Story: Occupational structure

Page 3. Qualifications and age

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Educational qualifications

A person’s formal educational qualifications have a significant role in determining their occupation. In many professions a formal qualification is essential for employment. For example doctors must have medical degrees, lawyers must have law degrees, and university lecturers are increasingly expected to have a doctorate.

In 2006 professionals, such as lawyers, accountants or teachers, were the highest proportion of workers who held a degree or higher qualification, at 53%. The next highest qualified group were managers, with 20% having a degree or higher qualification. The lowest rate of these qualifications was found among machinery operators and drivers at 3%, and labourers at 4%. People working as technicians or tradespeople tended to have trade-related qualifications.

Machinery operators and drivers had the highest proportion of workers who held no formal qualifications, at 40% and 38%. But all main occupational groups had people with no formal qualifications. For example 15% of managers reported having no formal educational qualifications.

Age and occupation

Certain age groups are more commonly found in particular occupations, partly due to the qualifications and experience needed. Sales work is a popular job with young people who may be studying as well, and in 2006 more than a third of sales workers were under 25 years of age. In contrast only 7% of managers and 8% of professionals were aged under 25. Two other groups with a significant number of young workers were community and personal-service workers, and labourers, both at around one-quarter.

Some occupations such as farming, government and community services have a high proportion of their workers in older age groups. As these people retire, it may be difficult to find younger people to replace them. One example is doctors, particularly those who work in rural areas.

How to cite this page:

Paul Callister and Robert Didham, 'Occupational structure - Qualifications and age', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 24 March 2017)

Story by Paul Callister and Robert Didham, published 11 Mar 2010