Home > Labour Market, Unemployment > New Zealand Workforce Participation Rates 1996 – 2016

New Zealand Workforce Participation Rates 1996 – 2016

The participation rate is defined as the proportion of the working age population who are in the labour force. Individuals who are out of the labour force fall into one of a number of categories. They include those who go to school beyond the compulsory school age, retired people whether or not they are of retirement age, and people who are not willing to work in the marketplace because, for instance, they are raising a family. This suggests that participation rates will be low for the age group 15 – 24 years because of higher education, for those aged 55 – 64 because many of them will take early retirement, and for females because more women stay at home to raise children than men.

NZ Labour Market

However if you look at the data from 1996 – 2016 (see table below) there have been some significant changes which were addressed by Brian Gaynor in the New Zealand Herald last Saturday (21st May 2016).

  • Those aged over 65 years in employment increased dramatically from 23,800 to 139,0900
  • Those aged between 15 to 24 years of age increased only from 324,200 to 347,700.

Brian Gaynor identified three major workplace changes in recent decades:

  1. an ageing society as post-WWII baby boomers reach their sixties;
  2. the transformation of the New Zealand economy from one based on manufacturing and manual labour, to a service and white collar based workforce; and
  3. the huge increase in female workforce participation.

The transformation of the New Zealand economy from one based on manufacturing and manual labour, to a service and white collar based workforce; and the huge increase in female workforce participation.

NZ Participation rates

This economic transformation has benefited older workers and females.

  • 26 per cent of manufacturing workers are women
  • 45 per cent of female workers represent the professional and administrative support services workforce,
  • 82 per cent of healthcare and social assistance workers and
  • 59 per cent of retail employees.

Since 1996 has been the increase in the female participation rate, from:

  • 56.1 per cent to 63.6 per cent,
  • The male participation rate has remained steady at just over 74 per cent.

As with the rest of the world, individuals in New Zealand in the 15 to 24 age group are struggling to find work because of their lack of skills and /or qualifications. Statistics below:

Unemployment % 15 to 24 age group

  • New Zealand – 14.6%
  • Greece – 50%
  • Spain – 45.5%
  • Italy – 36.7%
  • Portugal – 30.7%
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  1. May 25, 2016 at 9:07 am

    As always a very informative post. My only suggestion would be to broaden the range of international comparators at the bottom: the ‘PIIGS’ economies are unusually bad for youth unemployment, and it might help to give some middle of the road examples as well

  2. May 25, 2016 at 4:13 pm

    Thanks Donal – good idea.

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