Women in trades over time
Key findings

Understanding how participation by women in the trades has changed over time can provide insight into what makes a successful attraction strategy. Overall, the total proportion of women in the workforce does not appear to have changed much, but some sectors have shown to be effective in increasing participation by women, such as painting and decorating. Different industries attract distinctive proportions of women, likely due to the nature of the industries they are providing training for. However, the rate of increase in women representation has varied between industries. Industries that are struggling to attract women could learn from the strategies of industries that have proven success in this area.


Following on from the Snapshot of women in trades, this report focuses on how the representation of women in the trades has changed over time. This can provide insight into industries that have proven success in attracting women into the trades. This information may be able to assist with developing strategies with attracting more women into the trades sector.

This study uses various methods to track women over time to draw out the most accurate conclusions. Each method helps paint a clearer picture of women in the trades over time.


The census data from 2013 provides a detailed understanding of the proportion of women in the trades and within each sector at one point in time. Because the census data is only collected once every five years, it provides a clear limitation when attempting an analysis over time. Instead, tax data from the IRD can be used to track employees and employers linked to a business in an industry. This does, however, include administration staff which causes the data to have an overrepresentation of women.

To filter out the administrative staff from the tradespeople in an industry, IRD records with enrolment records from industry training organisations (ITOs) were combined. A recently trained worker is defined here as someone working in an industry relevant to their training that occurred with an ITO in the preceding five years. This definition better captures the population of relevant tradespeople in each sector.

Census snapshot

The chart below shows the percentage of women in each sector. Design and drafting and food and beverage sectors are outliers with an almost equal representation of women and men. In most other sectors, women are represented between 1% and 4% of the workforce, with the lowest proportions in brick and block, plumbing and rigging (rigging has six women so has been suppressed). For more information on the census result, see Snapshot of women in the trades.

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When using census data we can use both industry and occupation data to classify people as workers in particular sectors. Our approach is to use a combination of core industries and occupations, and compatible occupations.

If someone works in a core industry and a compatible occupation, they are classified as working in the sector. Occupations are more specific in identifying people as part of trade workforce so anyone with a core occupation is classified as working in the sector.

Use the drop-down menu on the bottom-right to choose a sector. The tables below will show the lists of core and compatible industries and occupations used to define the sector workforces from the census data.

Proportion of women over time

In general, we can see an increase in the size of the trade-related workforce over time. The decrease in 2008-2010 corresponds with the recession. There is a slow overall increase in the percentage of women in the trade-related workforce since 2007. This trend varies between sectors. For example, the painting and decorating sector have had a strong increase in the proportion of women, while the proportion of women in cement and concrete has been flat.

The decreasing trend in the proportion of employers that are women is not an accurate representation of employers that are women in the trades over time. It is important to note that the data from the 2018 tax year is incomplete, so the trend is only accurate up until 2017. In the tax data, the proportion of employers that are women is higher than women employees, while in the census these proportions are similar. This demonstrates the discrepancies between the two data collection methods.

The additional employers that are women in the tax data are likely partners and spouses of tradespeople receiving income from a jointly owned business. Therefore, the decrease in employers that are women may be a result of changes in the way businesses are structured or changes in marriage rates. For this reason, it is more meaningful to look only at employees in the chart below when tracking changes in the proportion of women.

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Tax records are used to identify people who received income from a business in an industry relating to one of the trades. Information about occupation is not available in IRD records so we use only industry to identify people. We use the same core industries for the census data.

The workforce in a sector consists of those who earned income from businesses in industries relevant to each trade sector. An individual is included as an employee in a particular quarter if they received at least $1500 in wages or salary for that quarter. An employer is included in a particular tax year if they received any income from a business that year. Employer data is not available on a quarterly basis. Yearly numbers are calculated as averages of the quarters.

Recently trained workers

The chart below shows the number of recently trained workers over time. Some sectors are too small for the definition of recently trained workers so have been omitted. This method matches more closely to the census-defined workforce than the IRD-defined workforce.

The overall proportion of women is increasing over time. Painting and decorating shows a large increase in the proportion of women, as well as an increase in the number of recently trained workers overall. Other sectors such as Carpentry and Plumbing have more modest increases in the proportion of women, while the proportion of women in electrotechnology has been essentially unchanging.

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The main disadvantage of tracking a workforce using IRD data is that we cannot filter by occupation. This means that we will pick up administration staff when we may only be interested in tradespeople. This can be especially problematic when we are determining the proportion of female tradespeople, as the number of female administration staff in an industry can vastly outnumber the female tradespeople.


Access to the anonymised data used in this study was provided by Statistics New Zealand in accordance with security and confidentiality provisions of the Statistics Act 1975, and secrecy provisions of the Tax Administration Act 1994. The findings are not Official Statistics. The results in this paper are the work of the authors, not Statistics NZ, and have been confidentialised to protect individuals, households, businesses, and other organisations from identification. Read our full disclaimer here.

Ethnicity of trades workers over time

See the ethnicity breakdown of trades workers over time


Women's participation in trades roles normalised to the census

Track the normalised percentage of women in trades over time


Occupations of recently trained trades workers

Track what occupations recently trained workers in trades report in the census

Workforce intelligence Gender Census Trades IRD Longitudinal Time series Women Tax records Recently trained