Tokelauan people in New Zealand

Labour force participation

The labour force consists of adults (aged 15 years and over) employed or unemployed and actively seeking employment.

  • Sixty-three percent of Tokelauan adults were participating in the labour force at the time of the 2001 Census – up from 59 percent in 1996. The respective labour force participation rates of the Pacific and the New Zealand populations were 65 percent and 67 percent.
  • The New Zealand-born Tokelauan population had a higher rate of labour force participation (67 percent) than the overseas-born Tokelauan population (59 percent) in 2001.
  • Tokelauan men were more likely to participate in the labour force than Tokelauan women in 2001 (70 percent and 56 percent respectively) – a pattern repeated across all five-year age groups.
  • Labour force participation among the Tokelauan population was lower than that of the New Zealand population across all age groups. The respective labour force participation rates widen after the 30–34 year age group, before converging again among those aged 65 years and over. (See figure 6.1)

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Employment

The employment rate is the proportion of the adult population (aged 15 years and over) who are employed in either full-time or part-time paid work.

  • At the time of the 2001 Census, 49 percent of the Tokelauan adult population were employed – continuing the upward trend from 45 percent in 1996 and 36 percent in 1991. In 2001, 55 percent of the Pacific population were employed, while the equivalent figure for the New Zealand population was 62 percent.
  • Employment among the Tokelauan population rose from being equivalent to 67 percent of the New Zealand employment rate in 1991 to 79 percent in 2001, as can be seen in figure 6.2.

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  • New Zealand-born Tokelauans (51 percent) had a higher employment rate than those born overseas (46 percent) in 2001.
  • Tokelauan men (56 percent) had a higher employment rate than Tokelauan women (42 percent) in 2001 – a consistent pattern across all age groups.
  • In 2001, employment rates among Tokelauan people were highest among those aged 30–34 years (65 percent) and 40–44 years (64 percent).
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Unemployment

The unemployment rate is the proportion of the labour force who are unemployed, available for work and actively seeking employment.

  • Five hundred Tokelauan adults, or 22 percent of the Tokelauan labour force, were unemployed at the time of the 2001 Census. The unemployment rate for the Pacific population was 16 percent – more than double that for the New Zealand population in 2001 (7 percent).
  • The Tokelauan unemployment rate continued to drop from 24 percent in 1996 and 28 percent in 1991.
  • New Zealand-born Tokelauans had a higher unemployment rate (24 percent) than their overseas-born counterparts (21 percent) in 2001 – with the younger age profile of the New Zealand-born Tokelauan population a possible contributing factor.
  • Tokelauan women had a higher rate of unemployment (26 percent) than Tokelauan men (20 percent) in 2001.
  • The unemployment rate among the Tokelauan population is higher than the New Zealand population across all age groups, as figure 6.3 illustrates. The disparities tend to be greatest among the younger age groups and among those aged 45 years and over – age groups where Tokelauan people experienced high unemployment.

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Occupation

  • In 2001, the most common occupations for employed Tokelauan adults were service and sales workers (20 percent), clerks (16 percent) and plant and machine operators and assemblers (14 percent).
  • In the decade to 2001, Tokelauan people were increasingly employed in 'white collar' occupations. The proportion of Tokelauan adults employed as professionals increased by 5 percentage points between 1991 and 2001 to 9 percent, while those employed as technicians and associate professionals rose 3 percentage points to 10 percent in 2001. Conversely, the proportion of Tokelauan adults employed in 'blue collar' occupation categories, such as plant and machine operators and assemblers, declined between 1991 and 2001, as figure 6.4 illustrates.

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  • New Zealand-born Tokelauans were more likely than their overseas-born counterparts to be employed in 'white collar' occupations, such as legislators, administrators and managers (5 percent and 3 percent respectively), and as clerks (21 percent and 11 percent).
  • Tokelauans born overseas were more likely than their New Zealand-born counterparts to be employed as trades workers (11 percent and 8 percent respectively), plant and machine operators and assemblers (18 percent and 11 percent) and in elementary occupations (15 percent and 8 percent).
  • There were considerable occupational differences between the sexes, as shown in figure 6.5. In 2001, Tokelauan women were more likely than men to be employed in 'white collar' categories such as professionals, technicians and associate professionals, service and sales workers and as clerks. Conversely, Tokelauan men were more likely to be employed as trades workers and as plant and machine operators and assemblers.

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As increasing numbers of the Tokelauan population gain formal qualifications, young Tokelauan people are becoming less likely to be employed in ‘blue collar’ jobs and are gradually moving into 'white collar' occupations. In 2001, Tokelauans aged 25–34 years were more likely than those aged 35–44 years to be employed as clerks and less likely to be employed as plant and machine operators and assemblers.

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Industry

  • Just over a fifth (21 percent) of employed Tokelauan adults worked in manufacturing in 2001. As figure 6.6 shows, retail trade (12 percent) and health and community services (11 percent) were the next most common industries.

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  • New Zealand-born Tokelauans were more likely than those born overseas to work in certain industries, such as retail trade (16 percent and 8 percent respectively), property and business services (11 percent and 8 percent) and the accommodation, restaurant and cafe industry (8 percent and 5 percent).
  • Tokelauans born overseas were more likely than their New Zealand-born counterparts to work in the manufacturing industry (24 percent and 17 percent respectively) and in health and community services (14 percent and 8 percent).

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Self-employment

  • One percent of employed Tokelauan adults were employers, while 4 percent were self-employed without employees. Among the Pacific population, the equivalent proportions were 2 percent and 4 percent respectively. By comparison, employers and the self-employed formed 8 percent and 13 percent of the employed New Zealand population.