Business structure and employment relationships
About 75 percent of workers in New Zealand are paid employees and approximately
39 percent of the workforce is employed in enterprises that have over 100 full-time
equivalent staff. However, these firms comprise less than half a percent of the
total number of New Zealand enterprises. OECD data show that the level of self
employment in New Zealand is relatively high by international standards – small
businesses make up about 86 percent of enterprises (Goodchild,
Sanderson & Leung-Wai,
At about 22 percent, self-employment constitutes a significant proportion of
the New Zealand labour market, more than the number of people who work in manufacturing
or retail and almost three times the number employed in agriculture (2001 census).
New types of employment relationships relating to contracting and franchising
are blurring distinctions between self-employed and paid employees. Workplaces
are increasingly using types of flexibility such as outsourcing and casualisation.
The size and significance of non-standard work in New Zealand is undergoing change.
Reliance on direct employment relations is decreasing and both workers and certain
labour requirements are frequently outsourced.
New business structures and different employment relationships will develop in
response to factors such as rapid occupational change, technological ‘push’ and
more assertive Maori development. While the main income for Maori is still drawn
from the national economy, collectively-owned trusts and incorporations coupled
with Maori-owned businesses, increasingly built on cultural knowledge and skills,
are predicted to grow (NZ Institute
of Economic Research, 2003). The Internet
and broadband technology also promise as yet unforeseen changes in conventional
business structures in e-business. Work that is independent of location (such
as teleworking) may have both positive and negative effects and impact unequally
on women and older people at home. More research is needed to determine whether
these changes make it more difficult to apply Government policy and to assess
the implications for the enforcement of minimum standards in relation to employment.
The organisation of labourTop
The most dramatic change in the organisation of labour in New Zealand is arguably
the individualisation of the employment relationship, which is more pronounced
among younger workers.
Trade union membership in New Zealand has substantially declined in the early
1990s, partly as a consequence of labour market de-regulation that saw individual
employment contracts promoted and multi-employer contracts decline. In 1985,
43.5 percent of the total employed labour force were union members (May,
Harbridge & Thickett, 2003). Union membership has recently risen for the
fourth year in a row to 21.7 percent of wage and salary earners in 2004 (Brookers
Legal News). However, this is only half of what it was in the mid-1990s. The
public sector is more strongly unionised than the private sector, although private
sector membership improved in 2003. There is growing evidence of a collapse of
collective bargaining in the private sector; it is five times more common in
the public sector. There is general agreement among commentators that significant
union renewal did not occur when the Employment Relations Act replaced the Employment
Contracts Act (ibid).
Employers’ organisations have widened the range of their services from
lobbying nationally and locally on behalf of business and industry to include
legal, education and promotional activities. They are specifically addressing
regional shortages of skilled labour, through the provision of schemes such as
migrant worker placement. There is less need for institutional employer industrial
representation, given that less than a quarter of New Zealand workers are covered
by a collective agreement.
Changes in the organisation of labour raise the question of how knowledge of
employment rights is communicated to employers and employees and how protection
of employment rights is reinforced.
Workplace values and normsTop
Workplace values and norms are not static and are responsive to legislative compliance,
leadership, staff commitment and organisational capacity.
Women and men have different work life cycles: there are more women in part-time
work (30–40 percent of women aged 30–50 compared with 6–7 percent
of men), and women are more likely to have family-interrupted career paths. Changing
family patterns mean women are delaying childbirth, having smaller families and
coming back to work more quickly.
The tension between women’s increased participation in the labour force
and the interaction between work and family pressures is acknowledged in Government
initiatives such as the Department of Labour’s Work-Life Balance project.
Work-Life Balance is also a major plank in the Ministry of Women’s Affairs
Action Plan, 2004.
Work-life balance has been a continuing focus of attention for the EEO Trust,
through its annual awards. Its recent research showed that 80 percent of nearly
1,200 New Zealand fathers surveyed would like to spend more time with their children
(EEO Trust News, 2003), and a New Zealand survey of workers indicated that the
fourth most common reason for changing employers was to achieve a better work-life
Growing recognition of the Treaty of Waitangi has led to the introduction of
bicultural policies in some workplaces such as Royal New Zealand Air Force. The
ethnic composition of workplaces in the Auckland region, where 17.5 percent of
the region’s population is made up of ethnic communities, is increasing.
The Federation of Ethnic Councils has urged the active promotion of cultural
diversity in the workplace, including overcoming employer prejudice (Office
Ethnic Affairs, 2002).
Negative expressions of workplace culture include the continuing incidence of
reported cases of sexual harassment in New Zealand workplaces, despite extensive
public information and training programmes in the public and private sectors.
Unlike some employment areas, there is now a body of employment law and workplace
knowledge and experience that would allow for fresh thinking about new ways to
prevent sexual harassment. Different expectations of employment and of workplace
behaviour are currently evolving and giving new meaning to just and favourable
conditions of work.
Labour participation rates by diverse groupsTop
Women’s increasing participation in the labour force (approximately 50
percent) is one of the strongest modern employment trends. In December 2003,
51.2 percent of the working age population were women, of whom 60.1 percent participated
in the labour force. In contrast, men made up 48.8 percent of the working age
population and 74.2 percent participated in the labour force. At that time, women
represented 45.7 percent of the total employed and 49.6 percent of the total
unemployed, compared to men who represented 54.3 percent employed and 50.4 percent
unemployed, according to Statistics New Zealand. Throughout their working lives,
women experience a different pattern of labour force participation from men.
Participation rates for men steadily rise with age until around the age of 50,
when male participation rates start to drop. For women, however, participation
rates increase during their 20s, then drop back in the 30–34 year age group
(when women often leave the paid labour force to bear and raise children) before
peaking when women are in their 40s. The timing of women’s bearing and
rearing of children often coincides with career pressures and promotion opportunities.
“The biggest risk to gender equality is complacency. I believe women
need to support each other and stick together around issues of common concern.”
Rich MP on breastfeeding at work
Women comprise the majority (72.4 percent) of part-time workers in New Zealand
and only a minority (37.3 percent) of the full-time labour force. Since 1990,
small changes in these statistics for male and female employment patterns have
been observed, but in general the trends have remained unchanged.
Maori remain disproportionately represented in unemployment figures at 10.6 percent,
even though they have had the best employment growth of the three main ethnic
groups, higher than for Pakeha or Pacific peoples at the end of 2003. The unemployment
rate for Pacific peoples was 7.6 percent compared to 4.4 percent overall (Department
of Labour, 2003a).
Research shows improvement in upskilling for Maori. Over half the increase in
Maori employment is in professional and associated occupations. But employment
for Maori and Pacific peoples remains concentrated in lower skilled occupations
and both groups are more vulnerable to job loss in an economic downturn.
Gender and ethnicity interact in participation rates. Although their participation
has steadily increased, Maori women’s participation rates and employment
rates have been considerably lower than that of Maori men over the past 15 years.
Maori women have the highest jobless rates of all groups, including Maori women,
Maori men, non-Maori men and non-Maori women (Ministry
of Women’s Affairs,
Over the past six years until 2003, employment growth for Pacific peoples has
averaged 4.8 percent in comparison to the average rate of 1.5 percent, and their
unemployment rate has declined the most of all ethnic groups, down 2.1 percent
to 7.6 percent (Employment Strategy, 2003). However, Pacific peoples are predominantly
entering clerical and production occupations and remain over-represented in lower
skilled jobs. Weekly income movements lag behind those for Pakeha and Maori.
Young people are disproportionately affected by unemployment and are particularly
vulnerable in times of slow employment growth. While there is little significant
gender difference, Maori and Pacific young people are over-represented in unemployment
figures. Nationally, Government is developing youth transition policies linking
school leavers to jobs or education and training. At local government level,
the Mayors’ Task Force is actively engaged in youth employment.
Youth in the 15-to-24 age group live predominantly in urban areas (75 percent)
and their individual employment aspirations and the employer expectations they
face are both different from those of previous generations. Participation rates
for youth decreased in 2003 (to 53 percent for 15–19-year-olds and 73.5
percent for 20–24-year-olds), reflecting study patterns in secondary and
tertiary study. According to Ministry of Education figures for 2003, more young
women than men are participating in formal tertiary education, but only 6.6 percent
of women are participating in the flagship skills-based training programme, the
Modern Apprenticeships Scheme. Again ethnicity and gender intersect. Of the 110
modern apprentices who are Pacific peoples (a tiny 1.9 percent of the total number),
only 22 are female.
Some children are working long hours in unpaid work and thereby losing out on
opportunities for leisure, childhood activities and education. The children’s
work survey (Caritas, 2003) indicates that 20 percent of children undertake home
chores. Around 45 percent of the survey sample reported receiving a rate of pay
below the minimum youth rate.
Labour participation rates for disabled people are considerably lower than for
other workers. Fewer than 45 percent of the disabled population in New Zealand
is employed either full-time or part-time, or are ready for work but currently
unemployed. In contrast, nearly 70 percent of people of working age who do not
have a disability participate in employment. Compared to people who do not experience
a disability, disabled people find it more difficult to gain employment.
The Government’s social policy direction is to place more emphasis on social
investment to improve social well-being in the future than on social protection
to provide a safety net in hard times (Lapsley,
2003). The Disabled Persons Employment
Protection Act exempting sheltered workshops from minimum pay and holidays will
be repealed. Vocational services funding through Work and Income (WINZ) is to
be more specifically targeted towards increasing the employment participation
of disabled people. In 2002, an additional $44 million was allocated over four
years for public funding of employment support for disabled people. In general,
disability employment policy has focused on entry to work; and equal attention
should be paid to job retention and job protection.
Unpaid work Top
Unpaid work in New Zealand, as in other countries, is not widely recognised in
human rights instruments. For example, many international conventions and relevant
domestic employment legislation exclude unpaid household production, reproduction
and services from consideration. This is despite actual time spent in unpaid
work and its significant economic value.
The report Measuring Unpaid Work 1999 (Statistics New Zealand, 2001a) shows that
New Zealanders of working age spend more time in unpaid work (16.4 percent) than
they do in paid work (14 percent). Unpaid work includes all productive activities
people do, without payment, either inside or outside of their own household.
The New Zealand Time Use survey (Statistics New Zealand, 2001b) demonstrated
how economically valuable the contribution of this work is to the nation’s
economy. ‘In a year, the time spent on unpaid work in New Zealand as a
primary activity equates, at 40 hours per week, to 2 million full time jobs.
This compares with the equivalent of 1.7 million full time jobs in time spent
in labour force activity.’ On average, 60 percent of men’s work is
paid, but almost 70 percent of women’s work is unpaid. Women spend more
time in each of the four categories of unpaid work: household work, caregiving
for household members, purchasing goods and services for own households, and
unpaid work outside the home. Maori men recorded more time in informal unpaid
work hours than both non-Maori men and Maori women. Maori women spend more time
caring for household members than do non-Maori women.
Gender, age and ethnicity all intersect with unpaid work. For example, the Ministry
of Women’s Affairs (2002) lists valuing unpaid work as a key aspect of
economic sustainability. Women ensure New Zealand’s social sustainability,
but their contributions are undervalued and should be both recognised and rewarded,
according to participants in the Ministry’s Action Plan consultation (Ministry
of Women’s Affairs, 2004). The Plan refers to unpaid work in the Work-Life
Balance section where it proposes to gather data for trend analysis about how
New Zealand women (particularly Maori, Pacific peoples and ethnic women) invest
their time, and to gain support for regular implementation of the Time Use survey.
The Ministry also wants to build understanding of unpaid work through the development
of satellite accounts on household and non-profit organisations.
Care of older family/whanau members is another component of unpaid work that
may increase with an ageing population. Waring (forthcoming) states that no one
knows how many people receiving New Zealand superannuation are full-time carers
of family members who are sick or infirm. More older Pacific peoples, particularly
women, are assuming the unpaid care of children in families facing serious income
pressures (Ministry of Women’s Affairs, 2002). The greater involvement
of Pacific women in unpaid work can be explained by the greater number of children
and the fact that households include members of extended families. In 2001, 33
percent of Pacific children were living in families that included four or more
dependent children, almost twice the proportion across the nation (Mintrom & True,
The Human Rights Commission receives a variety of complaints and enquiries relating
to unpaid work, including unpaid full-time caring for older people and children,
and residential care of children with disabilities.