Analysis of early childhood education workforce

Nov 22, 2019

The early childhood education (ECE) sector has changed over the last decade, from mainly community-based, not-for-profit services to mainly privately-owned services. With the increase in demand for ECE, there is also an increase in the demand for ECE staff.

A recent report by Motu Economic and Public Policy Research focusses on the characteristics of the ECE workforce including how often people enter and leave the sector and where workers come from and move to. The research uses data from StatsNZ Integrated Data Infrastructure.

“The data we use is likely to overstate the ECE workforce by treating the ‘child care services’ industry as exclusively serving the ECE sector. On the other hand, it understates the ECE workforce by not covering self-employed people who do not pay themselves a wage,” said Dr Trinh Le, a Fellow at Motu and co-author of the report.

The researchers believe the data in the report have is reliable with some caveats.

“First, we have no direct indicator of part-time versus full-time employment or measure of hours. Second, the measures of qualifications and immigration status used in our analysis are less reliable for older cohorts of workers; however, analyses based on younger cohorts should be more reliable and informative. Thirdly, qualifications obtained before 2003 or overseas aren’t recorded.” said Dr Le.

The research found that, between 2001 and 2017 the number of annual ECE workers almost doubled, from 29,200 to 57,700.

“Within the ECE sector, the ‘preschool education’ industry has grown from having just over a third more workers than ‘child care services’ to almost double the size,” said Dr Le.

Women make up the overwhelming majority (94 percent) of the ECE workforce.

“On average ECE workers were just under 36 years old in 2001, rising to just under 38 years old in 2017. The share of immigrant workers more than doubled and the share of workers of Asian ethnicity rose consistently and dramatically over the period,” said Dr Le.

The share of degree-qualified workers and ECE qualified workers also increased dramatically

“This occured both because over time increasingly more workers have their qualifications captured in the MOE data, and because of the increasing requirements for qualifications in the ECE workforce,” said Dr Le.

ECE employment became more intensive during the study period. This is evident given the mean number of months worked (per worker per year) in ECE increased, while the mean number of non-ECE jobs and the mean number of months worked in non-ECE decreased over the period. In addition, mean total earnings of all ECE workers increased by 54 percent over the period 2001-2017, compared to the 75 percent increase in mean ECE earnings and an almost tripling of median ECE earnings.

Retention rates within the ECE sector improved over the study period. Male workers are more likely than female workers to come from outside ECE industries and to move into those industries. Other characteristics that are associated with higher mobility include younger age groups, highest qualification being level 1-3, having no ECE qualifications, and deriving less than 50 percent of total earnings from ECE.

Motu Note #39 “The characteristics of Early Childhood Education workers and their employment” by Dean Hyslop and Trinh Le is available at the Motu website.