Sunday, May 9, 2021
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HomePoliticalMP Careers Research Shows “Very Diverse Parliament”

MP Careers Research Shows “Very Diverse Parliament”


A new analysis of the careers that MPs held
before they were elected reveals New Zealand’s 53rd
Parliament represents an extremely diverse range of work and
life experiences.

The research, by
BlacklandPR and the Democracy Project, identified over 200
different careers, and over 500 individual jobs among
Parliamentarians.

The five most popular careers for
MPs are (in descending order) managers, analysts, teachers,
lawyers, and elected representatives.

Blackland PR
Director Mark Blackham says the findings demonstrate a
surprising depth of career diversity and work
experiences.

“Parliament has more lawyers and
teachers than you find in ordinary life, but it also has
actors, winemakers, flight attendants, cleaners and retail
assistants.

“This is a wider diversity of experience
than we found in the three previous Parliaments. It has also
led to a very different Cabinet from those of 60 years ago,
when lawyers, businesspeople and farmers
dominated.”

Blackham says jobs and careers shape the
way people view themselves and the world, and therefore the
survey provides an insight into the perspective of
Parliament and individual MPs.

Democracy Project
political analyst Geoffrey Miller says the study’s
findings also reflect a wider societal shift away from
single, life-long occupations – in favour of multiple
careers.

“New Zealanders are changing careers,
retraining and working multiple jobs more often than they
did in the past – and the new Parliament reflects these
realities.”

Miller says the unusually large cohort
of new MPs who entered at the 2020 election – 42 of the
120 MPs in total – may have accelerated change and brought
about a generational shift.

“Parliament has
undergone a radical refresh. MPs are now more diverse in
terms of age, gender, sexuality and ethnicity – and they
also come from more and more walks of life.”

The
research identified more than 200 discernible careers across
New Zealand’s 120 MPs, with most MPs having two distinct
professions before being elected to Parliament. 90% of the
careers were in social, community and service-related
employment.

In addition to those careers, most MPs had
been in other jobs not related to their training. In total,
the 120 MPs have held over 500 jobs – about four jobs per
MP.

The wide range of work experience include church
ministers, children’s television hosts, national sport
representatives, military, police, factory workers and
shearers.

Parties differentiated by
career

While the employment backgrounds of MPs have
become more diverse overall, distinct differences between
the different parties remain.

“While Parliament is
extremely diverse in working interests, parties are far less
so,“ Blackham says.

ACT has a high proportion of
small business owners, including Nicole McKee, who ran a
firearms safety consultancy, and Toni Severin, who operated
a family-owned waterblasting firm.

Many members of the
Green Party caucus have backgrounds in social and community
work. Exemplifying this is co-leader Marama Davidson, who
previously worked as a race relations advisor for the Human
Rights Commission, and Jan Logie, who worked for Women’s
Refuge. The Labour Party has the largest proportion of MPs
with public sector experience, with MPs such as Grant
Robertson and Barbara Edmonds who worked for other elected
officials. The caucus also has many lawyers, teachers and
union officials in its ranks. 14% of its employment
experience is in law, compared to 9% of the National
caucus.

The National Party caucus has many former
private sector managers such as former Air New Zealand CEO
Christopher Luxon, and Todd Muller, who was once the General
Manager of Zespri. Other prominent career backgrounds
include financial services and the primary
industries.

The Maori Party’s two MPs pack in a wide
range of experiences. Rawiri Waititi has been a lecturer and
worked in the health and social sectors through the
Waipareira Trust, while co-leader Debbie Ngarewa-Packer has
experience in Maori broadcasting, management and as the
former Deputy Mayor of South Taranaki District
Council.

Miller says the study’s findings illustrate
the benefits offered by minor parties and MMP, 25 years
after the proportional voting system was first
introduced.

“The demise of New Zealand First could
have put overall career diversity at risk because many of
its MPs came from small business backgrounds. But the Act
Party has largely filled this gap.”

MMP’s list
feature has also encouraged parties to bring in more
diversity when it comes to occupations, Miller says. But he
believes the parties still have work to
do.

“Parliament largely remains dominated by MPs
from white-collar, middle-class professions. We still need
more MPs who have experience in the trades and other manual
roles.”

CVs conceal the unremarkable
jobs

When researching MPs’ career backgrounds,
Blackland PR and the Democracy Project found that most MPs
omitted roles from their official biographies.

“MPs
emphasise work that is in tune with their political
aspirations and Party values and omit work that doesn’t
help that story.

“MPs should be more transparent
about their backgrounds – most of their experiences reveal
them to be more rounded people than voters might think,”
Blackham says.

How study was conducted

Job and
qualification data was gathered from MPs’ public
biographies, social media, media articles, and via written
responses from MPs’ offices. The research also accounted
for how MPs had described what their main career was, if at
all.

All jobs were categorised into the career
industries and roles used by the Ministry of Business,
Innovation and Employment in their Occupation
Outlook
tool. Jobs were also separately categorised into
general career groups used in our previous
surveys.

© Scoop Media

 



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