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Work and labour force status

Definition

Work and labour force status classifies a person aged 15 years and over by their inclusion or exclusion from the labour force. For an employed person, it distinguishes between full-time employment (30 hours or more per week) or part-time employment (fewer than 30 hours per week). A person who was not employed is classified as either ‘Unemployed’ or ‘Not in the labour force’.

Related variables

  • Hours worked in employment per week

Where the data comes from

This variable is derived from question 32 (job indicator), question 40 (hours worked), question 43 (seeking paid work), question 44 (job search methods) and question 45 (availability for work) on the individual form.

How this data is classified

1 Employed full-time

2 Employed part-time

3 Unemployed

4 Not in the labour force

9 Work and labour force status unidentifiable

Employed

A person is employed if they were in the working-age population (people aged 15 years and over) and during the week ended 3 March 2013:

  • worked for one hour or more for pay or profit in the context of an employee/employer relationship or self-employment
  • worked without pay for one hour or more in work that contributed directly to the operation of a farm, business or professional practice owned or operated by a relative
  • had a job but were not at work due to:
    • their illness or injury
    • personal or family responsibilities
    • bad weather or mechanical breakdown
    • direct involvement in an industrial dispute
    • being on leave or holiday.

Employed full-time refers to working 30 hours or more per week.

Employed part-time refers to working fewer than 30 hours per week.

Unemployed

Unemployed refers to all people in the working-age population (people aged 15 years and over) who, during the week ended 3 March 2013, were without a paid job, were available for work, and had actively sought work in the past four weeks (ended 3 March 2013); or had a new job to start within the next four weeks. A person whose only job search method in the four weeks prior to census had been to look at job advertisements in the newspapers, is not considered to be actively seeking work.

Not in the labour force

Any person in the working-age population (people aged 15 years and over) who is neither employed nor unemployed. For example, this category includes:

  • retired people
  • people with personal or family responsibilities, such as unpaid housework and childcare
  • people attending educational institutions
  • people permanently unable to work due to physical or mental disabilities
  • people who were temporarily unavailable for work in the survey reference week
  • people who are not actively seeking work.

Work and labour force status unidentifiable

Substitute forms are classified as ‘Work and labour force status unidentifiable’. Substitute individual forms are individual forms created by Statistics NZ where there is sufficient evidence that a person exists, but Statistics NZ has no corresponding individual form. Substitute forms are created to ensure every person and every dwelling is counted in the census. No substitute individual forms are created for overseas visitors.

For further information about this classification, refer to the:

For background information on classifications and standards, refer to the Classifications and related statistical standards page.

Subject population

The subject population for this variable is the census usually resident population aged 15 years and over.

The subject population is the people, families, households or dwellings to whom the variable applies.

Non-response and data that could not be classified

This variable does not have a non-response category. If a usual resident aged 15 and over did not answer this question, or where an entire individual form for a person within a household was not answered but a dwelling form was filled in, a value is assigned by determining what response would have been expected by looking at responses to other questions. This is called imputation.

Imputation rate

  • Imputation rate for 2013: 5.5 percent of the usually resident population aged 15 years and over.
  • Imputation rate for 2006: 6.7 percent of the usually resident population aged 15 years and over.
  • Imputation rate for 2001: 7.9 percent of the usually resident population aged 15 years and over.

Where a household did not fill in their census forms (individual and dwelling), work and labour force status for each usual resident aged 15 and over was classified as unidentifiable.

Substitute rate

  • Substitute rate for 2013: 4.9 percent of the usually resident population aged 15 years and over.
  • Substitute rate for 2006: 3.4 percent of the usually resident population aged 15 years and over.
  • Substitute rate for 2001: 3.1 percent of the usually resident population aged 15 years and over.

Note: Substitute forms are classified as Work and labour force status unidentifiable.

For more information on imputation and substitute records, refer to the 2013 Census data user guide and Imputation and balancing methodologies for the 2006 Census.

How this data is used

Data from this variable is used:

  • to compare numbers of unemployed, employed, and those not in the labour force
  • extensively by a variety of organisations, from central and local government to community groups and businesses, to analyse the labour market position of population groups and small geographic areas
  • by the Ministry of Education in determining decile rankings for schools receiving government funding
  • as a broad indicator of socio-economic status 
  • to develop the New Zealand Deprivation Index
  • by Statistics NZ to generate the number of people employed, unemployed, and not in the labour force, as well as labour force participation rates and unemployment rates for different subgroups in the population. A key strength of the census is being able to provide this information at very low levels of geography.

Data quality processes

All census data was checked thoroughly during processing and evaluation, to ensure that it met quality standards and is suitable for use. These quality checks included edits.

All data must meet minimum quality standards to make it suitable for use.

Quality level

quality level is assigned to all census variables: foremost, defining, or supplementary.

Work and labour force status is a defining variable. Defining variables cover key subject populations that are important for policy development, evaluation, or monitoring. These variables are given second priority in terms of quality, time, and resources across all phases of a census.

Mode of collection impacts – online form compared with paper form

The online forms had built-in editing functionality that directed respondents to the appropriate questions and ensured that their responses were valid. As a result of this, data from online forms may be of higher overall quality than data from paper forms. The significance of this will depend on the particular type of analysis being done. There will always be a mode effect but this cannot be measured. Statistics NZ design and test to minimise the effects of mode for all questions.

There were differences between how the forms were completed online and on paper for this variable:

  • On the online form, only people who gave a New Zealand address in question 5 and were 15 years of age or older were able to respond to the work and labour force questions. When forms were completed on paper it was possible for overseas visitors and respondents under 15 years of age to respond to these questions.
  • If respondents marked 'None' for the job indicator question (question 32) on the online form, the questions between job indicator and seeking work (question 43) were greyed out, so the respondent could not answer them unless they changed their answer to the job indicator question.
  • The online form did not allow the inconsistent multiple response of 'None of these' to be selected along with one or more of the 'I worked.../I work...' categories in the job indicator question (question 32). If the 'None of these' box was marked, any other responses to job indicator disappeared. Inconsistent multiple responses to this question were possible when forms were completed on paper.
  • The online form allowed only one response to be selected for the seeking work (question 43) and availability for work questions (question 45). If a further response was selected, the response given previously disappeared. Multiple responses to this question were possible when forms were completed on paper.

Quality assessment of data and data quality issues for this variable

Overall quality assessment

High: fit for use – with minor data quality issues only. 2013 Census variable quality rating scale gives more detail.

Issues to note

  • Imputation rate for 2013: 5.5 percent of the usually resident population aged 15 years and over.
  • Substitute rate for 2013: 4.9 percent of the usually resident population aged 15 years and over.

For more information on imputation and substitute records, refer to the 2013 Census data user guide and Imputation and balancing methodologies for the 2006 Census.

Comparing this data with previous census data

This data is fully comparable with data from the 2006 and 2001 Censuses. Changes in the data over this time period can be interpreted as real changes because there have been no changes in the way the data has been collected, defined, and classified.

Comparing this data with data from other sources

Census is the only information source that provides comprehensive information for small areas and small populations. However alternative sources of information about this subject are available:

Data from these alternative sources may show differences from census data for several reasons. These could be due to differences in scope, coverage, non-response rates, data being collected at different periods of time, alternative sources being sample surveys and as such subject to sampling errors, or differences in question wordings and method of delivery (self-administered versus interviewer-administered). Data users are advised to familiarise themselves with the strengths and limitations of individual data sources before comparing with census data.

Comparisons with the HLFS

The census attempts to use similar criteria and question wordings to the HLFS to determine a person's labour force characteristics, such as work and labour force status. However, there are a number of important differences between the two data sources, which mean that direct comparison is not always possible, particularly below the national level and specifically for cross-classifications of variables. The differences between the two data sources include differences in scope, coverage (including under- and over-coverage), timing, non-response, editing practice, question wordings and method of delivery (self-administered versus interviewer administered). Additionally, the HLFS is a sample survey. The HLFS is the official measure of employment and unemployment in New Zealand, but, depending on the type of analysis being undertaken, it may be more appropriate to use census data. Statistics New Zealand can assist data users in determining the best data source for their particular data need.

There are also differences in the subject population. The census subject population is the ‘Census usually resident population aged 15 years and over’. The HLFS target population is the civilian, usually resident, non-institutionalised population aged 15 years and over.

It should be noted that the census does not ask people who are not employed, whether they have a job due to start in the next four weeks. HLFS does, if a person has a job starting in the next four weeks and was available for work they would be derived as unemployed in HLFS. In the census if a person was available for work but hadn't been actively seeking work (perhaps because they had a job due to start in the next four weeks) then they would be derived as not in the labour force.

Another difference from the HLFS is for the Job search methods question. In the HLFS currently if your only job search method had been to look at job advertisements in newspapers then you are not actively seeking work, so you are not in the labour force. If your only job search method was looking at job advertisements on the Internet this would be coded as other, which is then coded as actively seeking work so you may be unemployed. For the census if your only job search method was ‘Looked at job advertisements’ (regardless of where the job advertisement was) then you were not actively seeking work and are not in the labour force. So there is a difference in treatment here.

Data from other alternative sources may show differences from census data for several reasons. These could be due to several factors such as alternative sources being sample surveys and subject to sampling errors. Sources may also not cover those who are self-employed. Data users are advised to familiarise themselves with the strengths and limitations of individual data sources before comparing with census data.

See Alternative sources of data for 2011 Census variables for more information about the strengths and weaknesses of these data sources.

Further information about this data

Contact our Information Centre for further information about using this variable.

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