Educational attainment in the adult population

What We Have Found

One in four New Zealanders aged 15 years and over held a bachelors or higher qualification in 2016.

The educational attainment of New Zealanders aged 25 to 64 years was similar to the OECD average in 2016 – 36 percent held a level 5 to 7 diploma or higher-level qualification, 40 percent held an upper secondary qualification or a level 4 certificate, and 23 percent had no qualification or they did not specify their qualification.  Compared to the OECD average, there were more New Zealanders with bachelors degrees and fewer with masters degrees.

Date Updated: September 2017

Indicator Description

Distribution of the population aged 15 years and older by highest qualification.

Why This Is Important

People with higher-level tertiary qualifications have lower unemployment rates and higher earnings than people without a qualification.  They are also more likely to rate their health as excellent, or very good, than people without a qualification.

As the requirements for many jobs and the expectations of employers continue to change, education provides the skills and knowledge necessary for participation in society and for a more productive workforce.  Education also contributes to an expansion of scientific and cultural knowledge, and a population's educational levels are positively related to economic growth rates and to a country's capacity to provide its citizens with a high standard of living.

This indicator reports on the highest level of qualification held by those aged 15 years and over. Also included is an international comparison of the educational attainment of the population aged 25 to 64 years.  People's qualifications are often considered a proxy for 'human capital', that is, their skills and knowledge.  Changes in the educational attainment of the population also provides information about access to education and the equity of the education system.

Previously reported data has been revised

In June 2013, the qualification question in the Household Labour Force Survey was updated, leading to improved estimates of people with school qualifications.  In addition, the 'not stated' category was separated from the 'no qualification' category and level 7 diplomas and certificates became included with bachelors or higher qualifications.  From 2013 onwards, the detailed data in this indicator is not directly comparable with previous years due to these changes.

How We Are Going

In New Zealand, all post-school study is considered to be tertiary education study.  In 2016, 50 percent of the population held a tertiary qualification.  Over the last 10 years there has been an increase in the proportion of New Zealanders who hold a bachelors or higher qualification as their highest qualification.  In 2006, 15 percent of New Zealanders held a bachelors or higher qualification and the figure was 24 percent in 2016.

Figure 1: Distribution of the population aged 15 years and over by highest qualification level
inID-1903-fig1

Notes:

  1. From 2006 to 2012, tertiary diplomas and certificates included level 7 diplomas and certificates.
  2. From 2006 to 2012, people who did not state their qualification were included with those with no qualification.
  3. Data for 2013 is based on the June, September and December quarters.
  4. From 2013, data does not add to 100 percent as those who do not state their qualification have been excluded.

The proportion with a level 4 to 6 diploma or certificate as their highest qualification was 16 percent in 2016, compared to 24 percent in 2006.  People with other post-school qualifications comprised 7.0 percent of the adult population in 2016, compared to 5.2 percent in 2013. Those with a level 1 to 3 tertiary certificate totalled 2.7 percent in 2016 and 3.8 percent in 2013.

In 2016, 20 percent of people were without a qualification, compared to 23 percent in 2013. The proportion of people with a school qualification as their highest qualification was 28 percent in 2016, compared to 24 percent in 2006.

Ethnic group

For the Māori and Pasifika ethnic groups the proportions with a bachelors or higher qualification also increased from 2006 to 2016 - up from 6.2 percent to 12 percent for Māori and up from 5.3 percent to 9.5 percent for Pasifika.

Figure 2: Estimated percentages of the Māori and Pasifika populations aged 15 years and over with a bachelors degree or higher qualification
inID-1903-fig2

The proportions with a level 1 to 6 diploma or certificate decreased from 2006 to 2016 for Māori, down from 30 percent to 26 percent, while it remained stable for Pasifika, at 22 percent.

Figure 3: Estimated percentages of the Māori and Pasifika populations aged 15 years and over with a level 4 to 6 diploma or certificate
inID-1903-fig3

International comparisons

The Organisation for Economic Development (OECD) defines 'tertiary' qualifications as level 5 diplomas/certificates and above.  Based on this definition, the educational attainment of New Zealanders aged 25 to 64 years was similar to the OECD average in 2016 – 36 percent held a level 5 to 7 diploma or higher-level qualification, 40 percent held an upper secondary qualification or a level 4 certificate, and 23 percent had no qualification or they did not specify their qualification.  Compared to the OECD average, there were more New Zealanders with bachelors degrees and fewer with masters degrees.

Figure 4: Educational attainment of the population aged 25 to 64 years for selected countries by highest level of qualification (2016)
inID-1903-fig4

References

  • Ministry of Education (2017), Profile & Trends 2016: Tertiary Education Outcomes and Qualification Completions, p 3 and pp 7-9, Wellington:  Ministry of Education.
  • OECD (2017). Education at a Glance 2017: OECD Indicators. Paris, OECD Publishing.
  • Statistics New Zealand. (1991-2016). Household labour force survey (June quarter), Wellington: Statistics New Zealand

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