26 November 2021

The Public Service is becoming more ethnically diverse, including in leadership roles, and we now know most public servants feel they work in an inclusive environment.

The latest workforce data shows diversity at the senior management level continues to improve. Māori now hold 13.5 percent of leadership roles, up 1.1 percentage points on last year, while the actual number has almost doubled since 2016. Pacific people hold 4.3 percent of leadership roles, up 0.9 percentage points in the last year, with the actual number more than doubling in the last five years. Asian people hold 2.9 percent of leadership roles, up 0.4 percentage points in the last year, which is also double the total number in 2016.

“These are the people with their hands on the steering wheel of the Public Service so it’s pleasing to see we are starting to get more diversity at the top,” said Public Service Commissioner Peter Hughes.

The Public Service started a comprehensive diversity and inclusion programme four years ago, called Papa Pounamu, and the latest workforce data shows good progress is being made. The programme has focused on eliminating bias and discrimination, promoting inclusion and working to ensure the Public Service reflects and values the diversity of the communities it serves.

Diversity is growing:

  • Although Europeans still made up the highest proportion (66.1 percent) of the Public Service in 2021, this has decreased from 70.5 percent in the last five years.
  • Both Māori (16.4 percent) and Pacific (10.2 percent) representation in the Public Service workforce increased over the past year, and remain high compared with the overall New Zealand working-age population (14.5 percent and 6.8 percent respectively in the year to June 2021). There was also a further increase in the representation of Asian staff (to 12.5 percent), although this still lags behind Asian representation in the New Zealand working-age population (15.4 percent).
  • The Public Service is also continuing to make gains for women. The number of women in senior management roles continues to increase, now at 53.5 percent, up from 53.2 percent last year (and 39.8 percent in 2010).
  • Representation of Middle Eastern, Latin American and African employees in the Public Service (1.8 percent has been increasing steadily over the past five years and is slightly higher than that in the New Zealand working-age population (1.3 percent).

This year’s annual workforce data has been augmented by the inaugural Te Taunaki | Public Service Census, helping to provide a more complete view of the diversity of the Public Service. Nearly 40,000 public servants from 36 agencies responded to the survey in May and June of this year.

Through the Census, we now know that:

  • almost one in four public servants said they could have a conversation about a lot of everyday things in a second language, with a total of 134 different languages covered. Te reo Māori is the second most common language spoken in the Public Service (6 percent), followed by French (3 percent) and Samoan (2 percent).
  • eight in 10 public servants (82 percent) feel they can be themselves at work.
  • most public servants (78 percent) felt that their agency supports and promotes an inclusive workplace.
  • almost everyone (96 percent) reported feeling comfortable working with people from backgrounds other than their own.
  • most (72 percent) said they had access to employee-led networks that were relevant to them.

This is the first time public servants have been asked about their sense of inclusion at work.

In addition to the release of the annual workforce data and Te Taunaki | Public Service Census, we will also be reporting progress against the 2020/2021 diversity and inclusion programme of work across the Public Service. This reporting will fulfil recommendation 34 of the Royal Commission of Inquiry into the terrorist attack on Christchurch masjidain.

“The results have given us an excellent baseline and some rich data on how we can improve on that,” said Mr Hughes.

The Papa Pounamu programme is led by the Commissioner of Inland Revenue, Naomi Ferguson and the Secretary for Transport, Peter Mersi.

Ms Ferguson said the latest data shows Papa Pounamu is making good progress.

“We’ve made an excellent start, but we know there is a lot more work to be done to ensure the Public Service is an attractive and inclusive place for all,” said Ms Ferguson.

Mr Mersi said the results show the value of all Public Service chief executives working together towards a common goal.

“The work we do is for all public servants and for the five million New Zealanders we serve,” said Mr Mersi.


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