Download complete Employment domain

Employment affects the economic status and standard of living of an individual and their family and also has a strong influence on social and emotional wellbeing [1]. For most people, participation in paid employment is the main factor in determining adequate income [2]. Being employed is an important way for a person to meet their material needs and to participate in their community [3]. Employment is also important to an individual’s identity and their role in society [4,5]. Longitudinal studies show that unemployment has a direct negative effect on health, over and above the effects of socioeconomic status, poverty, and prior ill-health [6].

There are three general labour force status classifications: employed, unemployed, and not in the labour force [7]. Levels of employment and unemployment differ across population groups, meaning some groups are less likely to experience the positive benefits of employment. When people move from unemployment to employment, they gain in material wellbeing, subjective wellbeing, physical and mental health, and socioeconomic status [8].

Key trends within employment

The labour market in greater Christchurch has moved through four main phases over the last ten years. Firstly, prior to the beginning of the Canterbury earthquake sequence, the employment statistics for greater Christchurch were similar to those for New Zealand overall. Then, during the initial post-earthquake period, the employment opportunities in greater Christchurch were adversely affected by the disruption of critical infrastructure and loss of business premises (including public services), and a general reduction in demand for goods and services by individuals and households within the greater Christchurch economy. During the next phase, the repair and rebuild years from late 2012 to 2016, employment statistics in greater Christchurch generally tracked above both pre-earthquake and New Zealand levels. Finally, the most recent data indicate a general convergence between the employment statistics in greater Christchurch and New Zealand overall. Specifically, the favourable differences for greater Christchurch in the unemployment rate, employment rate, labour force participation rate, and underemployment rate have all reduced, essentially returning to levels similar to New Zealand overall. Job satisfaction, however, has remained on average higher for greater Christchurch workers compared with New Zealand workers overall.

Key equity issues within employment

Changes in the employment and labour force participation rates in greater Christchurch over the last ten years indicate that the employment opportunities for young people and females have been particularly sensitive to external drivers (comparable data were not available by ethnicity for greater Christchurch due to the survey sample size for this area being too small to present robust data). In greater Christchurch, employment statistics broadly reflect shifts in employment opportunities during the ongoing earthquake recovery/rebuilding phase. Generally, employment opportunities for low-skilled and unskilled workers tend to be strongly driven by the prevailing economic conditions: unfavourably (compared to skilled workers) when economic conditions slow and more equitably as economic conditions improve [9,10].

What this means for wellbeing

Employment continues to be a key driver of individual and community wellbeing in greater Christchurch. For most people, participation in paid employment is the main factor in determining adequate income. The employment statistics for greater Christchurch are now similar to New Zealand overall, as much of the upswing in economic activity observed during the post-earthquake and peak rebuild years has now dissipated.


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