07 December 2021

Public Service Commissioner Peter Hughes has published the 2021 ‘Workforce Data’, which includes information collected in the inaugural Te taunaki e anga whakamua ai te Ratonga Tūmatanui | 2021 Public Service Census.

Together, the data provides important insights into the composition of the Public Service.  Bringing the information together in one place is transparent and easier for people to access.

The annual workforce data provides a snapshot of trends in the Public Service workforce. It includes staff numbers, age, gender, ethnicity, occupation, salaries and pay gaps. The information is collected from staff payroll data in all 36 Public Service departments at 30 June.  Agencies use the data to help address workforce pressure points and issues.

Nearly 40,000 public servants from 36 agencies responded to the Census. which was run in May and June of this year.

This year’s workforce data shows the Public Service is becoming more diverse and the workforce is changing to meet the challenge of COVID-19 and new government priorities.

The Public Service is maintaining gender balance at the senior leadership level. The number of women in leadership roles continues to trend upwards. The gender pay gap is now the lowest ever and ethnic pay gaps are moving in the right direction. Progress is also being made towards fairer and more equitable employment.

The latest data also tells us that ethnic representation in the Public Service is increasing. Māori representation in the Public Service workforce is now 16.4 percent, up from 15.9 percent last year. The representation of Asian people in the Public Service workforce is at 12.5 percent, against 11.6 percent in 2020. And the representation of Pasifika people in the Public Service workforce is now 10.2 percent, compared with 9.7 percent last year. The representation of European people has fallen slightly, down from 66.3 percent last year to 66.1 percent. New recruits are more ethnically diverse than the existing workforce.

Other highlights from the 2021 data:

  • Census findings: Public servants are strongly motivated by a spirit of service and are in the job to make a difference for the communities they serve. Most public servants (84 percent) are strongly motivated to stay working in the Public Service because their work contributes positively to society. The Census also found public servants are building their capability to engage with Māori and are being supported by their agencies to do so. Nearly one in four public servants said they could have a conversation about a lot of everyday things in a second language.
  • More women leaders:  The number of women in leadership roles continues to increase, now at 53.5 percent, against 39.8 percent in 2010.  Gender balance is also being maintained at the chief executive level where, at 30 June, women held 49 percent of roles (currently 51 percent). This is a significant change from 2014 when it was 30 percent.
  • Fairer pay for women:The gender pay gap in the Public Service at 30June 2021 was 8.6 percent, a substantial decrease from last year's gap of 9.6 percent.  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 9.3 percent last year to 8.3 percent in 2021.  The Pacific pay gap has fallen from 19.5 percent to 17.9 percent.  The Asian pay gap has come down from 12.8 percent in 2020 to 11.6 percent.  
  • Addressing low pay in the Public Service: The average annual salary in the Public Service in 2021 was $87,600, a 3.7 percent increase from $84,500 in 2020.  The increase is a result of our lowest paid and frontline occupations receiving the largest increases in pay on average. These occupations include social, health, and education workers, and contact centre staff.
  • Chief executive pay: The average remuneration for chief executives increased 0.6 percent in the year to 30 June 2021. The net result over the last five years is a 4 percent decrease.
  • Contractors and consultants: The latest contractors and consultants’ data shows a 3 percent drop in total spending, the first real decrease since 2017/18. The operating expenditure on contractors and consultants as a share of total Public Service workforce expenditure has been declining consistently since we introduced more transparent reporting, dropping from 13.4 percent in 2017/18, and 11.3 percent last year, downto 10.3 percent now.
  • Investing in the Public Service:The number of full-time equivalent employees in the Public Service increased by 3950 (6.9 percent) to 61,100 in the last year.  Half of the growth, 50 percent, was directly attributable to the Government’s response to COVID-19. About 40 percent of the growth was to support other government priorities.

“The Public Service must reflect the communities it serves,” said Mr Hughes.

“The latest data shows as the Public Service grows, it is becoming more diverse with more women in leadership roles.”

Most of the growth in the Public Service was in the four agencies at the heart of the COVID-19 response: the Ministry of Health (450 staff for the response and vaccination) the Ministry of Social Development (850 for frontline services), the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (250 for Managed Isolation and Quarantine facilities) and New Zealand Customs (250 for maritime border orders).

“The Public Service has needed to grow in the last two years to implement the Government’s COVID-19 response, which remains one of the biggest challenges the country has ever faced,” said Mr Hughes.

“In the last 4-5 years we have invested heavily in the capability of the Public Service. We wanted to right-size the workforce and part of that was a commitment to reduce our reliance on contractors and consultants, which is now starting to trend down. I don’t see the Public Service growing at the same rate in future.”

In addition to the release of the annual workforce data and Census, the Commission is today reporting progress against the 2020/2021 diversity and inclusion programme of work across the Public Service. This report fulfils recommendation 34 of the Royal Commission of Inquiry into the terrorist attack on Christchurch masjidain.

The information and interactive data are available onlinestarting from the year 2000. This means users can filter, customise, and download the information based on their interests and clearly see trends over time. 



Media queries: Grahame Armstrong: 021 940 457. 


Other relevant media statements:

Public Servants are in the job to make a difference

Diversity in Public Service workforce is building

Public Service is building capability to engage with Māori