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Fretful Sleepers and Other Essays


It was possible for the 1939 conference to deplore the movement to cities and for I. L. G. Sutherland in 1935 to see no future for the race but a life based on the land. Now it is recognized that for a good proportion migration is inevitable. The 1956 census showed 30.7 per cent of male Maoris employed in 'agriculture, forestry, hunting and fishing', and 54.4 per cent in manufacturing, construction, transport, storage and communication. The latter proportion is likely to increase. The high proportion of juveniles means, as Borrie has said, that for every person for whom employment had to be found in the past, there will be more than two in the future. Finding a job is the first concern of the Maori who comes to a town, and the Auckland conference suggested the appointment of special placement officers and that the Department of Maori Affairs should set up a Labour Bureau. Most migrants go into unskilled labour, often seasonal; and those who come to the cities often shop around from job to job before they settle. Insufficient education and unfamiliarity with the range of employment keeps many Maoris of high intelligence in jobs that pakehas of the same intelligence would not be doing. One might expect this to lead employers to prefer Maoris as employees, but not many have woken up to it. Many employers are reluctant, fearing absenteeism, laziness, stupidity and difficulties of understanding. Girls find it hard to get any work except in factories, laundries, restaurants and hospitals: shopkeepers and banks often turn them down. At Whakatane it was said that in one South Auckland company town the company discriminated against Maoris; but I am told that since a take-over, the new direction actually prefers Maoris (as freezing-works do) because they are often stronger, develop physical skills quicker, are more confident with machinery, and, it is probable, are less conscious of union awards than pakehas, less suspicious of the management. The last can lead to occasional tension with non-Maori unionists. (The Maori ideal work-pattern is one of vigorous, efficient, co-operative team work for a purpose: and the Latter Day Saints were able to harness this in building the Temple and College at Tuhikaramea on subsistence labour.) Few lads are attracted to apprenticeships except, it was said at Gisborne, in the motor-trade, though a carpentry training-school in Auckland has been a success, and another has just opened in page 111 Christchurch. The reason for this is not only insufficient education— Maoris are quick to pick up skills in handling materials—it is that living away from home, a youth cannot support himself on apprentice's wages, without subsidy from home, and that is usually not possible. The high proportion of Maoris in unskilled labour makes them vulnerable to any economic depression: queues for jobs would be mostly Maoris, and racial friction among the workless would be almost certain.