The final report from the Pacific Pay Gap inquiry has been released this morning, showing vast inequality for Pasifika workers.
It found employers have prejudice against Pacific names, an undervaluing of qualifications held by Pasifika people, and a lack of pay transparency.
The report revealed Pasifika men, on average are paid nearly 19 percent less than a Pākehā male, and Pasifika women are paid 25 percent less.
The report recommends urgent legislation requiring pay transparency, raising of the minimum wage to the living wage, and the expansion of the equal pay act to include ethnicity and disability.
Equal Employment Opportunities commissioner Saunoamaali'i Karanina Sumeo told Morning Report targets and investment were needed to reduce pay gaps for minority groups.
Sumeo said without targets and investment, pay equality remained optional.
"The gap is really really significant and it becomes transferred to the next generation if we don't halt it, it also accumulates over years in terms of your savings and retirement," she said.
The report set a target of closing the pay equity gap by 2042.
This was a "realistic" target, Sumeo said.
"The reality is if you look at the gender pay gap we've had the Equal Pay Act since 1972 and we still don't have equal pay so you know we're trying to be realistic here."
She said Pasifika workers brought specific skills to their jobs that were often valued but not remunerated, these included cultural competency, use of Pacific languages and the ability to relate to others.
"Those are counted on as positives but they're not necessarily remunerated for and it's also a similar story to what we hear from Māori and our other ethnic communities."
She said if the country wanted to achieve equity, racism and discrimination has to be addressed and eliminated.
"They've put their hands up for promotion or to move so they can improve their income and [it's] somehow still not good enough and so the only thing they can put it down to is bias because they've proven their worth, they've got the qualifications.
"Often they've been in these businesses for years and still not good enough so what else are they supposed to do?"
She said no one wanted to be dependent on the state but many Pasifika people currently have few other options.
"In order to prevent that you need to pay people fairly and recognise their skills through their working life."