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Goodhew: The Changing Face of the Working Population

Jo Goodhew

9 APRIL, 2014

Speech: The Changing Face of the Working Population - How Employers Can Respond

E aku rangatira, tēnā koutou katoa. Ka nui te honore ki te mihi ki a koutou.

Thank you to Merryn Morrison for your kind introduction.

I am grateful to the Rotorua Chamber of Commerce to have this opportunity to speak to you tonight.

The Chamber has a proud history as the district's leading business organisation for over one hundred years. I look forward to the contribution you will make over the next hundred.

I would like to acknowledge the President of Rotorua Chamber of Commerce, Kathy Hawker, and Rotorua Mayor, Steve Chadwick.

Tonight I will discuss the changing face of the working population and what you can do to make the most of these changes to grow your business and your community.

Winston Churchill said “To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often”.

I rather like this saying one of the few certainties in life is that things will change.

Rotorua already has impressive initiatives underway to grow local business.

These include a number which have been recently launched by the Rotorua District Council.

The Council is working to establish local preferred suppliers for services, and to assist local businesses to tender for contracts.

Industry representatives are working together with the Council to significantly boost Rotorua’s tourism marketing.

I understand that local businesses are seeing an improvement in domestic visitor numbers following the ‘Famously Rotorua’ tourism campaign in Auckland.

The Government is also working hard to build business opportunities for Rotorua.

For example, the Government is committed to helping the primary sector double its exports by 2025.

The Government and the forestry sector are working together to increase the value of wood products.

As employers, you are always looking for ways to grow your own businesses.

One big opportunity for growth is to tap into an increasingly diverse workforce.

So what are some of the changes we are seeing in the workforce?

Women’s participation in New Zealand’s workforce has now reached its highest ever level.

The Household Labour Force Survey (HLFS) found women’s participation rate has risen to 63.4 per cent - the highest level since the survey began in 1986.

To me this shows that New Zealand is waking up to the importance of women in growing our businesses.

More and more women are gaining qualifications.

80 percent of 18 year old women in the Bay of Plenty region achieved NCEA Level 2 in 2012, that’s up from 77 percent in 2011.

More women than ever before are graduating with bachelor degrees or higher. The proportion of women with a bachelor degree or higher went from 53 percent in 2006 to 56.5 percent in 2013.

Another change is that we have an ageing workforce.

New Zealand now has close to a million people aged between 50 and 69.

Older workers are playing a bigger role in the workforce and for greater lengths of time.

A recent Southern Cross survey showed that almost 40 percent of New Zealanders expect to work past 65.

A third change is our growing cultural and ethnic diversity.

New Zealand’s Māori and Pacific populations are growing.

Māori are achieving more qualifications as well.

68 percent of Māori 18 year olds in the Bay of Plenty region achieved NCEA Level 2 in 2012, that’s up from 61 percent in 2011.

The Māori business sector is also growing.

The Māori asset base in the Bay of Plenty region is estimated at $8.6 billion with the majority of those assets controlled here in Rotorua.

Our Asian population is growing even faster, having almost doubled in size since 2001.

This is the changing face of the working population - more women in the workforce with more qualifications, an ageing workforce, and more diverse cultures and ethnicities playing a larger role.

How can you best engage with this changing workforce?

While the Ministry of Women’s Affairs work is focused on women in particular, I think many of the ideas apply more widely.

First, avoid assumptions about who wants to be part of your workforce.

Often we make assumptions about the types of work that women will be interested in.

But when we ask women we get a different picture.

The Ministry’s work to engage women in the Canterbury rebuild provides a good example.

The Canterbury rebuild is a priority for this Government.

As well as being vital for Canterbury’s future, the rebuild is now a driver of growth in the New Zealand economy.

One challenge for Canterbury’s continuing economic recovery is making sure we have good workers in the ongoing rebuild and in sufficient numbers.

Ministry research recently identified a pool of underutilised female labour in Canterbury available and ready to contribute.

Over half the women surveyed in the Ministry’s research were willing to consider construction roles, but many felt that society had restricted construction jobs ‘for men’.

Some said that the way construction jobs were advertised was an example of this – saying the ads were specifically aimed at men.

Women’s unemployment rates in the Bay of Plenty region are higher than the national average, so that suggests there may be a similar pool of labour available here.

Consider how you are advertising your vacancies.

Are you making any assumptions about who works in your business?

We all have biases, but the key thing is to be aware of them.

You might want to show women, older workers, or people of different ethnicities and cultures in your promotional materials.

If women workers are part of business advertising then women can picture themselves in your workforce and as your customers.

If girls see women role models in the workforce, then they can aspire to be like those role models one day.

One great quote I heard when I was in Christchurch recently was from Arihia Bennett, the Chief Executive of Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu.

Arihia bumped into an old friend who proudly announced to her: “I don’t clean houses anymore – I build them!”

That is one example of what the possibilities are for employers and workers who are willing to think outside the box.

Employers can find good keen staff and workers can find good jobs they had not even thought of.

Another way to think outside the box is to consider how your workplace can become more attractive to a wider range of workers.

For example, you can consider how to introduce or extend flexible work in your businesses.

Flexible work options are important for women, and increasingly important for men.

Although women are still responsible for the majority of caring roles in the family, it is changing.

Some of the flexible work options that have been shown to work by businesses include:

• job-sharing

• working remotely from home

• compressed hours, where staff work outside the regular working week, such as a nine-day fortnight

• leave options over school holidays

Flexible work options help women remain engaged in your workforce and progress to more senior positions.

This touches on a wider problem.

There are too few women in leadership roles in business and our communities.

This is not just a problem for individuals, this is a problem for everyone.

A better balance of diversity in leadership promotes innovation and effective problem solving, and can provide more effective risk management.

I know the Chamber of Commerce is running Women in Business lunch events.

This kind of networking and support is important.

I encourage you to continue with those networks and expand them where there is a need.

You have great local women role models, like your mayor Steve Chadwick.

Judith Stanway who is the deputy chair of the Scion Board and a Fellow of the Institute of Directors.

Or, Chris Paterson the Rotorua dairy farmer who recently won the Dairy Community Leadership Award from the Dairy Women’s Network.

The Ministry of Women’s Affairs runs a database of ‘board-ready’ women.

When I look around this room I see women I would expect to be on that database.

And I see men who know women who should be on that database.

I want the Ministry’s database to be the best place to find more women to enhance the competency and success of boards.

The database needs Rotorua women with business experience or with previous board and committee experience.

I have cards for the Ministry’s database at the front here.

Take a card and give it to a friend or associate who is ready for a board role.

Thank you for this opportunity to share my thoughts.

I encourage you all to keep thinking outside the box in order to grow your business, your community, and yourself.

Nō reira, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou katoa.

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