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Workplace research puts work in its place

The NZ Productivity Commission has released the findings of research that show a dramatic drop in the number of New Zealanders working in manufacturing industries since 1976.

According to the Commission’s report, New Jobs, Old Jobs: The Evolution of Work in New Zealand’s Cities and Towns, the percentage of the workforce employed in manufacturing fell from 25 per cent then to 10 per cent today.

The report found there was, in contrast, significant expansion in employment in professional services, health and education, accommodation and hospitality and financial services.

Director of Economics and Research at the Productivity Commission, Patrick Nolan said the expansion of employment in services encouraged a reallocation of jobs away from smaller centres to Auckland and to a lesser extent to Wellington and Christchurch.

“New Zealand today is a very different place to 40 years ago,” Dr Nolan said.

“In 1976, one-in-four Kiwis worked in manufacturing, whereas now that is around one-in-10,” he said.

“These changes have had a real impact on our cities and towns and while some have thrived others have struggled.”

The report shows that between 1976 and 2013 employment in New Zealand’s 30 largest cities and towns increased by 48 per cent, or an average of 1.1 per cent per year.

“This figure masks considerable variation, with nine urban areas having employment growth of 65 per cent over the period,” Dr Nolan said.

“Employment decreased in four areas, including in Tokoroa where employment shrunk by 44 per cent,” he said.

“The economies of most cities and towns have also become less reliant on specialist industries and more like each other.”

He said that migration between areas was easier when all areas had similar jobs and the reducing importance of city-specific industries may have catalysed the shift of jobs from slow-growing areas to climate-favoured fast-growing areas.

The Commission’s 58-page report can be accessed at this PS News link.