The Implications of a Recession for the Māori Economy

Māori Education, Skills and Qualifications

Summary: Māori have made significant labour market and educational gains in recent years. However, overall lower levels of formal qualifications and skills contribute to Māori being on average, less experienced and lower paid


  1. Significant developments in the skills and qualifications of Māori include:
    • the proportion of Māori leaving school with little or no qualification has fallen from almost 40% in 1996 to approximately 10% in 2007;
    • over the same period, the proportion of Māori school leavers with NZEA level 2 or above qualifications rose from 16% to 43.9%;
    • school leavers qualified to attend university approximately doubled from 7.5% in 1995 to 18% in 2007; and
    • the proportion of Māori aged over 15 enrolled in tertiary education has >also increased from less than 13% in 1999 to more than 20% in 2006.17
  2. Māori differ from non-Māori in terms of fields of study. Māori are over-represented in the “society and culture” and “information technology” fields, and under-represented in the fields of “engineering and related technologies”, “health”, “agriculture, environmental and related studies” and the “natural and physical sciences’.

Industry Training

  1. Māori represented 18% of all industry trainees in 2006 compared with their representation of 9% of the total workforce18. This reflects the concentration of Māori workers in medium-skilled occupations.

Literacy and Numeracy

  1. Raising literacy and numeracy levels is a major challenge for the Māori workforce. The Adult Literacy and Life Skills Survey 2006 (ALL) demonstrated that a large number of Māori in the workplace have low literacy and numeracy levels.19
  2. People with greater numeracy and literacy skills are more likely to be employed and, when working, be paid more than people with weaker literacy skills, even after taking other job-relevant factors into account. There is evidence of a significant effect on wages for workers who receive some form of computer training, regardless of occupation and industry, and the “returns” to information technology training appear to exceed the wage effects of training in other.20

Early Childhood Education

  1. The rate of participation of Māori children in early childhood education has improved, although it is still lower than for European children. Māori participation in some form of early childhood education (ECE) has increased significantly from 2002 to 2007 from 86 percent to 90.4 percent.21


17 Statistics New Zealand.
18 Industry Training 2006 Report, Industry Training Federation, February 2006.
19 P. Satherby and E Lawes, (2008) The Adult Literacy and Life Skills (ALL), Ministry of Education, p25, p27.
20 Daldy, B. and J. Gibson (2003) Have computers changed the New Zealand wage structure? Evidence from data on training, New Zealand Journal of Industrial Relations 28(1): 13-21.
21 Ministry of Education (2008a) Education Report: July 2007 Annual Census of Children and Staff at Licensed and/or Chartered Early Childhood Services and Licence-exempt ECE Groups, Ministry of Education (2008b) Ngā Haeata Mātauranga: Annual Report on Māori Education 2006/07


  1. Notwithstanding significant recent improvements, lower levels of skills and formal qualifications amongst many Māori will make Māori in this category more vulnerable during the recession through:
    • a greater risk of job loss;
    • the risk of the erosion of incomes which are already more likely to be lower;
    • formal training may become less affordable for this group; and
    • the long-term effects of the recession may further entrench low levels of skills and qualifications amongst Māori.