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Employment status

The employment status numbers showed some strong movements in the June 2016 quarter. This paper explains the cause of the changes, and the reason why we made changes to the employment status questions in the June 2016 quarter’s Household Labour Force Survey (HLFS).

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Employment status categorises a respondent’s main job in one of four categories: as either a paid employee, employer, self-employed and without employees, or working without pay in a family business. All respondents who currently have a job are asked their employment status.

The redeveloped HLFS questionnaire was launched in the June 2016 quarter. It collects, as a new measure, the employment status of a respondent’s second job as well as their main job.

Changes in the employment status numbers for the June 2016 quarter result from changes made to the questionnaire and real-world changes. The questionnaire redevelopment has caused a one-off step change, which has shifted a substantial number of respondents into employment status categories that differ from those they were in previously. However, there will always be fluctuations in employment status – due to the HLFS being a sample survey, and people changing jobs for family and financial reasons.

Figure 1

Graph, Employment status in main job, June 2002 to June 20016.

Figure 1 shows employment status in a person’s main job, highlighting a strong increase in both ‘employers’ and the ‘self-employed and without employees’ categories – up 62,500 and 32,000, respectively, over the June 2016 quarter. This was partly offset by a drop of 45,400 in the number of paid employees. Overall, in the June 2016 quarter total employment increased by 45,300.

Questionnaire before June 2016

A main issue identified in the old HLFS questionnaire was the employment status question. If a respondent indicated they had a job, we asked a filter question to determine the employment status of their main job. As respondents are only allowed one type of employment status for their main job, when the respondent answered “yes” to an option, the next option/s were not read out.

The question stated, “In your main job last week were you

  • Working for wages or salary?
  • An employer of others in your own business?
  • Self-employed and not employing others?
  • Working without pay in a family business?”

We suspected this filter question had been overcounting the number of employees – due to the order of response options in this question. Self-employed people or business owners who paid themselves a wage or salary, answered “yes” when the first option was read out, and were therefore incorrectly counted as employees.

Questionnaire change from the June 2016 quarter

The redeveloped questionnaire focused on addressing the possible overcounting of employees.

The new question (which determines if a respondent has a job and their employment status) mentions business owners first in the list of options. All options are now read out.

The question states, “In that week did you do any of the following

  • Some work in your own business?
  • Some work in a paid job?
  • Some unpaid work in a family business?”

We also recognised that some self-employed people, such as contractors, may not think of themselves as owning their own business, and were likely to answer that they worked in a paid job.

To make sure these respondents are actually identified as self-employed, we ask a further question of all respondents who answered that they did some work in a paid job. The follow-up question states, “Did you work for an employer, or were you self-employed?” with a note to interviewers that contractors are to be counted as self-employed.

We made the changes to the questionnaire to improve the measurement of employment status, and reflect a more accurate number for the people who are self-employed. The changes in the June 2016 quarter data indicate the new questionnaire has led to an expected decrease in the number of people counted as employees, and an increase in the people now counted as employers and as ‘self-employed and without employees’.

The employer category had the largest increase in people over the June 2016 quarter, now making up 6.1 percent of all those employed. This may be due to many employers paying themselves a wage or salary from the business – therefore they were the group largely miscategorised in the past. People in the ‘self-employed and without employees’ may have been less likely to be miscategorised by the old questionnaire wording, as they are more likely to draw ad hoc amounts from the business to pay themselves, not a set wage or salary.

Table 1 shows that the June 2016 quarter HLFS data for the proportion of people self-employed (employers and self-employed and without employees) now closely matches data from the most recent Census.

Table 1

 Employment status HLFS and Census data
March and June 2016 quarters, and 2013 Census
 Employment status

 March 2016 qtr

 June 2016 qtr

 2013 Census

 Percent

 Paid employee

 84.4

 81.0

 77.6

 Employer

 3.6

 6.1

 6.5

 Self-employed and without employees

 10.8

 11.9

 11.8

 Unpaid family worker

 1.0

 0.9

 1.9

 Not stated

 0.2

 0.1

 2.2

 Total

 100.0

 100.0

 100.0

 Source: Statistics NZ

For the June 2016 quarter, 81.0 percent of employed people were paid employees, down from 84.4 percent in the March 2016 quarter. Both self-employed categories have increased with employers increasing from 3.6 percent to 6.1 percent, and the self-employed and without employees increasing from 10.8 percent to 11.9 percent in the June 2016 quarter.

Employment status in second job

Of the 2,454,300 employed people in the June 2016 quarter, 169,400 (6.9 percent) of them stated they had more than one job. A person’s main job is the job they work the most hours in, while their second job is the job they work the second-most number of hours in. Employment status is not collected for any further jobs a person may have in addition to their main and second job.

Table 2

Employment status for main and second job, by sex
June 2016 quarter
 Employment status

 Main job

 Second job

 Male

 Female

 Male

 Female

 Percent

 Paid employee

 78.0

 84.4

 30.4

 46.3

 Employer

 7.6

 4.5

 12.7

 8.7

 Self-employed and without employees

 13.7

 10.0

 44.3

 30.8

 Unpaid family worker

 0.7

 1.1

 11.6

 13.8

 Not stated

 0.1

 0.1

 S

 S

 Total

 100.0

 100.0

 100.0

 100.0

Symbol: S Suppressed. Estimate used to calculate the percentage is less than 1,000.
Source: Statistics NZ

A person’s employment status can be very different for their main job and second job. For the June 2016 quarter, employment status for both males and females in their main job shows a majority worked as paid employees, followed by self-employed and without employees, then employers.

For males with a second job, the most-common employment status for the second job was being ‘self-employed and without employees’ (44.3 percent). However, most females with a second job were still paid employees (46.3 percent), followed by being ‘self-employed and without employees’ (30.8 percent).

Employment status by sex (main job)

Over the June 2016 quarter the proportion of males working as paid employees decreased from 81.3 percent to 78.0 percent. The proportion of males who were employers rose from 4.7 percent to 7.6 percent, and self-employed and without employees rose from 13.0 percent to 13.7 percent.

Females showed a similar pattern over the June 2016 quarter, with the proportion of females working as paid employees decreasing from 87.9 percent to 84.4 percent. The proportion of females as employers rose from 2.4 percent to 4.5 percent, and self-employed and without employees rose from 8.4 percent to 10.0 percent.

Employment status by age (main job)

Younger workers are more likely to be working for someone else as paid employees than older workers. For the June 2016 quarter, 94.2 percent of all 15–29-year-olds who were working, worked as employees. A very small proportion of this age group were employers (1.0 percent); slightly more were self-employed and without employees (3.8 percent).

Figure 2

Graph, Employment status by age group, March and June 2016.

As people get older, they are less likely to work as employees for someone else, and more likely to be an employer or self-employed and without employees. The 60+ age group has the highest proportion of people working as either employers or self-employed and without employees, and the lowest proportion of paid employees. Although being a paid employee is still the most common employment status for the 60+ age group.

Unpaid family workers remain a very small proportion of workers for all age groups. The 60+ age group has the largest proportion working as unpaid family workers (2.1 percent for the June 2016 quarter). This may be due to this age group having more time available, and being financially able to offer their skills as an unpaid family worker.

Figure 2 shows the proportion of workers in each employment status, by age group, for the March and June 2016 quarters. The older age groups had a higher proportion of people changing from being paid employees, to employers or self-employed and without employees than the younger age groups – due to the questionnaire change in the June 2016 quarter.

Employment status by ethnicity (main job)

Table 3 shows employment status by ethnicity for the June 2016 quarter. The Pacific peoples ethnic group has the highest proportion of people working as employees (93.4 percent), followed by Māori (87.5 percent), then the MELAA group (85.9 percent).

The European ethnic group contains the largest proportion of people working as employers (6.9 percent) or self-employed and without employees (13.0 percent).

Table 3

 Employment status, by ethnic group
June 2016 quarter
 Employment status

 European

 Māori

 Pacific people

 Asian

 MELAA

 Other

 Percent

 Paid employee

 79.2

 87.5

 93.4

 83.5

 85.9

 80.4

 Employer

 6.9

 3.2

 1.6

 5.2

 6.0

 S

 Self-employed and without employees

 13.0

 8.2

 4.3

 10.1

 7.0

 15.5

 Unpaid family worker

 0.9

 0.9

 S

 1.1

 S

 S

 Not stated

 S

 S

 S

 S

 S

 S

 Total

 100.0

 100.0

 100.0

 100.0

 100.0

 100.0

Symbol: S Suppressed. Estimate used to calculate the percentage is less than 1,000.
Source: Statistics NZ

 The European ethnic group showed a substantial increase in the proportion who are employers, rising from 4.0 percent in the March 2016 quarter to 6.9 percent in the June 2016 quarter. The MELAA, Māori and Asian ethnic groups also increased their proportion of employers over this period.

Figure 3

Graph, Percentage of main ethnic groups who are employers, June 2015, and March and June 2016.

Over the June 2016 quarter, the MELAA and Pacific peoples groups had decreased proportions of self-employed and without employees. All other ethnic groups showed increases in the proportion of workers in this category.

Figure 4

Graph, Percentage of main ethnic groups who are self-employed and without employees, June 2015, and March and June 2016.

Employment status by full-time / part-time (main job)

The Labour Market had 128,000 full-time workers (30 hours or more a week) and 22,000 part-time workers who were employers in the June 2016 quarter. As a proportion of full-time workers, the employer category was 6.6 percent, up from 3.9 percent in the March 2016 quarter.

The majority of full-time workers in the June 2016 quarter were paid employees (82.4 percent), while 10.5 percent were self-employed and without employees.

Part-time workers have a smaller proportion of people working as employers (4.2 percent), than full-time workers. However, part-time workers have a larger proportion working as self-employed and without employees, than full-time workers. For the June 2016 quarter, 75.9 percent of part-time workers were paid employees, and 17.1 percent were self-employed and without employees.

Figures 5 and 6

Graph, full-time and part-time workers who are employers, June 2015, and March and June 2016. Graph, Full-time and part-time workers who are self-employed and without employees, June 2015, and March and June 2016.

Previous employment status (main job)

People not currently employed but who have had a job within the past five years are asked what their employment status was in their last job. With the newly redeveloped HLFS, we now only collect this information in the September quarter, so it is not available for the June 2016 quarter release.

We expect to see similar changes as in the employment status for main job, with decreases in employees and increases in both the self-employed categories (employers and self-employed and without employees).

Employment status transitions (main job)

Figures 7 and 8 show people who were in both the March and June quarters of the HLFS, and were in the same self-employed category (either employers or self-employed and without employees) for both quarters. The graphs highlight the proportions who remain within the same employment status category.

Figures 7 and 8

Graph, Employer last quarter to same in next quarter, June quarters 2014–16. Graph, Self-employed and without employees last quarter to same in next quarter, June quarters 2014–16.

The transitions for the self-employed categories (employers and self-employed and without employees) highlight that the redeveloped questionnaire has increased the stability of these two categories – people are now more likely to remain in the employment status they were in during the previous quarter.

For the employer category, past years show about 30 percent of people who were employers in the March quarter, were employers in the June quarter. With the new questionnaire, 70.7 percent of all employers recorded in March 2016 quarter were recorded as employers in the June 2016 quarter.

There is a similar pattern with the self-employed and without employees category, showing a higher level of people remaining within that category for the recent March to June 2016 quarter.

Figure 9

Graph, Paid employee last quarter to same in next quarter, June quarters 2014–16.

Conversely, figure 9 shows that the percentage of paid employees for the March 2016 quarter who were also paid employees for the June 2016 quarter dropped to 94.7 percent. The trend over recent March to June quarters was over 96 percent of people remaining as paid employees.

ISBN 978-0-908350-61-2
Published 17 August 2016

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