OPINION: For women aged 50 to 59, employment begins to fall. New Zealand women hit their peak working years in their late 20s, job market participation drops through their 30s, rises again in their 40s but never regains its earlier heights.
By the time women reach their late 50s, they start to slide out of the job market again. Some retire early, others are just underutilised – as the statistical jargon puts it – and increasingly shift from full-time to part-time work.
Liz MacPherson, the Government Statistician and Chief Executive of Stats NZ knows this better than most. Her contract meets its own untimely end in December (ironically for an office of vital statistics, the Stats NZ spokesman refused to confirm her age).
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It’s an old number, from the 2013 census, patched with some data from other government departments like net permanent and long-term migration. The figures should have been updated last year when the results of the 2018 census were due, but we’re still waiting for those.
A report released earlier this week details the reasons. It’s tough to move from a paper census to online as Stats NZ did in 2018.
There were serious problems with response rates especially among the poor and populations of Māori and Pasifika.
Despite the warning signs, the department failed in a variety of ways to remedy the gaps.
On the surface, it looks like a career-ending saga.
But untimely resignations are not all created equal, and MacPherson has done a lot of things right. As Stephen Leavy, partner at Hobson Leavy Executive Search put it, it’s commendable for a chief executive to resign and take responsibility the way she did.
And MacPherson’s resignation was choreographed exactly as Hughes – who oversees the employment terms of government chiefs – likes: with the executive front and centre to answer for their own mistakes.
When State Services made public a review of Makhlouf’s bungled handling of a leak of secret Budget information, the Secretary of the Treasury was nowhere to be seen.
Makhlouf was invited to answer for himself.
Despite the many problems of moving the census online, she is widely credited with modernising data systems and integrating and linking databases.
<img class="lazyimg" s tough to move from a paper census to online as Stats NZ did in 2018.
It’s this esteem that is likely to keep her from the sorry career coda of self-employed consultant.
Sometimes it means busy and rewarding projects, but often it seems to cloak a trickle of work that leads quietly to the back pasture.
Former Auditor-General Martin Mathews, who resigned belatedly over a fraud that unfolded at the Ministry of Transportation on his watch, now heads Martin Mathews Consulting.
She may not know what it is yet but she may prove a statistical outlier and remain in the data set of the full-time employed.