20 October 2023

The data we collect gives us information about ethnic diversity across the Public Service, Māori representation and how many public servants are born overseas.

Ethnic diversity across all staff

There is increasing ethnic diversity in the Public Service. Although Europeans still made up the highest proportion (64.9%) in 2022, this has decreased steadily over the past 20 years. Both Māori (16.7%) and Pacific (10.6%) representation in the Public Service workforce increased over the past year and continue at higher levels compared to the overall New Zealand working-age population (14.9% and 6.5% respectively in the year to June 2022).

There was a further increase in the representation of Asian staff (13.4%), following increases in each of the last 10 years, although this still lags behind Asian representation in the New Zealand working-age population (15.1%). The relatively large number of new recruits in the Public Service workforce over the past year has contributed to this increase in Asian representation. The increase in Asian staff is particularly pronounced in Auckland where Asian staff are 26.1% of public service employees in 2022. New recruits have tended to be more ethnically diverse than the existing workforce, and the share of Asian staff recruited into public service departments in the year ending 30 June 2022 (18.6%) was more than for the existing workforce.

Representation of Middle Eastern, Latin American and African (MELAA) employees in the Public Service (2.1%), has been increasing steadily since 2015, and is higher than that in the New Zealand working-age population (1.2%).

Detailed ethnicity data collected through Te Taunaki Public Service Census 2021 revealed the full range of ethnic diversity seen in the Public Service for the first time, with 165 different ethnic groupings reported. The benefit of Te Taunaki data is that it enables a view into smaller groups. For example:

  • 5.2% of respondents identified as Indian
  • 5.1% as British or Irish
  • 4.5% as Samoan
  • 3.3% as Chinese
  • 0.6% as African
  • 0.5% as Latin American
  • 0.5% as Middle Eastern.

Further breakdowns are possible for all groupings. For example, British and Irish can be broken down into Scottish, Welsh, Irish, English, Channel Islander, and so on.

Ethnic diversity by occupation

There are ethnic differences in terms of public service occupations. European staff are over-represented in higher-paid occupations such as managers and policy analysts. Māori and Pacific staff are well represented as inspectors and regulatory officers, social, health and education workers, clerical and administration workers and as contact centre workers but less so in other professions. Asian staff are well represented as ICT professionals and technicians, legal, HR, and finance professionals, and as contact centre workers.

These ethnic differences in terms of occupations are likely to reflect similar differences in the wider labour market.  For example, the 2018 Census results show that Europeans were more likely to be in managerial or professional roles than other New Zealanders.

Link - 2018 Census European Ethnic Group Summary

Regional factors are also likely to contribute to ethnic differences in terms of occupations.  For example, Pacific and Asian public servants are more likely to work in Auckland.  The Auckland public service workforce has a greater share of inspectors and regulatory officers, social, health and education workers, and contact centre workers compared to the overall public service workforce, and a lower share of managers, policy analysts, and information professionals.

Note that there has been a focus on improving the quality of public service workforce ethnicity information in recent years. We released a Standard for Workforce Information document that outlines expectations for 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 in recent years, up from 86.1% in 2014 to more than 90% in each of the last 5 years. Some of the changes in ethnic diversity over time could be due to these increases in data quality, rather than real world changes.

Māori representation and iwi affiliation

Māori make up 16.7% of the Public Service workforce as of 30 June 2022. Data from Te Taunaki indicates that Māori public servants are affiliated to over 120 different iwi, with most Māori having whakapapa to multiple iwi.

Iwi information was collected using the same process developed by the Data Iwi Leaders Group (a subgroup of the National Iwi Leaders Forum) and Stats NZ to address the gaps in iwi affiliation data in the 2018 Census. This means Public Service iwi affiliations can be grouped and compared with figures for the New Zealand population as shown in the table below.

Iwi Grouping

Public Service: % of 7,230 people of Māori descent

New Zealand population: % of 869,850 people of Māori descent

Te Hiku






Ngāi Tahu Whānui



Ngāti Kahungunu



Ngāti Raukawa



Ngāti Tama



Te Arawa



Te Atiawa



Tūranganui a Kiwa






Ngāti Toarangatira






Ngāpuhi nui tonu



Mōkai Pātea






Ngā Hotahota o te Whitau



The table shows the representation of iwi in the Public Service is broadly similar to the wider population. The variation that is present may in part be explained by the regional distribution of the Public Service, with the largest proportion of the workforce (44.9%) located in the Wellington region. Other regions have 55.1% of the workforce, led by Auckland (20.4%), Canterbury (9.1%) and Waikato (6.7%).

New Zealand public servants born overseas and years since arrival

Te Taunaki asked how long staff had been in New Zealand — of those who responded, 71% were born in New Zealand, with a further 26% having been in New Zealand for at least 5 years (of these, 12% had been here 20 years or more). Only 3.3% were relatively recent migrants, having spent less than five years in New Zealand.

These responses are consistent with previously obtained Stats NZ Census data, requested to get a better picture of migrant flow into the Public Service. In 2018, around 28% of Public Service and Administration employees in 2018 were born overseas, up from around 22% in 2006. This compared to around 31% of all employed New Zealanders in 2018, 32% of those working in the private sector and nearly 40% of those working in central government health and tertiary education. Around 43% of Public Service and Administration employees in Auckland were born overseas.

The Stats NZ data showed that migrants who became New Zealand Public Service employees had come from over 50 countries. As of 2018, Commonwealth countries provided the largest proportion of overseas-born public servants, led by the United Kingdom, India, South Africa and Australia, followed by Fiji, the Philippines and Samoa. By comparison, in the private sector a higher proportion of overseas-born employees had migrated from Asian countries such as India and China.

Note that some 2018 data for state owned enterprises was included in the private sector results through the Stats NZ Census coding process.

Ethnic diversity in senior leadership

The table below shows that European staff continue to be over-represented in each of the top 3 tiers of public service leadership, when compared with either the Public Service workforce as a whole or the wider population. Māori representation in senior leadership is similar to those wider measures, and slightly higher in the top 2 leadership tiers. Pacific and Asian leaders continue to increase slowly but remain under-represented. This under-representation is most notable for Asian staff, and is taking time and deliberate effort to increase, as they are also under-represented at lower levels of management.

Note: The data for the following table is correct as at 30 June 2022.

As at 30 June 2022, the 39 Public Service Leaders reported being 87.2% European, 17.9% Māori, 2.6% Pacific Peoples and 7.7% Asian (these add up to more than 100% as it includes those with multiple ethnicities).

Public Service leadership