28 March 2024

The data we collect provides information about the size of the Public Service workforcehow much was spent on contractors and consultants and the composition of the wider public sector.

Public Service workforce size

Year to date update – six months to December 2023

There were 65,699 full-time equivalent (FTE) staff at 31 December 2023. This is an increase of 4.1% (or 2,582 FTEs) from 63,117 FTEs in June 2023.

For details of this change by department please see the “Year-to-date FTE changes” tab in the table below.

Quarterly changes may not be indicative of year-end results. Seasonal variation and administrative adjustments mean that quarterly data will be more variable than annual results. 

Annual analysis – year to June 2023 

There were 63,117 full-time equivalent (FTE) staff as at 30 June 2023. This is an increase of 4.5% (or 2,736 FTEs) from 60,381 FTEs in 2022.  

This is a return to growth in the Public Service workforce after the minimal change seen between 2021 and 2022 (when there was a decrease of 1.2%, or a very small increase of 0.3% if machinery of government changes in the health sector were excluded). The growth in 2023 remains below that seen in the five years from 2017 to 2022, when the average annual increase was 5.0%.  

The increase in the size of the workforce in the year to 30 June 2023 was driven by the need to meet Government priorities, as well as the filling of vacancies through the year, as turnover levels began to decrease from last year’s record high levels and recruitment difficulties eased. 

The largest increases in FTEs occurred at: 

  • The Ministry for Business, Innovation and Employment (up 451 FTEs, or 7.7%), to support services delivered by Immigration New Zealand, and to deliver Government priorities in several areas, including market competition, climate change, and the construction sector. 
  • The Ministry of Justice (up 271 FTEs, or 6.4%) to increase operational support at courts, grow the joint venture to eliminate family violence and sexual violence, and to deliver policy relating to Government priorities, and major events such as the Royal Commissions of Inquiry. 
  • The Ministry of Social Development (up 271 FTEs, or 3.1%) across a range of service delivery initiatives, including response to the North Island Weather Events of 2023, the joint venture to eliminate family violence and sexual violence, and increasing coordination across the social sector through the establishment of the Social Sector Commissioning Hub, as well as supporting delivery of MSD’s core services.   
  • The Department of Corrections (up 261 FTEs, or 2.8%) as last year’s recruitment difficulties eased, and vacancies were filled. 

The largest decrease in FTEs was at New Zealand Customs Service, down 195 FTEs, or 12.9%, due to the end of the fixed-term assistant customs officers who had been implementing the COVID-related Maritime Border Order. The Ministry of Health also had a decrease in FTE this year, down 133 FTEs, or 15.4%, as health sector reforms continued. Most of these staff were transferred to Te Whatu Ora Health New Zealand during the year. The MOH workforce is approximately half the size compared with June 2021.  

Proportionally, the largest changes were at: 

  • The Ministry for the Environment (up 21.9%, or 182 FTEs) to deliver Government priority changes around resource management, freshwater, climate change, waste, and Resource Management Act reform.  
  • The Ministry of Housing and Urban Development (up 20.9%, or 66 FTEs), increasing key capabilities, improving retention and filling vacancies, and continuing to reduce reliance on contractors.  

Looking across all 38 Public Service departments and departmental agencies, 27 of them increased in size, and 11 agencies reported a decrease (although for 3 of these agencies, the decrease was 1 FTE or less) 

Departmental FTE changes(XLSX, 33 KB)

Contractor and consultant expenditure

This section presents results on contractor and consultant expenditure in the Public Service and how it has changed over time. 

Year-to-date update – six months to December 2023

In the six months to December 2023, Public Service organisations spent a total of $344.6 million in OPEX and $181.6 million in CAPEX on contractors and consultants, for a total spend of $526.2 million.

As a share of workforce spend, operating expenditure (OPEX) on contractors and consultants decreased to 9.6% in the first half of 2023/24, the lowest it’s been since measurement began (2018).  

Annual analysis – year to June 2023 

This section presents results on contractor and consultant expenditure in the Public Service and how it has changed over time. 

In 2022/23, Public Service organisations spent a total of $1,268.5 million on contractors and consultants. This was an increase of 2.0% on the 2021/22 spend of $1,243 million. While roughly comparable to the previous year spend, the make-up of the spend changed. Most notably, spend on COVID-19 decreased markedly, while Government priorities and backfill increased. 

Overall, the $1,268.5 million spend went towards:

  • Government priorities, especially big reform work programmes. Like last year, this included the New Zealand Traveller Declaration programme, overhauling New Zealand’s building and land use planning system (RMA reforms), and improving the quality of our drinking water and the reliability of our stormwater and wastewater systems (Water Services Reform).  
  • One-off IT improvement projects and upgrading systems for online access to government services, and migrating legacy systems to cloud-based, which are more secure, resilient and cost efficient in the long-term. Spend on one-off IT projects was roughly comparable to spend last year.   
  • Backfill to address a combination of labour shortage, and high turnover in some agencies. Inflationary pressures have also contributed to an increase in spend on backfill.

Total expenditure comprises operational expenditure of $911.9 million (down 0.7% from $918.3 million in 2021/22) and capital expenditure of $356.5 million (up 9.8% from $324.8 million in 2021/22).

Operating expenditure on contractors and consultants was 13.1% of total Public Service workforce spend ($6,945.4 million), a decrease from 14.5% in 2021/22 and 13.4% in 2017/18 [and an increase on 10.4% in 2020/21, 11.3% in 2019/20, 12.8% in 2018/19]. This decrease was due to contractor and consultant operating expenditure increasing at a slower rate than total workforce spend. This measure represents the balance between using external resources where appropriate and building capacity and capability in the Public Service. 

C&C agency(XLSX, 18 KB)

C&C share(XLSX, 10 KB)

Note some 2021/22 figures have been revised since they were first published. The reported total operating expenditure has changed from $926.9 million to $918.3 million and total capital expenditure has changed from $317.9 million to $324.8 million.

Public Service contractor and consultant data for the 2017/18 year was the first to be published using our new guidance on how to report contractor and consultant expenditure. Before the new guidance, there was inconsistency in how organisations reported this expenditure. 

Contractors and Consultants Guidance

The focus is on operating expenditure, as the large one-off investments that capital expenditure typically represents are likely to have a different mix of public servants and contractors/consultants and the resulting expenditure is likely to be volatile over time due to the fixed-term nature of these projects. 

Contractor and consultant expenditure definitions 

Operating expenditure (OPEX) — this is the money spent for contractors and consultants that are not for the purpose of acquiring or developing assets. 

Capital expenditure (CAPEX) — this is the money spent to acquire resources to develop assets, tangible and intangible, through procurement of contractors and consultants. 

Total workforce spend — this is the sum of salary expenditure for permanent and fixed-term employees, and operational expenditure on contractors and consultants. 

The first release was for the 2017/2018 financial year and can be located here.

The composition of the wider public sector

The public sector employed around 462,300 people in 2023, 18.8% of New Zealand’s total workforce (2,464,300), as measured by Stats NZ’s Business Demography data. The majority (88%) work in central government (407,200) and 12% in local government (55,100). 

The central government sector comprises all public sector employees, except those in local government. This includes the Public Service, health sector (including Health New Zealand employees), the education sector (including primary, area and secondary school staff), and Crown entities. 

Over the last 5 years, the overall public sector workforce increased by 15% (with central government up 15.3% and local government up 13%). This compares with an 9% growth in the private sector over the same period. 

The sector composition of workforce varies amongst the regions (see the interactive dashboard below).