A look at the labour market – then and now

Find out how the job market has changed over the past 40 to 50 years.

Then – 60s and 70s

  • Plenty of work
  • No need for qualifications
  • Could train on the job
  • Lots of apprenticeships
  • Government a big employer
  • Left school at 15
  • Onus on employer to provide training
  • Training driven by someone else
  • Expected to do 40 years in one job/industry
  • Job security
  • Families provided the jobs and the contact
  • Careers were for men
  • A lot less pressure to excel in the job
  • Costs of education - universities and polytechs didn't have big fees
  • Careers for women were narrow

The 80s

  • Early 80s, before sharemarket crash, booming economy, lots of spending by businesses and individuals
  • Sharemarket crash had spin offs, such as wage freezes, high unemployment and slump in construction industry
  • 40-hour weeks the norm and people still got paid overtime
  • Restructuring of public sector – privatisation and redundancies
  • Stay at home mums still the norm, but increased opportunities for women in careers, creating the rise in childcare needs
  • Decline of apprenticeship training
  • The start of the concept that people change their careers a number of times
  • More kids were staying at school until Seventh Form
  • 'Think Big' projects
  • Rogernomics and the selling of government assets
  • Small towns declining as large businesses closed
  • PCs in the workplace creating opportunities
  • Māori Trade Training

10 years ago

  • Competition for work
  • Higher qualifications required
  • Wider job choices
  • Rapid change in technology
  • Restructuring
  • Growth in small businesses and self employment
  • Flexibility of work style
  • Multi-skilling but not generalists
  • Need to check market demands
  • Re-emergence of apprenticeships after axing in the late 80s
  • Student loan scheme introduced
  • Expectation of training before entering a job
  • Career – periods of re-training and four or five job changes


  • Global job and recruitment market – many New Zealanders working overseas
  • Increased use by employers of on-line job applications in job seeking
  • 90-day work trials for new employees
  • Higher rates of youth unemployment
  • NCEA attainment to Level 2 is becoming expected
  • Recession has reduced job opportunities in many industries
  • High level of technological skills expected of most workers
  • Training costs have risen and students have sizeable loans
  • Modern apprenticeships well embedded and accepted
  • The number of government jobs is reducing
  • Increased networking needed by job seekers
  • Paid parental leave
  • Diverse cultures in New Zealand and in the workplace
  • Migrants are recruited for many executive and senior management positions
  • Women have very high participation levels in workforce
  • Emergence of glamour/trendy industries – professional sport
  • Need for ongoing learning
  • Greater awareness of values, and work-life balance in the workplace
  • Employers aware of health and safety and employee stress
  • A trend for people to work beyond their retirement age.

Updated 12 Nov 2015