A postcard from... New Zealand

Our 'postcard from' series keeps you updated on key HR areas in different countries

Economic briefing

Just 40 years ago New Zealand’s economy remained both agrarian and heavily dependent on British market access. Today it is more of an industrialised, free market economy with strengthened global trade as a foreign policy priority. For instance, New Zealand was the second country to ratify the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) in May 2017. After the US’ withdrawal New Zealand – together with the 10 other trade partners in the TPP – modified the free trade agreement and renamed it the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) in January 2018.


New Zealand has a population of around 4.5 million, of which the vast majority (71.2%) are of European ethnicity. The second largest ethnic group is Maori (14.1%), who are New Zealand’s native population. The country has witnessed ongoing protest movements focusing on the rights of these indigenous people, including issues such as racism, land rights, language and culture. In recent years the government has begun to address these issues, with current efforts being made to identify and address unemployment among the Maori and Pacific people.

Legal lowdown

One of the main areas of current focus in employment law is enhanced parental leave, according to learning and development coach and fellow of the CIPD living in New Zealand Kathryn Jackson. “I’m originally from the UK and was astounded to find New Zealand’s standard paid parental leave was just 18 weeks,” she says. “This was revised to 22 weeks with effect from 1 July 2018, and there are further increases planned for the future.”

From the HR frontline

Aside from tackling unemployment among the Maori and Pacific population, unemployment among young people is also a current focus. Another element is the government’s pledge to target wellbeing rather than just GDP, which Jackson believes is a positive shift “for all people professionals working here”.

But there are nevertheless challenges for HR. “Change and uncertainty feature highly within the HR world in New Zealand,” adds Jackson. This is she says “a combined result of the general global tendency towards exploring change and its influence on engaging employees, plus the additional challenges faced by living and working in New Zealand”.

A series of earthquakes has contributed to this uncertainty. “[Also] as a nation, we are typically perceived as a very long way away from most countries and therefore our businesses face ‘going the extra mile’ as a standard to achieving success,” says Jackson.