Motu Note #39

The characteristics of Early Childhood Education workers and their employment

Note overview

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on early childhood sector.    
Insights with limits.    

This research note summarises results of exploratory research into the ability of Statistics New Zealand’s IDI to support analysis of the early childhood education (ECE) workforce. We have focused on three issues:

  • the characteristics of the ECE workforce;
  • the annual transition and retention rates of workers in the ECE sector;
  • and the industry sources and destinations of ECE workers who move into and out-of the ECE sector.

The IDI data provides reliable employment and earnings data for wage and salary workers, subject to some caveats: first, there is no direct measure of hours or part-time versus full-time employment, making it difficult to reliably gauge the level of employment intensity worked within a month, or measure hourly earnings or (full-time equivalent) salary rates; second, measures of qualifications and immigration status used in the analysis are less reliable for older cohorts of workers.

Over the period 2001 to 2017 the total number of workers in ECE in a year almost doubled, from 29,200 to 57,700. Women make up the overwhelming majority (94%) of the ECE workforce; and the share of workers of Asian ethnicity rose dramatically over the period. The share of degree- and ECE-qualified workers increased dramatically, reflecting both the increase in qualifications captured in the MOE data, and the increasing requirements for qualifications in the ECE workforce. ECE employment has also become more intensive over time, as evidenced from the increase in average number of months worked in ECE. Average total earnings of all ECE workers increased by 54% over the period 2001-2017, while average ECE earnings increased by 75% and median ECE earnings almost tripled.

Annual retention rates within the ECE sector improved over the study period, particularly in Preschool education. Transition rates are higher for males, younger workers, those with lower qualifications (level 1-3), or no ECE qualifications, and those with lower shares of total earnings from ECE.


Ministry of Education