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Status in employment


Status in employment classifies employed people aged 15 years and over according to whether they were working for themselves or for other people in their main job.

Where the data comes from

Question 34 on the individual form.

How this data is classified

11 Paid employee

12 Employer

13 Self-employed and without employees

14 Unpaid family worker

77 Response unidentifiable

99 Not stated


A self-employed person who hires one or more employees.

Self-employed and without employees

A person who operates his or her own economic enterprise or engages independently in a profession or trade (including partnerships) and hires no employees. The self-employed can be defined in terms of the criteria of economic risk and control. Most or all of the following characteristics are indicative of self-employed people. They control their own work environment and are responsible for getting the work done and make decisions on; when, where and what hours they work; how much they get paid and when they take holidays. They invest their own money in the enterprise and provide the major assets and equipment for the job.

Paid employee

A person who has an employment contract and receives remuneration for his or her work in the form of wages, salary, commission, tips, piece rates or pay in kind. An employee has certain rights under employment legislation which are not usually available to the self-employed. These include access to personal grievance and dispute procedures, paid statutory holidays and annual holiday pay, and employment protection while taking parental leave.

Unpaid family worker

A person who works without pay in an economic enterprise that is owned and operated by a relative.

For further information about this classification, refer to the:

For background information on classifications and standards, refer to the Classifications and related statistical standards page.

Subject population

The subject population for this variable is the employed census usually resident population aged 15 years and over.

The subject population is the people, families, households, or dwellings to whom the variable applies.

Non-response and data that could not be classified

Non response

'Non-response' is when an individual gives no response at all to a census question that was relevant to them. The non-response rate is the percentage of the subject population that was coded to ‘Not stated’.

  • Non-response rate for 2013: 2.2 percent.
  • Non-response rate for 2006: 2.9 percent.
  • Non-response rate for 2001: 2.8 percent.

Not elsewhere included

Non-response and responses that could not be classified or did not provide the type of information asked for are usually grouped together and called 'Not elsewhere included'.

  • 2.2 percent of the subject population was coded to 'Not elsewhere included' in 2013, compared with 2.9 percent in 2006. Since the response unidentifiable category in 2006 was negligible, it did not affect the overall non-response percentage figure. In 2001 only the non-response category was used.

For more information on non-response, refer to the 2013 Census data user guide.

How this data is used

Data from this variable is used:

  • by Statistics NZ in the labour cost index weight derivation, and the production of the official productivity statistics
  • to provide information on the economic and social structure of the labour force
  • to help explain changes in many of the other work variables
  • to analyse some of the effects of changing employment and unemployment levels
  • to measure some of the effects of government’s social and economic policies.

Data quality processes

All census data was checked thoroughly during processing and evaluation, to ensure that it met quality standards and is suitable for use. These quality checks included edits.

All data must meet minimum quality standards to make it suitable for use.

Quality level

quality level is assigned to all census variables: foremost, defining, or supplementary.

Status in employment is a defining variable. Defining variables cover key subject populations that are important for policy development, evaluation, or monitoring. These variables are given second priority in terms of quality, time, and resources across all phases of a census.

Mode of collection impacts – online forms compared with paper forms

The online forms had built-in editing functionality that directed respondents to the appropriate questions and ensured that their responses were valid. As a result of this, data from online forms may be of higher overall quality than data from paper forms. The significance of this will depend on the particular type of analysis being done. There will always be a mode effect but this cannot be measured. Statistics NZ design and test to minimise the effects of mode for all questions.

There were differences between how the forms were completed online and on paper for this variable:

  • On the online form, only people who were 15 years of age or older and answered that they were in employment in question 32, and gave a New Zealand address in question 5 were able to respond to the status in employment question (question 34). On the paper form it was possible for respondents under 15 years of age, those unemployed, or overseas visitors to respond to question 34.
  • The online form allowed only one response to be selected for the status in employment question. If a further response was selected, the response given previously disappeared. Multiple responses to this question were possible when forms were completed on paper.

Quality assessment of data and data quality issues for this variable

Overall quality assessment

Very high: fit for use – with no data quality issues or only very minor data quality issues. 2013 Census variable quality rating scale gives more detail.

Issues to note

  • Non-response rate for 2013: 2.2 percent.
  • The non-response rate in 2013 is the lowest it has been since 1996.

For more information on non-response, refer to the 2013 Census data user guide.

Comparing this data with previous census data

This data is fully comparable with data from the 2006 and 2001 Censuses. Changes in the data over this time period can be interpreted as real changes because there have been no changes in the way the data has been collected, defined, and classified.

Comparing this data with data from other sources

Census is the only information source that provides comprehensive information for small areas and small populations. However alternative sources of information about this subject are available:

Data from these alternative sources may show differences from census data for several reasons. These could be due to differences in scope, coverage, non-response rates, data being collected at different periods of time, alternative sources being sample surveys and as such subject to sampling errors, or differences in question wordings and method of delivery (self-administered versus interviewer-administered). Sources may also not cover those who are self-employed. Data users are advised to familiarise themselves with the strengths and limitations of individual data sources before comparing with census data.

Further information about this data

All percentages in census publications have been calculated using 'Total stated' as the denominator.

When using this data, be aware that:

  • There are some inconsistencies between the status of employment variable and other employment variables due to respondent error. For example, there are a small proportion of cases where people employed within a sector of central or local government are also classified as an unpaid family worker, employer, or self-employed for status in employment (which should not occur). This is due to sector of ownership being coded independently from status in employment.

Contact our Information Centre for further information about using this variable.

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