There is increasing ethnic diversity in the Public Service. Although Europeans still made up the highest proportion (66.3%) in 2020, this has decreased steadily over the past 20 years. Māori (15.9%) and Pacific (9.7%) representation in the Public Service workforce continued at high levels compared to the overall New Zealand labour force (12.6% and 6.3% respectively in the year to June 2020). There was an increase in the representation of Asian (11.6% up from 11.1% last year) staff, although this still lags Asian representation in the New Zealand labour force (15.9%). Contributing to this increasing Asian representation is the relatively large increase in the Public Service workforce over the past year. New recruits tend to be more ethnically diverse than the existing workforce, and the share of those recruited into Public Service departments in the year to 30 June 2020 that were Asian (14.7%) was more than for the existing workforce. Representation of Middle Eastern, Latin African and American (MELAA) employees in the Public Service (1.7%), has been increasing steadily over the past five years, and is slightly higher than that in the New Zealand labour force (1.4%).

The increase in Asian and Pacific staff is particularly pronounced in Auckland where they comprised 24.0% and 22.9% of Auckland Public Service employees in 2020 respectively.

There are other ethnic differences in terms of Public Service occupations. European staff are over-represented as Managers and Policy Analysts. Māori and Pacific staff are well represented as Inspectors and Regulatory Officers, and as Social, Health and Education Workers but less so in other professions. Pacific and Asian staff are highly represented as Contact Centre Workers and Asian staff as ICT Professionals and Technicians. Pacific and Asian ethnicities are still under-represented in the top three tiers of Public Service management. This will take time and deliberate effort to increase as non-European ethnicities are also under-represented at lower levels of management.

Note that there has been a focus on improving the quality of Public Service workforce ethnicity information in recent years. Te Kawa Mataaho released a Standard for Workforce Information that expects departments to follow the Stats NZ statistical standard for ethnicity when collecting ethnicity information from their staff. There has also been an increase in the share of Public Service employees who have declared their ethnicity, up from 86.1% in 2014 to 94.3% in 2020. Some of the changes in ethnic diversity over time could be due to these increases in data quality, rather than real world changes.

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