Understanding New Zealand: Demographics of Medium-Skill Occupations

Perhaps the most striking correlation in this section is that between being Maori and being a community or personal service worker – this was 0.72. It’s possible that the best explanation for this very strong correlation is the social orientation of Maori culture, as the community or personal service occcupation is one that demands social intelligence above all.

The likelihood of a member of any given ethnic group working as a community or personal service worker is a reflection of how established that ethnicity is in New Zealand. For Kiwis of European descent it was essentially uncorrelated; for Pacific Islanders it was on the border of being significantly negatively correlated and for Asians the correlation was a moderately strong -0.49.

Interestingly, the ethnic breakdown of those who were clerical and administrative workers was very close to the proportions of those ethnicities in the population as a whole. And so, no ethnicities were significantly correlated, either positively or negatively, with being in this occupation.

In a way, that makes being a clerical or administrative worker the quintessential Kiwi middle-class job.

There is a split in the middle of this demographic when it came to religious attitudes. Technicians and trades workers and community and personal service workers both had moderately strong correlations with being Spiritualists or New Agers or with having no religion.

This was not true for clerical and administrative workers, who had a marginally significant correlation with having no religion and no significant correlation with being a Spiritualist or New Ager.

Medium-skill occupations were generally younger than the high-skill ones, especially community and personal services workers, for who the correlation with median age was -0.46. Technicians and trades workers, however, were very close to the national average – the correlation between working as one and median age was only 0.05.

Being a clerical or administrative worker was much better paid in general than the other medium-skill occupations. The correlation between working in this occupation and median personal income was 0.43, compared to -0.14 between working as a technician or trades worker and median personal income, and -0.31 for being a community or personal service worker and median personal income.

Looking at income bands, we can see that clerical and administrative workers are the best paid of the medium-skill occupations. There is a significant positive correlation between working in this occupation and being in any of the income bands between $40K and $150K, but not above this.

This makes clerical and administrative workers almost as well-paid as managers, and this is reflected in their educational levels. All of the correlations between being a clerical or administrative worker and having a university degree were significantly positive, except for that with having a doctorate. The strongest was 0.32 with having a Bachelor’s degree.

Being a technician or a trades worker is, as most know, a male-dominated occupation. The correlation between working in this occupation and being male was 0.34.

Perhaps reflecting a certain degree of solidarity among the sort of person who would decide to find work as a community or personal services worker, there was a strong positive correlation of 0.67 between being born in New Zealand and working in this occupation. It’s likely that, because immigrants primarily come here for the money, few would come here to work in this area.

Interestingly, clerical and administrative workers were more likely than technicians or trades workers to be paying rent and less likely to be living in a freehold house. Some might find this very surprising considering that clerical and administrative workers are considerably wealthier than tradies, and that wealthier people are more likely to live in a freehold house.

This can be explained by the correlation of 0.39 between working as a technician or trades worker and living on the South Island, and the correlation of -0.16 between working as a clerical or administrative worker and living on the South Island.

In other words, clerical and administrative work might be better paid, but it generally means that you have to live in either Wellington or Auckland and that means much higher housing costs and a less secure tenure of dwelling.

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This article is an excerpt from Understanding New Zealand, by Dan McGlashan, due to be published by VJM Publishing this winter.

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