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Farmers Replace Teachers In NZ Parliament, But White-collar Professionals Dominate

Analysis of Members of Parliament’s careers has revealed that although farmers have replaced teachers in the new Parliament, office work and politics remain the dominant career experience of the 54th Parliament.

The research, by Mark Blackham and Emily Mingins of BlacklandPR, identified that the six most popular careers for MPs are (in descending order) managers, elected representatives, analysts, lawyers, business owners and farmers.

The only career missing from that list compared to the previous Parliament is teaching, due to the exit of many Labour MPs in the 2023 election. There are 6 MPs with education backgrounds in this Parliament compared to 20 in the previous. There are 12 MPs with farm related occupations (and 18 with farming backgrounds) compared to 7 in the 2020 Parliament.

Parliament has proportionately more lawyers (17), managers (44) and analysts (22) than are found in ordinary life. Almost 14% of MPs have legal work experience, compared to 0.5% of the public. The construction sector is the least represented in Parliament. Only 2.4% of MPs have building-related work experience, compared to over 10% of the NZ public. Much of the variety in work experience in the previous Parliament has disappeared[1].

The research identified 216 discernible careers across New Zealand’s 123 MPs, with most MPs having two distinct professions before being elected to Parliament. 86% of the careers were in social, community and service-related employment categories – a slight fall on the previous parliament.

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A notable change from the last Parliament is that most of the jobs held by MPs were related to their training. There was a lower incidence of significant employment outside their qualifications. The careers of this crop of MPs therefore do not reflect the growing flexibility and variation found in general employment.

Blackland PR Director Mark Blackham says that while MPs may look different, they have more in common with each other than with voters.

“Despite an apparent polarisation of views, Parliament is fairly homogeneous in having a financially secure upbringing, quality and high-level education, and white-collar work experience.”


Blackham notes that there are exceptions to the general picture and that wealth does not equal a comfortable or sheltered path through life. Nonetheless, the academic pursuits and work choices of most MPs indicate a narrower set of interests than will be found across the general population.

“Compared to the everyday world, Parliament is stacked with university degrees, private school education, and more office-based and politically funded work,” he says.

Blackham says employment shapes the way people view themselves and the world, so the survey provides an insight into the perspective of Parliament and individual MPs.

“The majority of MPs are interested in intellectual challenges. There is less interest in sciences, manufacturing, and material things,” he says.

Parties not overly differentiated by career

There are strong commonalities between the employment backgrounds of MPs in each Party and less variation between Parties than in the past.

“Parliament has some diversity in working interests, but it is harder to tell the Parties apart by their career background, “Blackham says.

The clearest differences are in the main employment sectors: National’s biggest employment background is in commerce and business management. ACT is in agriculture and business consultants. NZ First is in government and commerce. The biggest career of Labour, Greens, and Te Pāti Māori has been in the service sector (managers).

The top three careers for National MPs are in commerce, services (managers), and government. The top three careers for NZ First are in government, commerce, and service. The top three careers in ACT are agriculture, service (consultant), and business.

The top three careers for Labour are in service, government, and community. The top three careers for the Greens are in service (managers), community (analysts), and government (elected reps). The top two careers for Te Pāti Māori are service (managers) and lecturers.

ACT has a high proportion of small business owners, including Nicole McKee who ran a firearms safety consultancy, and Laura Trask who operated an evacuation consultancy.


Many members of the Green Party caucus have backgrounds in social and community work. Exemplifying this was co-leader Marama Davidson, who previously worked as a Race Relations Advisor for the Human Rights Commission, and Ricardo Menéndez March who was a community worker.

The Labour Party has the largest proportion of MPs with public sector experience, with MPs such as Ginny Anderson and Barbara Edmonds who worked for other elected officials. The caucus also has many lawyers and union officials in its ranks.

The National Party caucus has many former private sector managers such as former Air New Zealand CEO Christopher Luxon, and Dan Bidois, who was a strategy manager at Foodstuffs. Other prominent career backgrounds include financial services and the primary industries.

MPs are the least qualified and least predictable of careers. By way of example, Rawiri Waititi has been a lecturer, and worked in the health and social sectors through the Waipareira Trust, while co-leader Debbie Ngarewa-Packer has experience in Māori broadcasting, management and as the former Deputy Mayor of South Taranaki District Council.

How study was conducted

Job and qualification data was gathered from MPs’ public biographies, social media, media articles, and written responses from MPs’ offices. We also accounted for how MPs had described what their main career was, if at all.

All jobs were categorised into the career industries and roles used by Stats NZ ANZSCO list. Jobs were also separately categorised into general career groups used in our previous surveys.

© Scoop Media

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