This paper focuses on the 482,000 people who left their last job in the last five years and who are currently either unemployed or not in the labour force. We look at the main reason they left their last job, as well as other aspects such as their current labour force status and the job they left.
There can be multiple reasons for leaving a job. We only ask for the respondent for their main reason, and the reason they choose may be subjective.
The data in this paper is from the Household Labour Force Survey (HLFS): September 2016 quarter.
Summary of key points
- The most common reason people who are not currently employed left their last job was to retire – 21.2 percent.
- Retirement was the reason almost three-quarters (73.2 percent) of people aged 65 years and over left their last job.
- Retirement was the most common reason men left their last job. The most common reason women left their last job was parental or family responsibilities.
- Sales workers were the most likely to have left to enrol in education or training – 21.9 percent.
- The highest proportion of people leaving due to sickness or injury was in the 55– 64-year-old age group.
Retirement most common reason for leaving work
The most common reason people left their last job was to retire, with 21.2 percent giving this reason. Almost one-quarter (24.9 percent) of the people who left their last job in the last five years were aged 65 years and older, and 73.2 percent of those retired.
Only 5.4 percent of people left their last job due to dissatisfaction with their job or the conditions, making it the least common reason for leaving.
Retirement most common for males leaving their last job, parental/family responsibilities most common for females
The biggest differences between the sexes in terms of reason for leaving employment was for parental or family responsibilities. Almost one-quarter (24.5 percent) of women gave parental or family responsibilities as their reason for leaving their last job, compared with only 3.3 percent of men. Parental or family responsibilities was the most common reason for women leaving their last job.
For men, retirement was the most common reason for leaving their last job, with 25.8 percent of men (one in four) leaving to retire. This compared with 17.9 percent of females retiring.
There were only small differences between the sexes for those who left to enrol in education or training, and those dissatisfied with their job.
Age influences the reasons people left work
When looking at the reasons for leaving a job by age, we see some expected patterns:
- Retirement was the reason given by almost three-quarters (73.2 percent) of people aged 65 years and over.
- Parental or family responsibilities as a reason for leaving peaks in the 25–34-year-old age group, at 37.7 percent, and then decreases from 35 years onwards.
- The 55–64-year-old age group had the highest proportion of people who left due to sickness or injury (25.4 percent).
Over one-third (37.1 percent) of 15–24-year-olds left to enrol in education or training. As age increases, the rate of people leaving for education or training falls. For example, only 9 percent of 25–34–year-olds left for this reason, but 5.6 percent of 35–44 year olds left for the same reason.
The proportion of people leaving a job due to the end of temporary/seasonal/contract work is fairly consistent across most age groups, but more common for younger people. Almost one-quarter of people in the 15–24-year-old age group left their last job for this reason, highlighting the fact that youth will often elect to take temporary work (over a summer holiday period, for example).
The 55–64-year-old age group has the highest proportion (7.6 percent) of people who left because they were dissatisfied with their job.
The proportion of people not employed who had been made redundant, been laid off, or whose business had closed generally increases with age up until the 65+ age group. People 65 and over are far more likely to have retired at the point they left their last job.
Pacific people and Māori more likely to have left last job for parental/family reasons
Pacific people and Māori had similar reason for leaving their last job. The most common reason was parental or family responsibilities, with 21.1 percent of Pacific people and 19.8 percent of Māori stating this is why they left.
People of European ethnicity were more likely to have retired from their last job (27.6 percent) than to have left for any other reason.
These results are influenced by the age characteristics of each ethnic group. The median age for Pacific people and Māori who left their job in the last five years was 36 and 39 respectively, whereas the median age for people who identify as European was 49.
Almost one-quarter of people in the Asian ethnic group left their job because of moving location. One of the reasons for this could be that many of New Zealand’s migrants come from Asia, and they may have left their job overseas to come to New Zealand, but have not found a job here yet. People who identified as Asian had the highest rate (of people in the survey) who were born overseas (88 percent in the September 2016 quarter), and they had been in New Zealand for a shorter period of time (only one year on average) compared with other ethnicities.
Regional differences in reasons people left work
Regions of New Zealand can differ in terms of the type of work typically available (eg seasonal work), the presence of educational institutions, and the demographics of the people living there (eg age and ethnicity).
The prevalence of the following reasons for leaving work were very similar across the regions:
- parental responsibilities
- being made redundant / laid off / business closed
- sickness, illness, or injury.
The Tasman/Nelson/Marlborough/West Coast region had the highest proportion of people who left their last job due to retirement (30.9 percent). This is not unexpected, given this region has the highest proportion of people aged 65 and over in New Zealand (see Subnational population Estimates: At 30 June 2016 (provisional) – tables).
Auckland, Wellington, Otago, and Manawatu-Wanganui had higher proportions than other regions of people who left employment for study, which could be due to the proximity of major universities, polytechnics, and industry training organisations. In Otago, one in every five people who left their job, did so to enrol education or training (22.7 percent).
The regions had differences for people having left their job at the end of seasonal/temporary/contract work. Southland had the highest proportion of people with 31.1 percent, and Northland the lowest with 6.7 percent.
Gisborne had the highest proportion of people leaving due to dissatisfaction with 7.9 percent, while the lowest was Tasman/Nelson/Marlborough/West Coast with 2.1 percent. (Note: This region contains a small number of people, so figures for this region should be treated with caution.)
Industry of the job people left
We looked at the industry of the last job people had left. This can help provide insight into the drivers of worker turnover across different industries.
The reasons people left their jobs differed across all industries.
The graph above only shows selected industries, as some of the numbers at this level of breakdown are too small to present.
Leaving a job at the end of temporary or seasonal work was the reason most commonly given in the agriculture, forestry and fishing industry (31.6 percent). This was followed by the administrative and support services industry (22.0 percent).
The accommodation and food services industry had the highest proportion of people who left to enrol in education or training (22.0 percent). Arts and recreation services (not shown in the above graph), and retail trade also had a high proportion, with 20.0 and 19.9 percent respectively.
The proportion of people who left because of redundancy, being laid off, or their business closing differed in each industry, with the highest being the rental, hiring, and real estate services (20.8 percent). In the year ending February 2016, this industry had the highest rate of business closures at 24 percent. See New Zealand Business Demography Statistics: At February 2016 – tables.
There are differences across industries for those who retired. Electricity, gas, water, and waste services had the highest proportion of people retiring at 29.9 percent, followed by transport, postal, and warehousing at 27.4 percent. (Note: The electricity, gas, water and waste industry contains a small number of people, so figures for this industry should be treated with caution.)
Sales workers more likely to leave for study
When looking at the occupation of people’s last job, we see some differences in the reasons they left.
Labourer was the occupation with the largest number of people who left their last job in the last five years, which could be due to high turnover within this occupation.
Occupations that saw the highest proportion of people leave due to job/condition dissatisfaction were machinery operators and drivers (9.1 percent), followed by sales workers (7.0 percent) and labourers (5.6 percent).
Sales workers had the highest proportion of people who left for education or training (21.9 percent). This is not surprising as many students work in the hospitality or retail sectors. One-fifth (19.8 percent) of people aged 15–24 are employed as sales workers. Managers had the lowest proportion of people leaving for study at just 4.6 percent.
Managers had the highest proportion of people who retired (29.0 percent), closely followed by clerical workers (27.2 percent).
Community and personal services workers were most likely to leave their job for parental or family reasons (21.9 percent), while machinery operators and drivers were least likely to leave for this reason (6.8 percent). The patterns seen for people who leave for parental or family reasons are influenced by the gender composition of the occupation groups. For example, 68.4 percent of community services workers are women, compared with just 12.1 percent of machinery operators and drivers.
People who were employers in their last job most likely to have retired
Over half (62 percent) of those who were employers in their last job (and had left their job in the last five years) retired. Retirement was also high for those who were self-employed and without employees (48 percent). This is likely due to the large proportion of older people who are self-employed in the labour force. See Employment status by age (main job).
The reasons people left were similar across the paid employees group, with retirement being the most common (17.2 percent) followed by parental or family responsibilities (16.6 percent).
Unpaid workers in family businesses saw a large proportion of people leaving for education or training (32.5 percent). This reflects that it is common for these workers to be students working in the family business during semester breaks.
One to four weeks common unemployment timeframe
If a person is currently unemployed, and had left their job in the last five years, the HLFS determines how long they had been unemployed.
The most common timeframe for people who had worked in the last five years to be unemployed was one to four weeks (21.9 percent).
Due to the small numbers of people in each category, we have combined the response categories into three groups:
- short-term unemployment – less than three months
- medium-term unemployment – three months to less than a year
- long-term unemployment – a year or more
For most of the reasons for leaving, people were most likely to be unemployed short term.
Medium-term unemployment was most common for those who left due to:
- retirement (51.3 percent)
- other reasons not specified (45.9 percent)
- own sickness, illness, or injury (42.9 percent).
Those who left to enroll in education or training had the highest proportion of people in short-term unemployment (71.0 percent). This could be because students may look for different kinds of part-time or casual work when they are studying, compared with the work they might have done during a semester break. Moving between locations during semester breaks could also influence this.
Those made redundant, laid off, or whose business had closed down were more likely to be unemployed in the short term (44.5 percent) rather than in the medium or long term.
Long-term unemployment was most common where people left due to own sickness/illness/injury (23.5 percent).
Current labour force status of people who left their last job in the last five years
The reason someone left their last job can influence their current labour force status. These labour force statuses are:
- Unemployed. These are people without a job, who are actively seeking and available for work, or have a new job to start in the next four weeks.
- Not in the labour force. These are people who are neither employed nor unemployed. This can include people who are retired, are attending school, are permanently unable to work, are not actively seeking work, or are temporarily unavailable.
Just over one-quarter (26.0 percent) of those who were unemployed in the September 2016 quarter (but had worked in the last five years) left their job at the end of a temporary, seasonal, or contract job. There was also a large proportion (20.6 percent) of people who left due to redundancy, being laid off, or their business closing. This indicates that many people who were unemployed left because their job ended rather than because they chose to leave.
As we expected, retirement was the most common reason for leaving their last job for those not in the labour force (29.7 percent). This was followed by parental or family responsibilities (16.8 percent).
There are two other groups of interest that are not considered to be a labour force status category, but are part of the potential labour force. They can be defined as:
- unavailable jobseekers – those actively seeking work but not available to have started work in the reference week (but would become available within the next four weeks)
- available potential jobseekers – those not actively seeking work but who would like a paid job and were available in the reference week.
When looking at the people in the potential labour force who left their job in the last five years, 21.5 percent were unavailable jobseekers and 78.5 were available potential job seekers.
End of temporary, seasonal, or contract job was the most common reason for those in the potential labour force to leave their last job (19.9 percent). Of this group, 12.0 percent were unavailable jobseekers and 88.0 percent were available potential jobseekers. These people may not be actively looking for work because it is the wrong season for their line of work, but they would like to work if a job was available to them.
Parental and family responsibilities was also a common reason for those in the potential labour force leaving their last job (16.2 percent). Of this group, 29.6 percent were unavailable jobseekers, and 70.4 percent were available potential jobseekers. One of the reasons someone might be in the potential labour force is because they want to work but cannot find suitable childcare within the next week.
Those who left due to being made redundant, being laid off, or whose business had closed made up 14.3 percent of the potential labour force who had left their last job in the past five years. Of these, 17.5 percent were unavailable jobseekers and 82.5 percent were available jobseekers.
Those who were retired had the highest proportion of people who were available potential jobseekers (93.3 percent). These were people who were retired and not actively looking for work, but who would like to work if they were offered a job. The highest proportion of people in the unavailable jobseekers group were those who left due to other reasons (30.5 percent), followed by those who were dissatisfied with their job or working conditions (29.8 percent).
ISBN 978-0-908350-87-2 (online)
Published 31 January 2017