrants
In this section we draw on material from in-depth interviews of 30 Chinese immigrants who arrived in New Zealand after 1986. The interviews were conducted between February and August 1998, as part of a wider inquiry into the settlement and employment experiences of migrants from Northeast Asia in New Zealand (Lidgard et al, 1998b). Fourteen respondents were from Hong Kong and 16 were from Taiwan. They ranged in age from early 20s to late 60s (Table 2).
The Cultural Identity Scale which was used in the survey of adolescents described above, was also used in this study to measure the respondents’ perception of their identity as part of the dominant society, and their identity as members of their own ethnic group. The results of their two identity ratings are shown in Figure 3.
Figure 3 Two Identity Ratings of Chinese Immigrants in the 1998 Survey
Over 90 percent of the respondents in this study maintained a strong Chinese identity in New Zealand (Figure 3). Out of the 30 surveyed, 15 gave a Chinese identity rating of 10 out of 10. In response to the question "how much like a Chinese do you feel?", these respondents’ typical answer was: "of course I am a Chinese. It is in my blood and in my genes. Moving to another country does not make me feel less Chinese." Among the other respondents who considered that their Chinese identity had weakened since coming to New Zealand, some felt that they had become more westernised or acculturated to New Zealand life, and some felt that they had become less involved with things that happened in their home country.
When the respondents were asked to rate their New Zealand identity, 70 percent of the respondents from Hong Kong, and slightly over half of those from Taiwan, gave a rating of between 6 and 10 (Figure 3). Consistent with what we have found in the previous study, the desire to settle in New Zealand facilitates integration. Many respondents who gave a strong New Zealand identity rating felt that "New Zealand is our home". In the group of three respondents who gave a New Zealand identity rating of 10 out of 10, all claimed that they were "100 percent ‘Kiwi’, regardless of what other people feel or say".
Many respondents explained that they did not regard themselves as full New Zealanders because they felt that they were not fully accepted by the mainstream society, or that they did not identify with some aspects of the New Zealand culture. One respondent from Taiwan, who gave a New Zealand identity rating of 5, described her feelings in the following way:
Two of the respondents in this study were young adults in their early 20s who were working in Hong Kong at the time of the survey (Lidgard et al, 1998). Both had migrated from Hong Kong to New Zealand in the late 1980s and had obtained New Zealand qualifications. Their re-entry involved changes in cultural identity too. As they reflected on how they had changed since returning to their country of birth after being away for 7 to 8 years, one of them said,
BEYOND BEING CHINESE
The above two studies provide evidence that new Chinese immigrants undergo changes in their cultural identities during the process of adapting to a new environment. This process of redefining one’s identity in an effort to make sense of the environment is not confined to new immigrants. The identity themes of older Chinese settlers in New Zealand have been explored in great depth by Dr Manying Ip (1990; 1996). Her research, which involve extensive interviews with established Chinese residents and locally born Chinese, has found that many Chinese New Zealanders value their unique cultural heritage while participating in the wider life of New Zealand society. Among those who were interviewed were Bickleen Fong and Kirsten Wong. Bickleen Fong was author of The Chinese in New Zealand (Fong, 1959) who came as an eight-year-old war refugee to New Zealand in 1939. She described how she dealt with her dual identities in the following way:
Some Chinese New Zealander’s concern goes beyond being Chinese. Kirsten Wong, a third generation Chinese New Zealander, pointed out that as New Zealand’s population becomes increasingly multicultural, there is the need to put the identity issues of ethnic minorities in a wider context:
The authors wish to acknowledge assistance received from the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology and the Health Research Council for financial support; members of the Chinese communities in New Zealand and Hong Kong who participated in the research; and the Centre of Asian Studies at the University of Hong Kong, and the Department of Geography and the Population Studies Centre at the University of Waikato for logistical support with this research.
An Metaphorical Reading Of Internationalization of Contemporary Chinese Cinema
Author: Adam Lam
For many centuries, Chinese residing overseas had identified themselves and been identified by other Chinese as "Chinese overseas" (haiwai,Hua-qiao) till recent years. In Chinese, qiao or qiaoju means living away from one’s homeland. Therefore, Chinese then did not establish the idea of settling down in other countries, especially in Western countries. To the majority of those who came to a Western country during last and early this centuries, particularly to those gold rush countries like New Zealand, Australia and the United States of America, the Western countries were only temporary boarding places in their lives where they could trade their hard labour for an "easy" living. To no one’s surprise, there were hardly women among these home finance providers. These early Chinese overseas grew up in China, and normally married in China before they came overseas as hard labourers. And their ultimate goal, though not always achievable, was to return to China with plenty of savings for their retirement. To most of them, the earlier the highly desirable homecoming with some decent savings took place, the better. Chinese word qiao accurately represents their mandate as well as their citizen status, while the closest English equivalent would be "sojourners".
Since the late 1970s, Chinese moved to and thus living in overseas countries have undergone a fundamental characteristic change. Among those coming to overseas in the recent two decades, whom are frequently referred by their host countries as "new immigrants", professionals and entrepreneurs have been the majority. At the same time, the goals of these Chinese of going overseas have also significantly changed – most of them have been overseas to take a non-Chinese citizenship, regardless the fact whether they could have been making their living in the host counties or not. Therefore, whether they stay in their newly chosen host countries for good or return temporarily to China (or Chinese regions like Hong Kong and Taiwan) for work, they are now settling in their host countries. Subsequently, their identity shifted from "Chinese overseas" to "Chinese migrants" (Huayi yimin).
This shift of identity attributes to may historical factors – politics, economy, social systems, cultures, etc. – and among them, the postcolonial worldwide stimulation and global culture as a result of postmodernity play the most important roles. My paper, however, is not to further examine how Chinese overseas and/or Chinese migrants have been affected by these factors. I am but using this shift or identity as a metaphor in my reading of contemporary Chinese cinema, which I will argue has experienced the similar shift of identity influenced by the same historical factors. I will, thus, elaborate on how Chinese cinema got into and become accepted by the Western world, and more importantly, subscribed to the membership of the "Global Culture Club".
In my paper, Chinese cinema and Chinese films refer to those films made in Mainland China by Chinese artists regardless of the regions from where the film funding came. On the other hand, Chinese overseas (Hua-qiao) and/or Chinese migrants (Huayi yimin) refer to Chinese from all three political regions – mainland, Hong Kong and Taiwan. Whenever Chinese characters are referred, Hanyu pinyin system is used for romanization.
Chinese cinema was allowed to enter the West in the late 1970s. Before it, films made in Mainland China did not go farther than those then communist ruled countries. With the open door policy formally endorsed by Chinese Communist Government following the famous third Central Committee Meeting of the Eleventh Chinese Communist Party Congress in December 1978, Westerners started to peek into China through the door while some Chinese film directors wanted to get their films squeezed out through the same door. These Chinese film directors were keen to have their films recognized by the West, whereas only a few of them were successful. Though third-generation director Xie Jin tried very hard, it was Wu Yigong, a fourth-generation director who first stepped out the door of China to the West. His film My Memories of Old Beijing (1982) was invited to and won the Gold Eagle Award at the Second Manila International film festival. Later, it also won other major awards including at a children film festival in Germany 1984. Though these are not indeed the most important international film festivals, My Memories of Old Beijing’s international success was widely reported in China. Wu Yigong was subsequently appointed as the director of the Shanghai Film Studio in 1985. Needles to mention, the film was very well received in China despite the fact that many overseas Chinese film goers may never have heard of it.
The second Chinese person who at this time really caught the Western audiences’ attention was the fifth-generation director Chen Kaige with his first film The Yellow Earth (1984). After its overwhelming success at the Ninth Hong Kong International Film Festival in 1985, the film was invited to show at the Cannes, Moscow, Montreal, Locarno, Edinburgh and Hawaii film festivals. The film and its makers subsequently won a number of awards at all the international film festivals it managed to attend, including London International Film Festival and Hawaii International Film Festivals. The significance of the international success of The Yellow Earth was not simply how much attention overseas audiences had paid to the film, but the attitude change of Chinese audiences. When the film was first screened in Shanghai for 41 times over a period of two to three weeks, the audience attendance averaged on 24.4%. The film was forced to withdraw from circulation due to this poor response from the audiences. However, thousands of people reportedly turned up to see the film as a special screening in Shanghai after the film’s success in Hong Kong.
The experience of The Yellow Earth is comparable to the treatment of many Hua-qiao (Chinese overseas who left the country at least 20 or 30 years ago) experienced. Before they left the country, they were frequently treated as dirt by both the authority and their fellow citizens. When a few of them finally gain recognition in their host countries, or even at the international level, they receive VIP welcome on return to China. More importantly, films like The Yellow Earth, no matter how successful and where successful, were funded by China and made for Chinese audiences. International audiences, particularly Western audiences (which is the category most Hong Kong audiences fell into as a result of 150 year British colonization), may choose to read or misread (in Harold Bloom’s term) these films. They nevertheless were not the target audiences of these films. These films, like the Chinese who went overseas in the early years, are Hua-qiao, or Chinese cultural products temporarily circulated overseas. No matter how well received by their overseas audiences (as Chinese miners were welcomed by overseas mining companies), or how badly reviewed by some overseas critics (as Chinese miners were threatened by overseas "local" or European migrant miners), they took China as their home country, the country they finally returned to.
The surprise success overseas of The Yellow Earth, however, did strike some fast thinking Chinese directors. They noticed the attitude change phenomenon of Chinese audiences toward internationally recognized Chinese made films. They saw the potential local audience-ship by winning an international reputation. They became like those Chinese boarding the first ships to go overseas who faced many uncertainties, but had a clear goal when starting their voyage. These Chinese directors also clearly saw the benefits of going international. There is nevertheless a major difference between early Chinese going overseas and Chinese films attending overseas film festivals. Overseas countries did not guarantee every Chinese overseas a glorious return as conditions for these Chinese were normally extremely harsh; whereas being invited to an international film festival, either based on understanding or misunderstanding (again in Harold Bloom’s term), those Chinese films being abroad have already won.
There are quite a number of Chinese films known to Western audiences which fell into this category and the trend has not quite stopped, though it cannot compare to its height in the late 1980s. It should be noted that such a promotion technique does not work as effectively now in China as in the 1980s, because Chinese audiences today are also better informed (by commercial mechanisms, of course). Again, those Chinese overseas, who have experienced both, may compare the warm welcomes they easily got in China in the late 1970s and 1980s, and the rather more business-like reception they received, if indeed they were still decently received by anyone, in recent years. Two outstanding examples of these films are Wu Tianming’s Old Well (1987, with Zhang Yimou as the cinematographer) and Zhang Yimou’s Red Sorghum (1987).
Old Well and Red Sorghum each won a best feature film prize at the Eighth Gold Rooster Awards in China 1988. Before that, Old Well had already won the Jury’s Special Award at the Seventh Hawaii International Film Festival in 1987 when the film was released in July that year (Red Sorghum was released in December). Old Well later also won other major awards in Japan and Italy. Zhang Yimou was even more noticeable both overseas and in China when Red Sorghum, the first film directed by him, won the Gold Bear Award at the reputable international Thirty-Eighth Berlin Film Festival in 1988. Though neither of these two films was poorly received by Chinese audiences upon their first release as The Yellow Earth once experienced (indeed Red Sorghum was overwhelmingly cheered by its Chinese audience right from its local release.), their international awards certainly secured the film makers an unarguable position in the Chinese film industry and both films were re-screened in Chinese cinemas.
Chinese film directors did not stop here. We all noticed the historical Chinese emigration trend to the West from the late 1970s right through to the mid 1990s. It was the era when Western countries one by one claimed to adopt multi-culturalism. What these countries wanted from China were both financial investments (money) and human resources (professionals, in contrast to labourers). In spite of naming it as multi-culturalism, Chinese culture was far behind these two on the hunting list, if in fact Chinese culture has ever been on the agenda. But this proclaimed change of social policies has given most Chinese going overseas the opportunity to apply for a foreign citizenship. So many Chinese took that opportunity for various understandable reasons. There has been similar development in certain sectors of Chinese cinema in the 1990s. They now went overseas neither simply for the international gold-plating in order to win more Chinese audiences, not to pursue some higher reputation and/or position in Chinese film industry, but to be a part of global culture and intended to serve international audiences. Films from this category, fortunately or unfortunately, are nearly all the Chinese films we can see overseas today. They indeed have already ‘emigrated’ out of China, and like most of the Chinese migrants, they also took a new identity though without taking any oaths.
Since 1989, when the first Chinese film was fully funded by overseas investment, this full funding soon became a popular trend. Before that, overseas investment meant only joint venture or foreign films filmed in China. There has been no lack of ambiguities over the identity of these foreign funded Chinese films, of course. Though directed by Chinese directors and mainly played by Chinese actors, the ownership of these films was not China based. This overseas money was neither sponsored nor was it donated to the Chinese directors. They invested the money and as investors, they did not only contributed to the finance of those films. To guarantee the money being well invested, that is bring in good profits, the overseas companies would not invest in just ANY films but in films suited to the international market. Because of the foreign exchange control in China till mid-1990s, the foreign investors could not expect their investment to be rewarded by Chinese audiences. As a result, these foreign funded films could only target the international market. Although Chinese directors, such as Zhang Yimou, have for many times reaffirmed that they were interested in making films for Chinese audiences, we should all understand the profit principle behind these foreign investments.
There are many examples of films in this category. I am sure my readers in the West may even easily give me a long list of titles. I just mention some of the most famous ones by some best known (in the West) Chinese directors. Zhang Yimou’s Judou (1990) was among the first and his Raise the Red Lantern (1991), To Live (1994) and Shanghai Triad (1995) were al funded by overseas companies (including some from Hong Kong and Taiwan). There were also Chen Kaige’s Life on a String (1991), Farewell My Concubine (1993) and Temptress Moon (1996), Tian Zhuangzhuang’s The Blue Kite (1993), and Wu Tianming’s The King of Masks (1996).
Unlike those earlier contemporary Chinese films (up to the late 1980s) which tried to go overseas and secure international recognition as a means to effectively promote both the films and film makers in China, fully foreign funded Chinese films normally consider serving the international audiences as the end and include Chinese artists and/or cultural symbols as an effective means to serve the end.
My paper briefly examines the trend of only one branch of Chinese cinema, which has been well noticed by the Western audiences. There always have been directors who focus on Chinese audiences’ needs and work hard for them. I hope my Western readers will have the chance to see some good films from the rest of Chinese cinema, to which my current analysis does not apply. My only worry nevertheless is: when these films are once available in the West, their identity will change thanks to today’s postmodern global cultural simulation.
Sources from Bonnie S. McDougall, The Yellow Earth, (Hong Kong: Chinese University Press 1991),p.5.
Author: P.G. Petchey
This paper was delivered to the "Old & New Migrations" conference in Dunedin in a slightly different form to that given below. The paper was originally intended as a general introduction and illuminated guide to Chinese archeological sites in the Macraes area of East Otago for a non-archeological audience. As such, it was heavily illustrated but not very analytical. The paper presented below draws out more detail about some of the sites that were covered.
Macraes Flat is an historic goldmining town in East Otago, inland from Palmerston (Figure 1). Gold was discovered there in 1862, and mining on various scales continued intermittently for the next hundred years. During this time many immigrants came to the area; most came for the gold and left after a time, a few stayed and settled. Nationalities included Scots, English, Irish, Maori and Chinese. All have left some evidence of their presence.
Macraes is presently the site of New Zealand's largest gold mine, Macraes Mining Company's East Otago Mine, which has been in operation since 1990. As part of the company's environmental programme a number of archaeological surveys and excavations have been carried out. These have inevitably had a geographic rather than a thematic focus, with the areas of land that are of interest to the mine being examined. As such, this archeology work has covered a broad spectrum of sites, including miners' hut sites, farmstead sites, alluvial gold workings, quartz mines and a few prehistoric umu ti (earth oven) sites. This paper will describe some of these sites that are of known Chinese origin.
The Chinese at Macraes
In common with other Otago goldfields, the Chinese made up a substantial proportion of the mining population at Macraes during the late nineteenth century. They apparently followed the standard goldfields pattern whereby they reworked ground that European miners had abandoned.
The most exact details of Chinese numbers at Macraes were given by Alexander Don, who stated that in 1888 there were about 76 Chinese men within a 12 mile radius of the township. This included 19 in the town, 17 on Horse Flat and Deep Dell and 6 at Murphy's Flat (N.Z. Presbyterian, 1888:184; Ng 1993:221). Unfortunately census data for the area is not very specific in terms of Chinese inhabitants, and what information there is may well be inaccurate. The 1886 Census stated the total population of Macraes Township as 152, and gave a figure of 77 Chinese in all of Waihemo County. Don's 1888 count of 76 Chinese at Macraes alone suggests that the Census data was severely underestimating the Chinese population.
Less formal estimates of the Chinese population at Macraes include an 1871 statement that "I am inclined to believe, more than one-half of the miners on this goldfield are Chinese" (Tuapeka Times, 21/12/1871), and an 1888 comment that the district had fallen almost entirely into the hands of the Chinese (Otago Witness, 18/5/1888)..
Because of a number of factors, including a natural instinct to live with one's own cultural group, language difficulties and security, the Chinese in Otago tended to either live in camps somewhat removed from the main European settlements, or in isolated small groups of huts at the workings. This pattern is strongly represented at Macraes. However, one unusual Chinese dwelling in the area was the house of Louis Gay Tan, a merchant and miner, who lived with his European wife in a relatively large and comfortable building beside the Gifford Road Chinese camp. Gay Tan's house, the Gifford Road camp and a number of isolated huts are described below.
The Gifford Road Chinese camp
The earliest firm evidence so far located of the Gifford Road Chinese camp and Louis Gay Tan's house (discussed below) is an 1898 claim map (S.O. 4559, reproduced in part here as Figure 2) showing the position of the house and a number of "Chinaman's Huts." Five structures and what was probably a sod-walled enclosure were shown on the plan at the junction of Gifford Road and the main Macraes-Dunback Road. No further archival evidence of the camp has been found, but on the undeniable strength of the plan, the location was recorded in 1994 as an archeology site (No.142/50).
Physically the site appeared as a flat area of ground that was used by the farmer as a storage area for machinery and hay bales. Gifford Road had long since ceased to be used as a public road, although it still served as a farm track and its formation was still visible for some of its length. At the site of the camp this track was forked, giving two access points to the main road. The only visible evidence of occupation was an old well beside the fence in a neighbouring field.
A limited programme of test pitting was carried out on the site in late 1997 (Petchey 1997) after some immediately adjacent modifications were carried out to the main road (shown in Figure 3). The object of this programme was to determine what evidence of the Chinese camp remained, and whether the road works had affected these remains.
The results of the work suggested that substantial evidence of the camp site did remain, although much of the site was very compacted. Artefactual material recovered included a Chinese coin, a broken Blue Willow square bowl, a brass door knob and the remains of a leather boot. Three intact bottles (two gin and a pharmaceutical) were recovered from a test pit in the neighbouring field, in an area that had not been compacted.
The test pits showed that the site still has considerable archeology potential, despite the disturbance from agricultural practices and road modifications. The small amount of artefactual material collected had evidence for at least semi-permanent structures (the door knob), and included a mixture of Chinese and European items that is typical of Otago Chinese goldfield sites (see Ritchie 1986).
Gay Tan's House
On the other side of Gifford Road from the Chinese camp is a derelict mud-brick house (Figure 4). Architecturally this building displays the typical colonial Georgian style of a square floor plan, central front door with a window placed symmetrically on either side, and a hipped roof. The mud-brick walls have been plastered, with ornamental quoms modelled on the front corners. The only unusual stylistic element is an ornamental plaster frieze around the front door.
What is particularly unusual about the house is that it was the home of Louis Gay Tan, a Chinese merchant and miner who spoke English and married a European woman. This put him well outside the normal social position of Chinese goldfields immigrants in nineteenth century New Zealand.
Louis Gay Tan (Looi Yi Tsaan) had arrived in Otago in 1867, and married Emma Finch in Naseby in 1873 (Ng 1993). The couple left Naseby in 1875 and moved to Macraes where they raised two children (a third died young) (ibid). Presumably the house was built at about this time. Both Louis and his son, Ted, were involved in local mining, and their names regularly occur in the local Warden's Court mining licence applications (held by the Dunedin regional Office of the National Archives). Louis apparently returned to China after Emma died, but his children stayed in Otago, where their descendants still live.
Unfortunately the house is today deteriorating badly, as dampness invades the mud-brick walls. The chimney has largely collapsed inside the roof space, and there is decay in some of the timber floors. A fallen tree has badly damaged the lean-to wash house at the back of the house. Nevertheless, it remains as a rare example of Chinese affluence on the Otago Goldfields, and in more general terms is an excellent example of an unmodified nineteenth century earth house.
The Leper of Murphy's Flat
Dr. James Ng has researched the story of the leper of Murphy's Flat in some detail (Ng 1993: 311, 333). The "leper" was a Chinese miner, Hui Shing Tsok (anglicised as Sin Tack), who was diagnosed with leprosy in 1901 and isolated at Murphy's Flat. The Waihemo County Council paid him a pension of 10/- a week, and when he died in 1907 he was given a free burial in the Macraes Cemetery (ibid). It is still a commonly told local story that the local men sent with a coffin to pick up the body simply burnt the dead man's hut down (with cadaver in residence) and buried a coffin full of sods (K. Aitken, I. Dunkley, N. Roy, pers. comm. 1996). The truth in this is now hard to determine.
Archeologically, it is possible to locate what is probably the site of the leper's hut on Murphy's Flat. This flat is located four and a half kilometres south-east of Macraes Flat township, and is today notable for its extensive linear tailings (site 142140), formed as the alluvial gravels on the flat were worked from side to side in the search for gold. An 1891 plan (S.O. 421, reproduced in part here as Figure 5) shows the approximate location of several "Chinamen's Huts" on the flat. An 1995 survey (Petchey 1995: 3) located the remains of several huts at the flat in the position shown on the plan (Figure 5). Unfortunately the huts had been damaged by the construction of a farm track, but it is likely they retain considerable archeology potential.
It is quite possible that one of these hut sites belonged to the "leper," although only excavation will reveal whether one of the huts was burnt down.
In 1996 the possible remains of a small sod hut (Figure 6) were recorded in association with alluvial gold workings in a small side gully off Tipperary Creek (Petchey 1996). The sod walls only appeared as low mounds on a flat terrace above a bend in the creek. The site appeared to consist of two enclosed rectangular areas, one measuring 4m by 2m, the other 7m by 6.5m. They shared one common wall.
A small test excavation was made in the side of the smaller enclosure in an attempt to determine the nature of the site (Figures 8a & 8b). This test pit revealed that there was a considerable (0.3m) build up of soil inside the hut, confirming the use of sod (earth cut straight from the ground surface and laid like bricks) for the wall construction. The floor of the hut was clay, on top of which there was a considerable amount of cultural material and ashes/charcoal.
The artefactual material consisted of broken bottle glass, sections of iron wire, an iron sheet and two intact ceramic opium pipe bowls. All of the bottle glass appeared to have been heated, as it was distorted and shattered. Identifiable bottle types included green beer, case gin and salad oil.
The evidence of fire in primary context with cultural material suggests that either the hut burnt down while in use, or soon after abandonment a tussock fire swept the area. Evidence of ethnicity is based primarily on the presence of the two Chinese opium pipe bowls, as European bottle glass is common to both European and Chinese sites in Otago (Ritchie, 1986: 170, 171). Some Chinese ceramic fragments were recovered from an old water race directly above the hut site.
As yet no historical information has been found relating to this site, so any interpretations rely on the archeology evidence. This site would richly repay a detailed full excavation.
Discussion & Conclusions
This paper was intended to simply introduce the subject matter of Chinese archeology at Macraes Flat. As only incompletely studied sites are considered, no comprehensive discussions or conclusions are attempted here. However, some general observations can be made based on work to date.
In many ways the Macraes sites are typical of Chinese sites throughout Otago and Southland, whereby the miners lived in distinct communities somewhat apart from the European population. However, the situation at Macraes is made more interesting by the presence of Louis Gay Tan. While he did live beside the Chinese camp, he had a European wife and a large European style house, which made him very unusual indeed in nineteenth century Otago. It would be interesting to study whether this led to any difference in Chinese-European interaction at Macraes when compared to other areas.
The material culture recovered from the sites studied reflects the situation found by Ritchie, whereby a mixture of Chinese and European material is encountered. This is a result of a limited source of supplies for staple products, but with some specialist importing to satisfy specific demands. However, it should be noted that there is also some seepage of Chinese material into neighbouring European sites, although not to a large degree (based on personal experience).
This mix of artefactual material raises a further issue, that of the identification of ethnicity in an archeology context. This is generally based either on archival sources stating a Chinese occupation of a particular site, and/or archeology excavation finding Chinese artefactual material. Obviously the identification works best when both sources provide complementary evidence, such as at the Gifford Road camp site.
Taken a step further, this raises the question of visibility. To the casual observer, none of the sites discussed above exhibit any obvious Chinese features. This is significant, as a very large and culturally distinct population has been and gone leaving behind little obvious evidence of their time here. Many people are aware that some Otago diggings were "Chinese," but there is little or no detailed understanding of the actual dynamics of a gold field, and the mix of European and Chinese efforts that went into creating today's archeology landscape.
Chinese hut sites and gold workings may show distinct features (this has been
the subject of some debate; the jury is still out), but there is almost nothing left that in the New Zealand popular culture labels a site as "Chinese." A number of descendants are still here , but in many ways the goldfields Chinese are a forgotten people.
New Zealand Census, 1886
New Zealand Presbyterian, April 2, 1888
Ng, 1 1993 Windows on a Chinese Past, Volume 1. Dunedin, Otago Heritage Books.
Otago Witness (newspaper) 18/5/1888
Petchey, P.C. 1995 "Murphy's Flat to Stoneburn, Preliminary Archeology Survey." Report for Macraes Mining Company.
Petchey, P.C. 1996 "Upper Tipperary Dam site, Archeology Report." Report for Macraes Mining Company.
Petchey, P.C. 1997 "Gifford Road Chinese camp Site." Report for Macraes Mining Company.
Ritchie, N.A. 1986 "Archaeology and History of the Chinese in Southern New Zealand." Unpub. PhD. Thesis, Anthropology Department, University of Otago.
S.O.421,4559 (Department of Survey and Land Information)
Tuapeka Times (newspaper) 21/12/1871
Author: Kee Pookong
The migration and settlement of Chinese have been an important aspect of the last 150 years of Australian history. At the height of Chinese arrivals in the mid-nineteenth century, the Chinese were the second largest non-Aboriginal group in this continent. They became the target of systematic marginalisation and exclusion, culminating in the Immigration Restriction Act of 1901, one of the first pieces of legislation by the new Federal Parliament, which prevents Chinese, other Asian and Pacific Islanders from entering Australia. This restrictive immigration policy remained in place until the mid-1960s and was only officially abolished in 1973. The lifting of this policy has seen the Chinese gradually regaining the lost ground. The initial gain for many decades had come from the Chinese diaspora. As late as the 1986 Census, the number of people born in China, numbering 37,469, was still smaller than the 38 533 recorded in 1881
In a paper I presented at an international conference on migration organised by the National University of Singapore in Singapore in 1991, I described Australia as the 'New Nanyang' for Chinese migrants (Kee, 1995). Like Southeast Asia of the 19th and early 20th century, this southern landmass, Australia, has become a magnet for large numbers of Chinese seeking to improve their economic well-being and enhance their children's life chances. In that sense, the settlement of Chinese in Australia is an extension of the southward movement of Chinese that started in China thousands of years ago. In that process, the Chinese migrants have established new homes, engaged in production of goods and services, inter-married with local residents and contributed the development of vibrant, creative and multicultural societies.
In his keynote address to the 1994 conference of the International Society for the Study of the Chinese Overseas (ISSCO), the then Vice-Chancellor of the University of Hong Kong, Professor Wang Gangwu (an imminent Chinese-Australian), alluded to the growing importance of Chinese 're-migrants', who unlike earlier waves of coolie migrants, are making a big impact on skills, capital and knowledge enhancement in countries of the Pacific Rim.
However, unlike the earlier waves of Chinese immigrants to Southeast Asia, Australia has attracted Chinese from different parts of Asia. Australia has thus become the microcosm of the Chinese diaspora. For a long period, (long in the context of Australia's short contemporary history), Chinese immigrants to Australia have been largely re-migrants from Southeast Asia. The emergence of Taiwan, initially as a main source of business and entrepreneur migrants, and Mainland China after the Tiananmen Tragedy of 1989, when its nationals were give Australian residence, have seen the resumption of Chinese settlers from Cultural China.
This has given Australia the world's most diverse Chinese community. In contrast, the Chinese populations of the United States, Canada, Britain,, France and other countries has tended to come from fewer sources, and in some of these immigrant-receiving countries, comprise a less diverse range of occupational backgrounds.
When the Australian Bureau of Statistics in its 1986 Census, asked for the first time in history, a question on the ancestry of each Australian resident, the data show that of a total of 185 237 persons aged 5 years and over who, described their main ancestry as 'Chinese', the largest proportion, 21.2% were born in Australia, followed by 15.6% born in Malaysia, 15.4% born in China, and 15% born in Vietnam. This finding was of considerable importance as there has been a tendency among Australians and others to see the Chinese-Australians as primarily an immigrant community. The fact that just over one in five persons of Chinese ancestry in 1986 was born in this country reflected the 150 years of Chinese settlement and the significant numbers of second, third, fourth and fifth-generation Chinese in this country. The composition and sources of people of Chinese descendants has changed in the ten years since 1986. As a result of the post Tiananmen settlement of Mainland Chinese, China has become the largest source of Chinese, a return to the situation of late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
Without the benefit of a more direct ethnicity question, we have to rely on the census question on languages spoken at home to gauge the number of Australian residents of Chinese background. This is likely to under-estimate the number of Chinese as many Chinese from Southeast Asia and elsewhere have adopted the language of their country of birth. However, according to the 1996 Census, there were a total of 344 093 persons aged five years and over who spoke one of the Chinese languages at home. Some 202 475 spoke Cantonese, 92 346 Mandarin, 10 141 Hokkien, 7 179 Hakka, 5 981 Teochew, and 25 971 a variety of other Chinese langauges.
Table 1: Language Spoken at Home, Persons aged 5 years and over, 1996 Census
The arrival of such diverse Chinese language speakers who tend to seek residence in Australia's large urban centres, unlike the Chinese pioneers who were rural residents in gold fields and farms, has propelled Chinese to become the second most commonly spoken language, after English, in Australia's largest city, Sydney. Nationally, the 1996 Census shows Contoneses speakers, numbering 202 475, as the fourth largest language group after English (14.5 million), Italian (375 718) and Greek (269 770).
As a result of further immigrant arrivals from Chinese speaking countries and the growing second generation Chinese-Australians in the three years since the August 1996 Census, I am confident to suggest to that the Chinese languages, at this point in time, have just over taken Italian to become Australia's second largest language group.
It has taken the Chinese community more than 100 years to recover this ground as at the peak of Chinese migration to Victoria or Australia in the 1870s, Chinese or the various variants of Cantonese dialect, must have the most widely heard non-English language in this continent.
As the census statistics do not include children five years or younger, the number of Chinese speakers resident in Australia is like to be close to 400,000. If the number of Chinese immigrants and Australian-born persons of Chinese descent who did not speak Chinese at home were to be included, I estimate that the total number of Australian residents of whole or part Chinese ancestry is probably close to 500,000 at this point in time. The 1996 Census, for example, shows that the size of the second generation, that is persons born in Australia who had one or both parents born in China as 40 163, in Hong Kong as 19 415, in Taiwan as 1 806, in Malaysia as 30 710, in Singapore as 12 353, and in Vietnam as 46 848. The earlier 1986 Census suggests that 60.6% of the Malaysian born were of Chinese ancestry, and the figures for the Singapore-born was 42.7%, Vietnam-born 33.5%, Cambodia-born 40.2%, Indonesia-born 27.4% and Laos-born 17.8% respectively.
Table 2: Birthplace Groups, their Second Generation, and At-home Speakers of Chinese, 1996 Census
Note: Second Generation is defined as Australian-born who have one of both parents born in that country
Ever since the Gold Rush days, the majority of Chinese migrants to Australia have been Cantonese speakers, initially from Guangdong Province, especially the See Yap district. With the relaxation of the White Australia Policy in the mid 1960s, Cantonese speakers have also come from places such as Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur and with the admission of Indochinese refugees in the late 1970s, from Saigon. The emergence of Taiwanese interest in Australia as an migration destination in the late 1 980s and the granting of residence to the estimated 40,000 students from Mainland China, the language profile of the Australia's Chinese population began to diversify. This led to the rise in the number of Mandarin and Hokkien speakers as recorded in the 1996 Census.
Patterns of Residence
The development of linguistic or dialect pluralism within the Chinese community in Australia has been associated with their increasing social and economic diversity. One of the most obvious impacts has been the diversification of Chinese cuisine as restaurants specialising in Taiwanese, northern Chinese and other regional styles of cooking have mushroomed in the Chinatowns of Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane as well as suburban centres of Chinese population.
Pockets of concentration of Mainland, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Malaysian born Chinese have developed in different parts of capital cities. In Melbourne, for example, a substantial Hong Kong Chinese population has developed in Doncaster, which has also attracted a significant number of Taiwanese. The community centre, or club house of the Taiwanese Association is located in Doncaster. An increasingly visible range of community activities has also developed at the shopping precinct of the adjoining Box Hill suburb. In contrast, a large proportion of the Malaysian-born has taken up residence in the adjacent suburbs of Mount and Glen Waverley and Wheelers Hill, near Monash University, where many Malaysian Chinese received their tertiary education. The Mainland Chinese, especially those granted residence after the Tiananmen Tragedy, has tended to concentrate in the poorer north-western suburbs, including Coburg and Brunswick and a number of successful small businesses have been developed by the Mainland Chinese along Sydney Road in Brunswick. Other patterns of residence have formed in other capital cities, the most notable is Sunnybank in Brisbane, where a vibrant Taiwanese business community has taken root.
These Chinese communities in the inner and outer suburbs of major Australian cities provide an interesting contrast to the old 'Chinatowns', also centres of earlier waves of Chinese migrants. In Melbourne and Sydney, the old Chinatowns have now become centres of leisure and entertainment, providing a concentration of generally quality and competitively priced Chinese food, grocery and other services. They have continued to serve as a symbolic centre of Chinese identity through their distinctive architecture, shop signs and other built expressions of Chineseness. Also, major Chinese festivals, including the Lunar New Year, have continued to be celebrated in these centres of Chinese attraction. However, with the spread of Chinese immigrants into the suburbs, rival centres of Chinese business and cultural life have developed. The annual celebration of Lunar New Year at the Box Hill shopping centre and the establishment of a branch of the Mandarin Club in Sydney's northern Chastwood suburb are examples of this dispersal of loci of Chinese life. Such centres have helped to vitalise the social, cultural and business activities of Australian suburbs and provided a variety of services to members of the resident Chinese community within the neighbourhood.
Social and Economic Diversity
The settler's choice of residence is of course influenced by economic factors. The different circumstances of entry of Chinese settlers, reflecting the different economic backgrounds of the groups, have impacted on the pattern of residential distribution. The professional Chinese immigrants from Hong Kong, Malaysia, and Singapore as well as the largely business migrants from Taiwan, for example, have taken up residence in the more expensive suburbs to the east of Melbourne and north of Sydney. In contrast, Chinese from Indochina, who arrived as refugees, and the recent PRC student migrants, have tended to have more limited financial resources and many have taken up residence in the less wealthy suburbs in the west of Sydney and west or north of Melbourne. Subsequent family reunion migration has further expanded the size of sub-groups of Chinese in these areas.
Until the arrival of the Taiwanese and Mainland student migrants, the social and economic profile of Australia's main Chinese communities can be best represented by what sociologists describe as a bipolar distribution. In other words, the Chinese were clustered in two ends of the socio-economic scale, a group with a very high socio-economic status and one with very low socio-economic status.
This is shown by the fact that the most common occupation among people born in Hong Kong, Malaysia, and Singapore was one of the professions, including medicine, dentistry, engineering, accounting, science and education. Almost 40% of the Malaysian-born were professional workers, compared with the figure of 17% for the Australian-born, half that of the Malaysians. In contrast, the proportion of Vietnamese immigrants working as laborers was twice as high as that of the Australian-born. Laboring, factory production, and transport workers represent almost 40% of all Vietnamese immigrant workers.
Table 3: Selected Occupation Groups (%), 1996 Census
Main Occupation Group
Birthplace Manager and Professional Laborers
Hong Kong 6.4 32.0 4.9
Taiwan 16.2 22.1 4.4
China Mainland 6.5 15.1 14.6
Malaysia 7·5 39.3 5.4
Singapore 8.4 30.4 5.0
Vietnam 3.9 11.4 17.5
Australia total 9.3 17.1 8.7
Overseas total 8.3 18.0 10.3
The arrival of the Taiwanese, initially largely as business migrants, has changed this socio-economic profile of Australia's Chinese community considerably. Through their capital, business know-how and network, the Taiwanese migrants have quickly made inroads into small and large businesses. Many have embarked on import and export ventures, others have invested heavily in property and shopping centre developments. The impact of this is seen in the large proportion of Taiwanese working as managers and administrators, often in their own business. This group accounted for 16.2% of Taiwanese immigrant employment, one of the highest concentrations among all birthplace groups in Australia. This achievement is particularly noteworthy as Asian minority communities in Australia, the United States and Canada, have long complained about the 'glass ceiling' that prevents them from reaching senior management positions in government and the corporate world.
This social barrier has been suggested as a cause that pushed able Taiwanese scientists and technologists to return to Taiwan from the Silicon Valley and led to the development of Hsinchu as a leading high-tech innovation and production centre. The remarkable inroad of the Taiwanese-born into managerial and administrative positions, admittedly in companies they have created, has broken the 'glass ceiling'. This break-through has not come from the exertion of Chinese-Australians from below, or government and management directive from above, but from a group of entrepreneurial settlers from outside.
Table 4: Education and English Language Skills, 1996 Census
Highest Qualification English Proficiency
Bachelor Postgraduate Well or Very well
HongKong 36.4 14.8 82
Taiwan 35.0 10.4 68
China 31.8 12.2 53
Malaysia 40.6 11.7 90
Singapore 30.4 10.0 94
Vietnam 29.0 4.7 54
Australia 18.5 6.4 na
Overseas 17.4 6.7 75
Before leaving the Taiwanese immigrant community, I want to take a look at a couple of unexpected features about this new group. Analysis of the 1991 and 1996 censuses has repeatedly confirmed an unusually low rate of labor force participation among the Taiwanese-born (Khoo, Kee, Shu and Dang, 1994). My current analysis of the 1996 Census also shows the group to have a relatively high unemployment rate, at 19.6%, or more than twice the rate for the Australian-born (9%). Although the group is affluent, having arrived mainly as business migrants, an unusually high proportion (37.6%) reported having no income.
These figures may alarm politicians, Department of Immigration officials, and critics of the business migration program, as the Taiwanese-born may be seen as failing to contribute to the work force, and among those who do intend to work, failing to get suitable employment. However, the fact that only 28% of the Taiwanese-born were in the labor force reflects in part the general affluence of the group and possibly the high education participation rate of those aged 15 years and over. Their access to funds transferred to Australia or in Taiwan enables many Taiwanese to opt out of the labor market and pursue a range of leisure activities, including playing golf and fishing. Others have continued to conduct their business activities and investment overseas, including Taiwan, thus producing no income in Australia. A significant proportion is known to commute frequently between Taiwan and Australia. The latter includes the so-called 'astronauts', a common phenomenon among Hong Kong and other Chinese business migrants in Australia, Canada and the United States.
As a relatively new immigrant group, without a background of contact with the British Commonwealth system of government, the Taiwanese settlers in Australia and New Zealand are also disadvantaged by the lack of recognition of Taiwan-based education qualifications and work experience, English language skills, and knowledge of government, business regulations, industrial relations and business cultures. This has encouraged many Taiwanese to choose what is referred to in New Zealand as 'passive investment', namely the purchase of properties and shares, rather than investment in new business ventures leading to new jobs and exports.
The interest in property is borne out by the remarkable level of home ownership among the still relatively new Taiwanese community in Australia. The 1996 Census shows that 73.2 % of the Taiwanese owned their own homes, and those having fully paid for their homes, was as high as 66%, with only 7% still owing a mortgage, compared with 30% of Australian-born home owners who still owed a home loan.
The other new impact on the socio-economic profile of the Chinese community was the Australian Government's granting of residence to the estimated 40,000 Mainland Chinese nationals who arrived for various export of education courses. These young Chinese have remained predominantly isolated to the manufacturing industry and in 1996, 14.6% of them worked as laborers, a situation akin to the Indochinese. However, unlike the refugee Indochinese, the Mainland Chinese are on the whole highly educated, with almost a third possessing bachelor degrees and one in ten with postgraduate qualifications. The group has a relatively low unemployment rate and the level of home ownership is high, given their length of residence and circumstances of arrival.
Despite the relatively high education attainment, the Mainland Chinese share with the Vietnamese, a major difficulty in the English language. Almost half of the Mainland-born did not speak English well or had no proficiency in the language at all. This problem is particularly severe as most of the 40,000 young Mainland Chinese entering Australia in the late 1980s and early 1990s came as English language students. Almost a decade later, the command of English among these former students remains limited. This is due partly to the need among most students to work long hours to repay loans borrowed in China to pay for their trip to Australia, and the need to accumulate sufficient savings to commence a new life here. In this regard, the young Chinese factory workers were like earlier Italian and Greek immigrants who were prevented from learning English by their long hours of manual work.
Table 5: Selected Economic Status Indicators, 1996 Census
Labor Force Status ind. Income Home Ownership Rate
Unem Labor % % Owned Buying Total
ploy force with with nt participation no $1500
rate rate Income or more
HongKong 10 53 22.7 2.2 56.1 17.4 73.5
Taiwan 19.6 28 37.6 0.7 66.1 7.1 73.2
ChinaMainland 13 55 14.5 0.8 37.8 19.7 57.5
Malaysia 8 60 14.0 3.2 45.2 25.7 70.9
Singapore 9 53 17.7 2.6 39.8 24.2 64.0
Vietnam 25.2 58 7.4 0.4 28.7 25.3 54.0
Australia 9 60 6.1 1.8 38.4 30.2 68.6
Overseas 11 53 6.7 1.8 39.3 23.6 62.9
Community and Community Development
The above analysis has highlighted some shared experiences and major contrasts among Australia's diverse and expanding Chinese population. The community's strength has risen and waned over time as each successive wave of new settlers brought with it new challenges and resources.
The Chinatowns of Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Perth and other cities, some with a history dating back to the mid nineteenth century, has always been a symbol of the Chinese presence in this continent. The Chinatowns and many of the community organizations, often located their neighborhood, have served as a unifying force for the different cohorts of Chinese from southern China, the former British colonies, Indochina, Taiwan and the Chinese Mainland. Although these Chinese have entered Australia under dramatically different circumstances, motivated by economic, political, or life style factors, they have been able to draw strength from this important history and the community resource in times of need.
The refugees from Vietnam in the late 1970s, for example, found the facilities and networks of earlier generations of Guangdong immigrants and the resources of professional Chinese immigrants from Hong Kong, Malaysia and Singapore helpful. When the 40,000 Mainland Chinese students campaigned to remain in Australian on humanitarian grounds, they too depended heavily on the wide networks of Chinese community organizations in Sydney and Melbourne to gain support from the then Labor Government. More recently, Taiwanese immigrants have also cooperated with other Chinese groups in community development and wider public affairs, including campaigns against racism.
Despite this sharing of resource and interaction, the diverse groups have also maintained their own identity and responded actively to issues of special concern to their particular group. In Melbourne, the Chinese Association of Australia, for example, comprises mostly professional Chinese from Malaysia, and to a lesser extent Singapore and Hong Kong, and has among its main aims Chinese culture maintenance, including learning of Chinese language by their children. These professional Chinese from the three former British colonies, Malaysia, Singapore and Hong Kong and have on the whole been greatly integrated with the wider Australian society.
The Chinese from Indochina, especially Vietnam, have continued to interact closely with other members of their birthplace group. The Chinese-Vietnamese, -Cambodian and -Lao have also been greatly integrated with the indigenous cultures of Vietnam, Cambodia and Lao respectively and the shared suffering of war and dislocation have provide a common purpose among these groups. This situation is also true of smaller groups of Chinese from Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand and East Timor as their minority status in these countries has eroded aspects of their Chinese identity. The loss of Chinese language is often a common outcome of this migratory experience.
The stories of the two newest groups of Chinese settlers, the Taiwanese and Mainland Chinese, are still unfolding. Until the Australian Government's decision to grant them residence, the former Mainland students had chosen to project themselves as victims of political persecution in the Mainland. Many groups that were formed to campaign for their stay in Australia developed links with various democracy movement groups, mostly based in the United States, to campaign against the Beijing Government. Much of this political activism has now subsided as the now resident Mainland Chinese become preoccupied with their own livelihood and plans to bring family members to Australia. The more entrepreneurial of the Chinese have actively sought trading and investment opportunities in the Mainland. A number have become quite successful through their family and other highly placed quanxi in the Mainland. This development, some may say, makes mockery of the earlier claims that the former students would be persecuted if they were to return to China.
If one were to consider this group of former students from the Mainland as an extension of the earlier See Yap and other southern Chinese migration to Australia, then the Taiwanese who initially arrived as business migrants must be viewed as a unique group of Chinese settlers in Australia. The group's emigration to Australia and New Zealand is unprecedented, as people from Taiwan had in the past been interested mainly in the United States. Unlike the other groups of Chinese from the Mainland and Southeast Asia, the Taiwanese community has kept particularly close ties with the economy and politics of Taiwan. However, through their wealth and knowledge, members of the community have taken an early and active interest in Australian state and federal politics. The rise of Ms Pauline Hanson and subsequently her One Nation Party in Queensland, where the majority of Taiwanese settlers now choose to reside, has allowed the Taiwanese business community in Brisbane to exercise their political muscles through the denial of funding and other support to the Liberal-National Coalition. This inroad into Australian politics is a welcomed development, as unlike other Chinese and Asian immigrant communities, the Taiwanese have taken a particular strong interest in political events in their former homeland.
In a book I and a colleague, Professor Laksiri Jayasuriya, have completed on the myths of 'Asianisation' (Jayasuriya & Kee, 1999), we observed that the Asian Australian communities in general have avoided 'identity politics' common among European communities such as the Irish' Greeks, Croats, and Serbians. Instead, most Asian Australian communities have directed their attention and energy to fighting discrimination and gaining access to mainstream Australian society and economy. In the Taiwanese community, we are seeing signs of an interest in socio-political and economic events in the old homeland and new homeland. The ability of the group to suitably manage these two interests and how the passage of time may affect their identification with Australia and attachment to Taiwan will be worth watching.
In conclusion, I would like to note again that the last three years of the rise and spread of intolerance as championed by Pauline Hanson has galvanised Australia's diverse Chinese and other minority groups. The defeat of Ms Hanson shows the strength of Australia as an open and democratic society. One of the most important outcomes of this aberration has been the growing realization among Chinese Australians of the need to participate in the democratic political process. In this, Australia's new and old Chinese communities, through their diversity and varied resources, have much to offer to Australians of all birthplace and cultural backgrounds.
Jayasuriya, L and Kee, Pookong (1999), The Wattle and Bamboo: Myth of Asianisation', Melbourne University Press, Melbourne, forthcoming.
Kee, Pookong (1988), The Chinese in Australia: Construction of a Socio-Economic Profile, Office of Multicultural Affairs, Canberra.
Kee, Pookong (1995), The New Nanyang: Contemporary Chinese Populations in Australia, In Ong, J H, Chan, K B, & Chew S B (Eds), Cross Borders: Transmigration in Asia Pacific, Prentice Hall - Simon & Schuster (Asia) Pty Ltd, Singapore.
Kee Pookong (1997), The Growth and Diversification of Australia's Chinese
Community, Julie Hsia Chang, Kee Pokong and James Chang (Eds), Chinese Cultures
in the Diaspora: Emerging Global Perspectives on the Centre andPeripheiy, National
Endowment for Culture and Arts.
Khoo, Siew-Ean, Kee, P., Dang, T & Shu, J (1994), 'Asian Immigrant Settlement and
Adjustment n Australia', In Asian Pacific Migration Journal, Vol.3, No.2-3, pp339-
Wang, Gungwu (1994), Upgrading the Migrant: Neither Huaqiao nor Huaren, Keynote Address, Second International Conference of the International Society for the Study of the Chinese Overseas, University of Hong Kong, December 1994.
Authors: Andrew Trlin and Anne Henderson
Changes to New Zealand’s immigration policy in 1991 signalled a radical shift from a policy that functioned as a labour market tool to one focused on the recruitment of human capital (i.e. well educated, skilled migrants, preferably with investment funds) required for the nation’s economic and social development (Trlin, 1997). An important implicit assumption of this policy was that the migrants sought and approved for settlement would be flexible, adaptable, resourceful and innovative; in other words, well able to adjust to the challenges and opportunities of a new social and economic environment. One of the strongest criticisms levelled against the new policy in subsequent years, however, concerned the apparent unemployment and other associated problems among the new arrivals, especially those from Asia. Results from the 1996 Census confirmed what the critics had claimed and the media had publicised; unemployment among recent East Asian immigrants of both sexes aged 20-49 years was a significant problem. About 33% of new migrants from the People’s Republic of China, almost 30% of the Taiwanese, nearly 25% of the Koreans and around 17-18% of those from Hong Kong reported that they were unemployed and actively seeking work (Ho et al., 1997: 14-15).
Although the waste of human resources was reason enough for concern and the eventual amendment of immigration policy in 1995 (see Trlin, 1997), public opinion and attitudes were negatively affected by a number of other factors (see Trlin et al., 1998a). Among these was the phenomenon of ‘astronaut’ migrants, individuals who were perceived to leave family members to take advantage of the benefits of New Zealand life while they maintained business activities or employment in the ‘home’ country. What was not fully realised prior to 1995, however, was that the ‘astronaut’ phenomenon was increasingly an ‘involuntary’ response (Boyer, 1996: 73) to the problem of finding employment or establishing a business (see also Lidgard, 1996: 33; Friesen and Ip, 1997; Ho, Bedford and Goodwin, 1997). Moreover, it was a phenomenon that could easily exacerbate the other social and psychological effects of both unemployment and the general process of resettlement.
Aims and Method
Some of these other effects of unemployment, though recognised, have been given only cursory attention by researchers interested in the resettlement experience of skilled immigrants in the 1990s. Accordingly, the aim of this paper is to present preliminary findings on some of the effects and implications of unemployment among 36 recent immigrants from the People’s Republic of China (PRC). Apart from 7 who applied for residence and were approved under the previous (pre-October 1995) General Category (GC) policy, the remaining 29 were all principal applicants who applied for entry and were approved under the revised General Skills Category (GSC) points system introduced in October 1995. Drawing on data collected via personal in-depth interviews as part of the first round of a prospective longitudinal study, attention is focused on the effects of unemployment (consequences or responses) in four main areas: accommodation; return to study; relationships and social participation; and mental well-being.
By focusing upon the experience of GC/GSC migrants, the longitudinal study grapples with the assumption that rigorous selection criteria either mute or obviate the need for comprehensive post-arrival policies. As part of the New Settlers Programme (NSP), the longitudinal study, and more specifically this paper, will contribute to the attainment of three broad, interrelated outcomes:
A general introduction to the NSP - its rationale, design, projected activities - is provided in Trlin et al. (1998b).
A Profile of the Participants
All 36 participants took up residence in New Zealand between August 1997 and June 1998 and were interviewed over the period May-August 1998. At the time of the interview, 31 were resident in the Auckland area with the remainder in Wellington (2) and Palmerston North (3), though the latter had initially resided in either Auckland or Wellington. Comprising a panel that will be re-interviewed in May-June 1999 and 2000 (thereafter subject to funding), the participants were either self-selected or recruited through a process of networking with other migrants or personal contacts with organisations in the wider community. Nevertheless, the panel members are believed to quite adequately represent the ‘mainland’ Chinese GC/GSC principal applicants known to have taken up residence during the period specified.
As a group, the participants in most cases had their GSC applications approved in 1997-1998 (27 out of 36), took up residence within approximately six months of the date of approval (21) and were typically accompanied by a partner and one child (19). Only 5 were single migrants and 8 of the remainder were not accompanied by one or more persons included in their original application. Predominantly males (24), aged 30-39 years when interviewed (33), they are a very well qualified group with the majority holding either a bachelor’s degree (20) or a postgraduate qualification (14). In most cases this qualification is from an institution in China (33) and the main area of study was engineering (20). With regard to English language use before coming to New Zealand, almost half of the participants reported its use either ‘every day’ or ‘most days’ at work, but it was less frequently used for study and, in the majority of cases (61-69 percent), ‘rarely’ or ‘never’ used at home or socially. With two exceptions, those seeking entry under the revised GSC points system introduced in October 1995 had to meet the IELTS Band 5 English language requirement (see Henderson et al., 1998). Overall, the features identified in this profile reflect clearly the human capital recruitment criteria and requirements specified for the GSC points system as part of New Zealand’s immigration policy (see Trlin, 1997).
For the purposes of this paper the independent variable is employment status. To facilitate data analysis and interpretation, therefore, the participants have been classified as either employed (7), unemployed and seeking work (15) or unemployed and not looking for work (14). In terms of participant background characteristics, there were some small but possibly pertinent differences between the three categories. For example, the employed were marginally more likely to have had contacts (usually friends) in New Zealand before taking up permanent residence. They were also less likely to have felt a need for information about job prospects, but those that did (unlike the unemployed participants) were completely successful in getting some information and finding it helpful.
In relation to relevant contemporary features of the three employment status categories, 4 of the 7 employed were working full-time and only 3 of these and 1 in part-time employment were in jobs the same as those prior to migration. Two already held more than one job and 2 others were seeking an additional job. Only 8 of the 15 unemployed seeking work had received any help to find a job and of these 5 commented unfavourably on the New Zealand Employment Service. There was only one case (a principal applicant who was unemployed and not looking for work) where a partner in New Zealand of any of the 36 participants was employed, while 7 others were seeking employment and the remainder were identified as either students or engaged in home duties. Significantly, there were 8 cases, all among the unemployed participants, where a partner was usually living or working overseas.
The Effects of Unemployment
With the above background details in mind, we turn now to the effects of unemployment. The order in which these are addressed is not meant to indicate their importance. Rather the sequence is loosely related to the order in which they are likely to be manifested as issues in the resettlement process, especially among immigrants whose experiences have been limited by a relatively short duration of residence. It should be noted also that the effects are referred to as consequences and/or responses in recognition of those situations where the outcomes reflect the conscious, voluntary choices or actions of individuals. In other words, the effects, depending on the viewpoint adopted, may in some cases be perceived as either negative or positive.
The quality and type of accommodation or housing has long been recognised as an indicator of socio-economic status (including employment status) and as a determinant of familial and individual well-being. It is surprising, therefore, that the topic has been ignored or overlooked in recent research (see, for example, Boyer, 1996; Lidgard, 1996; Friesen and Ip, 1997). It is a matter of immediate practical interest to new arrivals, especially if accompanied by dependants, and is examined here with respect to ownership, sharing of accommodation, satisfaction and future plans (Table 1).
As expected almost all (92 percent) of the participants were renting accommodation, irrespective of employment status. A similar pattern was found in the two other groups (Indians and South Africans) included in the NSP longitudinal survey and is related to both duration of residence and the availability of housing finance. New arrivals with the necessary resources often take up ‘temporary’ rented accommodation until a suitable property is located for purchase. Those without the necessary finance (almost all of the Chinese group) and without a job, however, not only face the prospect of relying on rented accommodation for an indefinite period but may also need to accept accommodation and/or accommodation arrangements of a lower quality than they had before in order to make ends meet.
A possible example of reduced quality is the sharing of accommodation with persons other than immediate family members. Before coming to New Zealand, only 19.5 percent of the participants shared accommodation (some of these with relations) as compared with 61 percent at the time of being interviewed (Table 1, Q2 and Q3). This change applied to all three employment status categories but it was: (a) not as great among the unemployed not currently looking for work; and (b) most marked among the employed, though here it was a response by those participants with part-time jobs. When the situation of individuals before and after migration was compared, it was found that 16 of the 29 who had not previously shared accommodation were now sharing and that in only 1 case had a participant experienced an ‘improvement’ by moving from a situation of shared to non-shared accommodation. Finally, it may be noted that the number of ‘others’ (i.e. not immediate family) in shared accommodation ranged from 1 to 9 with a mean of 3.8.
It may of course be argued that we should take a positive rather than a negative view on the matter. It is therefore acknowledged that sharing can reduce accommodation costs and help raise or maintain living standards (e.g. the ‘extra’ money may allow the purchase of additional clothing and health care or facilitate access to higher quality housing). It may also be a source of support and comfort from ‘friends’ during the early stages of resettlement, especially in the case of those on their own (i.e. single migrants or those separated from family members) who accounted for half of all participants sharing accommodation when interviewed. Perhaps it was for reasons such as these that 23 participants (64 percent) declared themselves to be satisfied with their present accommodation (Table 1, Q4). It will be interesting to see if this satisfaction is sustained over time or if an intention to change their type of accommodation or move to another address, expressed by 11 (38 percent) of the unemployed (Table 1, Q5), is acted on before the next round of the longitudinal study.
2. Return to Study
A return to study has been noted by previous researchers but the attention given to this phenomenon has fallen well short of the scrutiny accorded topics such as the ‘astronauts’ or return migration. It is typically interpreted and presented as a strategy to up-skill and/or gain a host-country qualification that will be helpful in the process of job hunting and career advancement by both the under-employed and unemployed (see Lidgard, 1996: 32-34; Friesen and Ip, 1997: 8). But is there more to this than meets the eye? How widespread is the phenomenon and what types of study are being pursued?
The first discovery was that 16 participants (44.4 percent), 13 of them unemployed, had enrolled in an English language course since their arrival (Table 2, Q1) and 10 (9 unemployed) were still taking the course when interviewed. Four others (11 percent), 3 of them unemployed, signalled their intention to enrol in such a course (Table 2, Q2). This finding could easily be explained as the response of job seekers (including part-time workers) attempting to overcome a possible obstacle - namely, their non-English speaking background. If so, it raises a query concerning the efficacy of the GSC policy IELTS Band 5 English language requirement introduced to expedite entry into the labour force.
Another explanation, involuntary enrolment because of a misguided bureaucratic requirement, is illustrated by the experience of a couple from Beijing. Unable to find work they went to the New Zealand Employment Service and on to Income Support to apply for what little assistance was available to new skilled arrivals. They found they were eligible for an allowance, but to receive it they had to attend a ten-week ESOL course offered by a local tertiary educational institution. Unfortunately, while it could have been worthwhile, the course was not tailored to met their rather different individual needs. The principal applicant had scored an overall IELTS Band Score of 7 but wanted practice in more academic English in preparation for further study, while her husband had failed to meet the IELTS Band 5 requirement and was subject to a $20,000 bond all of which he would forfeit if he failed to reach the required standard within one year. They were placed together in a class of 16 with many of their fellow students unable to speak any English at all.
Aside from English language courses, 13 participants (36 percent), of whom 11 were unemployed, were taking other courses (Table 2, Q3), usually at a university and in a field related to their previous qualification (Table 2, Q4). Of those not already taking such courses, 15 out of 23 (65 percent), of whom 13 were unemployed, indicated that they intended to do so (Table 2, Q5). A small but interesting difference between the two unemployed groups was evident here, a difference that suggests a variation in commitment to study. A higher proportion of those ‘unemployed and not seeking work’ had not only returned to study but to study in a field related to their previous qualification, perhaps because a Chinese qualification (notably in engineering) was not gaining the recognition it deserved from employers. In such cases, for those committed to gaining employment in their chosen professional field, the completion of study for a New Zealand qualification would presumably take precedence over alternative employment. Overall, these findings (i.e. Table 2, Q3-5) come closest to the stereotypical response of new arrivals seeking to improve their labour market prospects via a New Zealand qualification and/or up-skilling in their professional field. It should not be forgotten, however, that with a return to full-time study the unemployed new settler was eligible for a student allowance - one of the very few sources of support available, and one that will not be available in 1999 to any immigrant resident for less than two years.
3. Relationships and Social Participation
The direct and indirect effects of unemployment upon relationships and social participation are wide-ranging. They include: restricted opportunities for contact with New Zealanders and the development of new relationships; the effect within families of the general stresses of unemployment; the effect of separation in ‘astronaut’ families on the relationship between partners and of parents with children; and a possible financial barrier to membership of various groups and social organisations. Such effects have at least been acknowledged by other researchers (see Boyer, 1996: 74-75; Lidgard, 1996: 33; Friesen and Ip, 1997: 13) if not examined because ‘…it was felt that many respondents might find them too intimidating’ (Boyer, 1996: 73).
There were 8 cases among the 31 married (26 percent) participants where the partner was residing or usually residing overseas (7 in China, 1 in the United States) at the time of the interview. Of these, 4 were cases where separation stemmed from the IELTS 5-or-bond language requirement and of the rest only 1 or 2 appeared to fit the ‘astronaut’ profile in relation to unemployment. A classic case was that of a participant whose husband (holding a Masters degree in mechanical engineering) had returned to work in China because they didn’t want a situation where they were both unemployed. Given the short duration of residence for the group as a whole, it seems likely that continued unemployment will lead to either an increase in the number of separations with ‘astronaut’ partners and/or to return migration.
Since their arrival in New Zealand only 8 of the participants (22 percent) had joined any clubs or social organisations (Table 3, Q1).To put this into perspective it should be noted that while reported membership prior to migration was certainly higher (41.7 percent) it was not universal, and when asked if they had intended to join any clubs or other social organisations in New Zealand only 19 (52.8 percent) replied in the affirmative. ‘Joining up’ in New Zealand would of course be affected by their recent arrival, the priority given to finding a job or improving one’s qualifications, the availability of information or contacts, possibly the costs involved in the case of the unemployed and (reflecting their cultural background) the perceived value of membership. Indeed, the two most important reasons cited by those who had not joined were the fact that they had just arrived (hence other priorities/responsibilities) and/or that they were looking for information. It will be interesting to see, therefore, if the situation has changed when the second round of interviewing for the longitudinal study takes place.
Irrespective of employment status, a low level of club/organisation membership appears to have had no effect upon the perceived opportunity to establish new friendships; 29 (80.5 percent) reported that they felt they had the opportunity and had made new friends (Table 3, Q2). That said, it is also clear that the unemployed, as compared with the employed, were more likely to find these friends from within their own ethnic group (Table 3, Q3) and to report that they had experienced difficulties in developing friendships with ‘Kiwi’ New Zealanders (Table 3, Q4). This suggests that both club/organisation membership (reported by 3 of the 7 employed) and employment facilitate social contact and interaction with ‘outsiders’ (for example, perhaps the unemployed, ‘pushed’ into sharing accommodation, will frequently share accommodation with other new Chinese settlers). Finally, 6 of the 7 employed indicated that since their arrival they had had the opportunity to develop personal relationships with work associates, and in 5 cases to meet socially with these new associates who were usually not Chinese.
4. Mental Well-being
Perhaps because of New Zealand’s past successes with a policy of full employment, the detrimental effect of unemployment on health, well established in overseas research, has been slow to gain recognition and attention (see Bethwaite et al., 1990). It is not surprising therefore that almost no serious attention has been given to the topic in relation to New Zealand’s recent immigrants (see Pernice and Brook, 1996a), though a project is now underway in Auckland (see Young, 1998). The most that one commonly finds in the literature are passing references to such symptoms as frustration, unhappiness or depression, and a loss of confidence and self-esteem.
The longitudinal study provides us with an opportunity to investigate the topic and to track changes over time. The method used is a relatively simple 12-item, General Health Questionnaire (GHQ-12) that has been found to be valid for research on the unemployed in New Zealand (see Pernice, 1992). A summary of the responses obtained (combining the ‘unemployed, looking for work’ and ‘unemployed, not looking for work’ categories) is presented in Table 4. It should be noted that the order of the items in this table does not comply with their order in the GHQ-12; they have been reordered here to ease presentation of the results.
Two main features may be identified in Table 4. First, for 9 of the 12 items a clear majority (20 or more) of the unemployed participants reported either no change or a small measure of improvement in their well-being. This feature was strongest in the
perceived ability to overcome difficulties, face up to problems, make decisions, to concentrate and their rejection of the ‘worthless person’ self-concept. Second, where adverse changes have been reported they are typically classed as moderate rather than severe. Notable examples of such changes are a feeling of unhappiness or depression, a perceived reduction in ability to enjoy daily activities and a reduced sense of useful participation.
A drawback of the summary provided in Table 4 is that the aggregation of responses conceals the situation of individuals - especially those who report adverse changes for all or a majority of the items listed. To overcome this drawback, a well-being score was produced for each of the 36 participants via the following procedure: (a) an individual’s response for each of the 12 items was scored in a range from +1 (Not at all/More so than usual) to -2 (Much more/less than usual) with a score of ‘0’ for ‘No more than/same as usual’; and (b) the sum of each individual’s scores for the 12 items was then calculated. The results of this exercise for individuals in each of the three employment status categories, together with a mean score for each category, are presented in Table 5.
While confirming a feature of Table 4, Table 5 also yielded a surprise. Bearing in mind that with the scoring system employed the hypothetical range is +12 to -24, it was found that: (a) the actual scores for all participants fell within the substantially narrower range of +6 to -10; and (b) 21 (58.3 percent) had scores within the range +3 to -3. In other words, Table 5 confirms that overall most of these new settlers reported experiencing little or no change in their mental well-being. This is not to say, however, that the issue of mental well-being can be dismissed as a matter of little or no importance. The 4 participants (11 percent) with scores in the range -7 to -10 (3 of whom were unemployed and looking for work) are themselves worthy of closer attention, but it should also be remembered that the group as a whole consists of new settlers most of whom had been resident in New Zealand for a period of 6 months or less prior to their interview. This short duration of residence may prove to be significant. Most researchers examining migrant mental health in relation to the duration of residence, support an initial euphoric period (of about 6 months according to Sluzki, 1986) that is followed by a mental health crisis (see Pernice and Brook, 1996b: 18-19).
The surprise concerned: (a) the lack of a marked difference between the employed and all of the unemployed (mean scores of -0.57 and -0.24, respectively); (b) the difference between the two groups of unemployed participants, in terms of their respective means and score distributions; and (c ) the generally positive well-being of the unemployed not looking for work as compared with the employed (see Table 5). There are any number of possible reasons for the differences noted - among them the lumping together of part-time and full-time workers in the employed category, the fact that among those not seeking employment a higher proportion are sharing accommodation, are satisfied with their accommodation and have returned to study, etc. Although the task is beyond the scope of this paper, it is acknowledged that there is a need for further analysis of the data to identify and assess the importance of both the determinants and intervening variables that influence the mental well-being of these skilled, well educated new settlers.
Conclusions and Implications
The aim of this paper was to present preliminary findings on some of the effects and implications of unemployment among 36 recent immigrants from the People’s Republic of China. Attention was focused on four main areas: accommodation; return to study; relationships and social participation; and mental well-being. The key findings may be summarised as follows:
Taken at face value, these findings suggest that unemployment has produced or is associated with some adverse effects. Nevertheless, it must be acknowledged that:
Bearing in mind the qualifying points listed above, there are still a number of policy implications that warrant attention. In relation to immigration policy, it should be a matter of concern that a programme for the recruitment of human capital is failing to ensure a much higher level of immediate entry into the work force. More specifically, in relation to the GSC points system criteria and requirements implemented in October 1995 (see New Zealand immigration Service, 1995; Trlin, 1997), questions such as the following arise.
If the answer to these questions is in the affirmative, it must be clearly understood that the outcome would be a substantive return to: (a) the pre-1991 regulation of immigration in relation to labour force vacancies; and (b) a de facto preference for migrants who were either from New Zealand’s traditional source countries, as per the category for occupational immigration prior to 1986, or who were at least more like the majority of New Zealanders but better qualified (see Trlin, 1986, 1992 and 1997).
If, on the other hand, the answer to the above questions is not in the affirmative the issue then is to determine what else can be done. If it is not acceptable (ideologically or in more pragmatic terms) to ‘turn the clock back’ or to tolerate a continuing waste of human capital that may be damaging to New Zealand’s immigration policy, economy and external relations, an obvious course of action is:
The solution offered here has been defined and more fully described elsewhere as the development of a balanced, well integrated institutional structure of immigration (see Trlin, 1993). Regrettably, as illustrated by the announcement that from 1999 any immigrant resident for less than two years will not be eligible for a student allowance, it appears to be a solution shunned by contemporary decision makers. If so, the problem and the adverse effects of unemployment and other difficulties experienced by new arrivals can be expected to continue, the nation’s immigration policy for human capital recruitment will continue to be handicapped and the many benefits that ought to accrue from that policy will continue to elude us.
The New Settlers Programme (NSP) is supported by the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology with a grant from the Public Good Science Fund. The authors acknowledge also the contribution made to the development of the longitudinal questionnaire by Dr Regina Pernice and Dr Nicola North as members of the NSP research team at Massey University, Palmerston North.
|Last Updated ( Tuesday, 31 July 2007 )|
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