Expats in New Zealand satisfied with working life

by Ray Clancy on November 28, 2013

Expats living and working in New Zealand are happy with their work/life balance and are more likely to have a degree, new research has found.

At the end of 2012, around 25% of New Zealand’s employed people were born overseas forming a significant proportion of the country’s workforce, according to a survey of working life carried out by Statistics New Zealand.

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Around 85% of expats surveyed reported they felt satisfied or very satisfied with their work life in New Zealand.

Of the 583,400 workers in New Zealand that were born overseas around one in five was a recent migrant and the survey found that satisfaction with their main job was high with around 85.5% reporting they felt satisfied or very satisfied. This compared with 76.7% of New Zealand born workers and 78.7% of long term migrants.

The length of time lived in New Zealand is a major factor influencing migrant employment outcomes, according to the survey. It found that those who have been in New Zealand for less than five years tend to have different work experiences than long term migrants who have lived in New Zealand for five years or more.

The survey also found that recent and long term migrants were almost twice as likely to hold a bachelor’s degree or higher, 39.5% and 36.7% respectively, compared with New Zealand born workers at 21%.

However, New Zealand born workers were more likely to have a vocational or trade qualification compared with those born outside New Zealand. The report says that this difference in qualification levels could be partly explained by immigration policies which favour higher skilled workers. Age is an important factor regarding qualifications as younger people were more likely to have a degree than a vocational or trade qualification irrespective of migrant status.

The survey also found that men who recently migrated to New Zealand were more likely to hold permanent employment when compared with their female counterparts.

There are also significant differences in the age structure of recent migrants compared with New Zealand born workers and long term migrants. Recent migrants were younger with around two in three aged under 35. This proportion was far higher than for New Zealand born workers and long term migrants, each group having around three in 10. The report says this partly reflects immigration policies aimed at attracting younger workers into the country as well as the mobility of younger age groups in the labour market.

The age structure of the recent migrant population appears to be reflected in the industries these workers are employed in. There were proportionately more recent and long term migrants working in skilled industries such as healthcare and social assistance and professional, scientific, technical, administrative services than New Zealand born workers. Nearly 25% of recent migrants were working in the retail trade and accommodation and food services industry group, sectors that are known for lower skilled jobs and commonly have a high proportion of part time workers.

The survey found interesting differences in hourly earnings. A higher proportion of recent migrants were in the $13.50 to $19.99 hourly earnings range, compared with long term migrants and New Zealand born workers. Just over 40% of recent migrants had hourly earnings of $20 or more.

Despite differences in qualifications, age, and sex structure, most overseas born workers experienced similar working conditions to New Zealand born workers. The report says these similarities indicate to some extent that migrants adapt well and are treated fairly in their working environments.

The report concludes that although they were more likely to be in the lower skilled, lower paid industry group of retail trade and accommodation and food services, recent migrants had the highest levels of satisfaction with their work life balance of all migrant status groups and this indicates that the quality of working life in New Zealand is high, irrespective of where workers are born.

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