28 November 2019

State Services Commissioner Peter Hughes has published the 2019 ‘Workforce Data’, which shows a trend towards a younger and more diverse public service workforce.

The data provides a snapshot of trends in the public service workforce. The information is collected from staff payroll data in all 34 Public Service departments at 30 June. It includes staff numbers, age, gender, ethnicity, occupation, salaries, sick leave and gender pay gaps.

The State Services Commission has collected this data since 2000. The information is used to help drive capability in the public service. High quality workforce information is important for public service agencies to be able to recruit, develop and deploy the people they need, and to help address workforce pressure points and issues.

This year’s data shows a trend towards a younger and more ethnically diverse public service. It also shows more women continue to occupy senior leadership roles and the gender pay gap closed substantially in the last year. 

Highlights from the 2019 data:

  • Generational shift: The average age in the public service is trending downwards. It is now 44.4 years, after peaking at 44.8 years in 2015/16. Public servants under the age of 35 now make up 28% of the workforce, compared with 24% in 2012. Census figures show public servants over time are becoming more qualified, holding a degree or higher qualification.  
  • More diverse: Diversity in the public service is increasing. New recruits are generally younger and more ethnically diverse than the existing public service workforce. Māori (15.5%) and Pacific (9.2%) representation in the public service workforce is higher than the overall New Zealand labour force (12.6% and 6.3% respectively in the year to June 2019). Asian representation is now 11.1%, up from 10.1% last year.
  • More women leaders: The number of women in senior management roles continues to increase, now at 49.6% - up from 48.8% last year and 37.8% in 2009. Of the 34 public service chief executives, at 30 September 2019, 17 (50%) were women. This is up from 44% in 2018 and 30% in 2014. More women chief executives also now occupy larger roles. The average job size for women chief executives has increased by 16% between 2016 and 2019. The job size gap with their male colleagues is now 1%, down from a 27% gap in 2016.
  • Fairer pay for women: The gender pay gap in the public service as at 30 June 2019 was 10.5%, a substantial decrease from last year's gap of 12.2%. This is the lowest gender pay gap in the Public Service since measurement began in 2000.
  • Focus on ethnic pay gaps: Ethnic pay gaps have started to move in the right direction. The Māori pay gap has fallen from 11.2% in 2018 to 9.9% in 2019. The Pacific pay gap has fallen from 21.6% to 20.1%.  The Asian pay gap fell slightly, from 12.6% to 12.5%. This slower rate of decline may have been because of the large increase in Asian representation and new recruits tend to have lower pay.
  • Investing in the public service: The number of full-time equivalent employees in the public service increased by 2898 (5.8%) to 52,628 in the last year. This reflects strong population growth and a corresponding increase in demand for services. Between the 2013 and 2018 Census counts, New Zealand’s population increased by nearly half a million. The 11% increase was the biggest increase since the 1966 Census.
  • Remuneration: The average annual salary in the public service in 2019 was $81,300, up from $77,900 last year.
  • Sick leave: Public servants taking sick or domestic leave decreased for the third consecutive year, down to an average 7.8 days, against 8.2 days last year and 8.4 in 2017.

“We have made significant progress on closing the gender pay gap and we now have more women in leadership roles than ever before,” said Mr Hughes.

“Our challenge now is to maintain the momentum we’ve started.”

While ethnic diversity in the public service is growing, Mr Hughes is concerned that progress is too slow.

“I’ve always said it’s important the public service reflects the communities it serves,” he said.

“We need to step up efforts to close the ethnic pay gap and the shortage of Māori, Pacific and Asian ethnicities in leadership and management roles. I want to see faster progress in these areas, as we have done with the gender pay gap and women in leadership roles.” 

The increase in the size of the public service reflects the strongest population growth New Zealand has seen since the 1966 Census. Between the 2013 and 2018 Census counts, New Zealand’s population grew by nearly half a million people and that has meant an increase in demand for services.

“The other significant factor is the work the public service is doing around designing and supporting digital services,” said Mr Hughes. “Of all the occupation groups, the largest increase was ‘information professionals’, which went up by 714, or 12.4%.

“The Government has also made it clear it wants to invest more in the public service and reduce the reliance over time on contractors and consultants and it’s my expectation that chief executives will manage this.” 

The data is available online as a fully interactive information portal with data stretching back to the year 2000. This means users can filter and customise the information based on their interests and clearly see trends over time. 


Media queries: Grahame Armstrong 021 940 457 or grahame.armstrong@publicservice.govt.nz