Workforce Size

The composition of the wider public sector

The public sector employed around 403,000 people (headcount) in 2018, 18% of New Zealand’s total workforce (2,238,000), as measured by Stats NZ’s Business Demography data. The majority (88%) work in the State sector (354,000) and 12% in local government (49,200).

Over the last five years, the overall public sector workforce increased by 8% (with the State sector up 7% and local government up 11%). This compares with a 16% growth in the private sector over the same period.

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

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Public Service workforce composition

Change in staff numbers by department

During the year to June 2018, the Public Service workforce increased by 5.2% (or 2,478 Full-time Equivalent (FTE) staff) to 49,730 FTE employees. Of the 32 Public Service departments, 28 of them increased their FTE employees while four agencies reported a decrease. The biggest increases in FTEs was driven by Oranga Tamariki-Ministry for Children (up 559), Department of Corrections (up 435), and Ministry of Justice (up 392). In contrast, the two largest decreases were Inland Revenue (IR) (down 265), and Ministry of Social Development (MSD) (down 233).

The Department of Corrections remains the largest Public Service department (with 8,990 FTEs), followed by MSD (6,567) and IR (5,136). These top three agencies make up 42% of the Public Service workforce. In 2018, three new agencies were added in to the Public Service – Pike River Recovery Agency, Social Investment Agency, and the New Zealand Security Intelligence Service (NZSIS). NZSIS was previously a non-Public Service department.

Permanent and fixed-term employment type

At 30 June 2018, 92.5% of Public Service employees were on permanent employment contracts with the remaining 7.5% of employees on fixed- term contracts. However, there are a number of agencies with a high proportion of staff on fixed-term employment contracts, including: Pike River Recovery Agency (100%), Social Investment Agency (66.7%), Ministry for Culture and Heritage (27.3%), Ministry for Women (20%) and the Department of Conservation (18.9%). Fixed-term employees are employed on a full-time or part-time basis for a specified period of a project or event. The second tab in the graph above shows the number of Public Service employees on fixed-term employment agreements for the years 2013-2018. The proportion of fixed-term employees has remained stable over the last three years.


Public Service employees are engaged in a wide range of jobs spread across 252 different occupations in 2018. These can be aggregated into ten broad occupation groups as shown in the following chart. The two largest groups are ‘Inspectors and Regulatory Officers’ and ‘Social, Health and Education Workers’ accounting for 39% of the Public Service workforce.

Between 2017 and 2018 the Public Service workforce (FTEs) increased by 2,478 or 5.2%. Amongst the occupation groups, ‘Contact Centre Workers’ had the largest increase (up 774 or 18.3%), followed by ‘Managers’ (up 397 or 7.4%) and ‘Social, Health and Education Workers’ (up 353 or 4.1%). The increase in ‘Contact Centre Workers’ was largely due to IR’s reclassification of their ‘Collections Officer’ role from ‘Inspectors and Regulatory Officers’ to ‘Contact Centre Workers’. As part of IR’s transformation programme, these roles became broader in scope to provide more seamless end-to-end services.


The largest proportion of the Public Service workforce (42.7%) is located in the Wellington region which comprises both regional and head office based staff.Other regions have 57.3% of the workforce, led by Auckland (20.4%), Canterbury (9.0%) and Waikato (8.0%).The regional distribution of Public Service employees has been relatively stable in recent years.The slight increase in Wellington's share of the workforce in 2018 is driven by the New Zealand Security Intelligence Service changing from a non-Public Service to a Public Service department.

When you look at the wider State sector, which includes education and health, the largest proportion of the workforce is in Auckland. Around 108,000 (30.5%) of 354,000 State sector employees are in Auckland.

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