New Zealand

  • Educational attainment has been increasing throughout the OECD, in particular at tertiary level. Between 2000 and 2021, the share of 25-34 year-olds with tertiary attainment increased on average by 21 percentage points. In New Zealand, the share also increased albeit at a slower pace, by 16 percentage points (from 29% in 2000 to 45% in 2021) (Figure 1). New Zealand is one of the 24 OECD countries where tertiary education is the most common highest level of attainment among 25-34 year-olds.

  • Upper secondary attainment is often seen as a minimum qualification for successful labour market participation. Although the general increase in educational attainment has seen a parallel decline in the share of 25-34 year-olds without upper secondary attainment, 14% of young adults across the OECD still left school without an upper secondary qualification. In New Zealand, the share is 13%, which is lower than the OECD average.

  • Higher educational attainment is often associated with better employment prospects and New Zealand is no exception. In 2021 the employment rate among 25-34 year-olds with tertiary education in New Zealand was 21 percentage points higher than among those with below upper secondary attainment and 7 percentage points higher than among those with upper secondary or post-secondary non-tertiary attainment. On average across OECD countries, the employment rate among 25-34 year-olds with a tertiary qualification was 26 percentage points higher than among those with below upper secondary attainment and 8 percentage points higher than among those with upper secondary or post-secondary non-tertiary attainment. While the positive link between educational attainment and employment rates holds for both men and for women across the OECD, it is particularly strong for women. In New Zealand, 56% of women with below upper secondary attainment were employed in 2021, compared to 86% of those with tertiary attainment. In contrast, the figures were 77% and 93% for men.

  • Across the OECD, the labour market benefits of tertiary attainment have proved especially strong during economic crises. This was also the case during the COVID-19 pandemic in New Zealand. Between 2019 and 2020, unemployment for 25-34 year-old workers with below upper secondary attainment increased by 2.2 percentage points, remained constant for workers with upper secondary attainment and increased by 0.8 percentage points for workers with tertiary attainment. In 2021, unemployment for workers with below upper secondary attainment fell by 2 percentage points, compared to 2020, by 0.2 percentage points for workers with upper secondary attainment and by 0.6 percentage points for workers with tertiary attainment.

  • Educational attainment affects not just employment prospects, but also wage levels. On average across the OECD, 25-64 year-old workers with upper secondary or post-secondary non-tertiary attainment earn 29% more than workers with below upper secondary attainment, while those with tertiary attainment earn about twice as much. In New Zealand, the earnings advantage of tertiary-educated workers was smaller than the OECD average. In 2020, workers with upper secondary or post-secondary non-tertiary attainment earned 12% more than those with below upper secondary attainment and those with tertiary attainment earned 49% more.

  • National averages provide only an incomplete picture of the situation in any given country. In most OECD countries, there are large differences in educational attainment across subnational regions. This is also the case in New Zealand. In 2020, the difference between the region with the highest share of 25-64 year-olds with tertiary attainment (Wellington, at 48%) and that with the lowest share (Southland, at 20%) was 28 percentage points. These subnational variations do not only reflect differences in education opportunities. To a large degree, they are due to economic conditions and internal migration patterns.

  • Compulsory education begins at the age of 5 and ends at the age of 16 in New Zealand. The range of ages for which at least 90% of the population are enrolled is identical to the period of compulsory education and goes from the age of 5 to the age of 16. This differs from most other OECD countries, where more than 90% of the population are enrolled for longer than the period of compulsory education.

  • The age at which children enter early childhood education differs widely across countries. In New Zealand, early childhood education starts offering intentional education objectives for children younger than 1 and 39% of children under 3 are enrolled in early childhood education. Across OECD countries, the average enrolment rate among children below the age of 3 is 27%, but the rates range from less than 1% to 63%. The enrolment rate among 3-5 year-olds increases substantially in all OECD countries. In New Zealand, 59% of all children of this age are enrolled in early childhood education, which is below the OECD average. In interpreting this enrolment rate among 3-5 year-olds, it's important to note that primary education begins from age 5 in New Zealand, so most 5-year-olds are enrolled in school, and are therefore not enrolled in early childhood education.

  • The average age of graduation from general upper secondary programmes varies from 17 to 21 years across OECD countries and is 18 years in New Zealand. Differences in the average age of graduation from vocational upper secondary education are much larger and vary from 16 to 34 years across the OECD. These differences largely depend on whether vocational upper secondary students usually enrol in these programmes towards the end of their compulsory education or in mid-career. In New Zealand, the average age of graduation from vocational upper secondary education is 32 years, which is above the OECD average at 22 years (Figure 2).

  • In almost all OECD countries, women make up the majority of those graduating from general upper secondary education. In New Zealand, men and women are equally represented. In contrast, men are overrepresented among graduates of vocational upper secondary programmes in most OECD countries, but not in New Zealand where they make up 43% of all vocational upper secondary graduates, below the OECD average (55%).

  • In New Zealand, 31% of 18-24 year-olds are still in full- or part-time education or training at either upper secondary or tertiary level (significantly below the OECD average of 54%). A subset of these students (16% of 18-24 year-olds) combine their education or training with some form of employment in New Zealand, compared to 17% on average across the OECD.

  • One significant difference across countries’ education systems is on whether or not vocational upper secondary programmes provide access to tertiary education. In 12 OECD countries and other participants, all vocational upper secondary graduates have direct access to tertiary education. In contrast, in New Zealand vocational upper secondary graduates do not have direct access to tertiary education.

  • As is the case in all OECD countries, a majority of students enrolled at tertiary level in New Zealand are bachelor’s students (71%). However, the next commonest enrolment level varies from country to country. In New Zealand, short-cycle tertiary students make up the second largest group of tertiary students at 17%. This is also the case in 13 other OECD countries, while in the remaining 26 countries with available data, master's students form the second largest group.

  • All OECD countries devote a substantial share of national output to educational institutions. In 2019, OECD countries spent on average 4.9% of their gross domestic product (GDP) on primary to tertiary educational institutions. In New Zealand, the corresponding share was 5.1%. Between 2008 and 2019, funding for educational institutions from all sources grew by 14% in New Zealand. However, over the same period of time, the increase in GDP was higher with 38%. As a consequence, expenditure on educational institutions as a share of GDP fell by 1.1 percentage points over the same time period.

  • Public spending on primary to tertiary education was 11.2% of total government expenditure in New Zealand (Figure 3), higher than the OECD average (10.6%). Also, relative to GDP, public spending on primary to tertiary education (4.6%) is higher than the OECD average (4.4%).

  • Across OECD countries, the provision of education at primary and secondary levels in terms of curricula, teaching styles and organisational management leads, on average, to similar patterns of expenditure per student from primary to post-secondary non-tertiary levels. OECD countries as a whole spend on average around USD 9 923 per student at primary and USD 11 400 per student at secondary level. In New Zealand, the values are USD 7 578 at primary and USD 9 336 per student at secondary level, which are among the lowest across OECD countries.

  • In contrast to lower levels of education, spending on tertiary education varies widely across OECD countries. Expenditure per student at tertiary level in New Zealand is higher than at other levels of education, as is the case in almost all other OECD countries. The average expenditure per student in New Zealand is USD 18 641 per year, which is about USD 11 100 higher than that of the primary level and USD 9 300 higher than that of the secondary level. It is above the OECD average, but similar to many other countries. The average expenditure at tertiary level (USD 17 559) is driven up by high values in a few countries. At 21%, the share of research and development (R&D) expenditure makes up a smaller fraction of expenditure on tertiary education in New Zealand than on average across OECD countries (29%).

  • Public funding dominates non-tertiary education (primary, secondary and post-secondary non-tertiary) in all OECD countries, even after transfers to the private sector. On average across the OECD, private funding accounts for 10% of expenditure at primary, secondary and post-secondary non-tertiary levels, while this share was 13% in New Zealand in 2019. In contrast, private expenditure at tertiary level was higher in all OECD countries. In New Zealand, the share of private expenditure at tertiary level reached 46%, which was above the OECD average of 31%, after public-to-private transfers. These latter accounted for 16% of expenditure on educational institutions at this level.

  • The salaries of teachers and school heads are an important determinant of the attractiveness of the teaching profession, but they also represent the single largest expenditure item in formal education. In most OECD countries, the statutory salaries of teachers (and school heads) in public educational institutions increase with the level of education they teach, and also with experience. Actual salaries also increase with the level of education. On average across OECD countries, actual salaries range from USD 47 538 at the primary level to USD 53 682 at the upper secondary level. In New Zealand, actual salaries average USD 48 878 at primary level and USD 53 335 at upper secondary level.

  • Between 2015 and 2021, on average across OECD countries, the statutory salaries of teachers at lower secondary level (general programmes) with 15 years of experience and the most prevalent qualifications increased by 6% in real terms. In New Zealand, salaries increased more than the OECD average, by 9%.

  • Teachers’ average actual salaries remain lower than earnings of tertiary-educated workers in almost all OECD countries, and at almost all levels of education. This is also the case in New Zealand. Lower secondary (general programme) teachers in New Zealand earn 7.8% less than other tertiary-educated workers. In contrast school head actual salaries in New Zealand are much higher than the earnings of other tertiary educated workers. This is similar to most OECD countries, where school heads tend to earn well above the average earnings of tertiary educated workers.

  • The average number of teaching hours per year required from a typical teacher in public educational institutions in OECD countries tends to decrease as the level of education increases. This is also the case in New Zealand.

  • Based on official regulations or agreements, annual teaching hours in New Zealand are 1 230 hours per year at pre-primary level, 922 hours at primary level, 840 hours at lower secondary level (general programmes) and 760 hours at upper secondary level (general programmes) (Figure 4).

  • The duration of initial teacher education for primary and lower secondary teachers ranges from 2.5 years to 6.5 years across OECD countries. In New Zealand, initial teacher education typically lasts 3 years for prospective lower secondary teachers (general programmes). It is the same length for prospective primary teachers. As is the case in almost all OECD countries, a tertiary degree is awarded to prospective teachers of all levels of education upon completion of their initial teacher training.

  • Continuing professional development is compulsory for all teachers of general programmes in most countries with data, but New Zealand is an exception. At secondary level, professional development activities are not compulsory.

  • Among 25-64 year-olds in New Zealand, bachelor's degrees are the most common tertiary attainment at 29% of the population followed by master's degrees with 6% and short-cycle tertiary qualifications with 4%. This is similar to the OECD average, where bachelor’s degrees are most common (19%), followed by master’s degrees (14%) and short cycle tertiary qualifications (7%). As in all OECD countries and other participants, only a small fraction of the population holds a doctoral degree: the share is 1% in New Zealand.

  • Despite the labour market advantages of a tertiary degree, many tertiary students do not graduate on time or do not graduate at all. In New Zealand, 33% of bachelor’s students graduate within the theoretical programme duration. Across the OECD, the completion rate within the theoretical programme duration ranges from 12% to 69%. Completion rates three years after the theoretical programme duration are significantly higher in most countries and the differences between OECD countries somewhat narrower. In New Zealand, 77% of bachelor’s students have graduated within three years after the end of the theoretical programme duration, compared to 68% on average across the OECD.

  • In all OECD countries, tertiary completion rates are higher for women than for men. In New Zealand, 80% of women graduated within three years after the end of the theoretical programme duration at bachelor’s level, compared to 73% of men. On average across the OECD, there is little systematic difference between the completion rates of public and private institutions, but the figures differ from country to country. In New Zealand, 77% of bachelor's students graduate from public institutions within three years after the end of the theoretical programme duration, while the share is 81% for private institutions.

  • In most OECD countries including in New Zealand, tertiary-educated adults have higher rates of participation in non-formal education and training than those with a lower level of educational attainment. In 2015, 74% of 25-64 year-olds with tertiary attainment in New Zealand had participated in non-formal education and training in the twelve months prior to being surveyed, compared to 46% of their peers with below upper secondary attainment.

  • Entering tertiary education often means costs for students and their families, in terms of tuition fees, foregone earnings and living expenses, although they may also receive financial support to help them afford it. However, public policies on tuition fees and financial support for students differ greatly across countries. In New Zealand, comparatively high levels of tuition fees are combined with high levels of financial support for students. Public institutions charge tuition fees of USD 4 621 for national students at bachelor's level and of USD 5 951 at master's level.

  • OECD countries have different approaches to providing financial support to students enrolled in tertiary education, but in general countries with the highest level of public transfers to the private sector are those that also tend to have the highest tuition fees. In six OECD countries and other participants, including New Zealand, at least 80% of national students receive public financial support in the form of student loans, scholarships or grants. In another six countries and other participants, less than 25% of students receive financial support. In these countries, public financial support is targeted on selected groups of students, such as those from socio-economically disadvantaged families.

  • Enabling students to enrol on a part-time basis is an important way to facilitate access to tertiary education. Many part-time students would not be able to study full time, for example because they have child-care responsibilities or have to work to fund their studies. The share of part-time students at the tertiary level in New Zealand is 44%, above the OECD average (22%). Compared to 2013, it has remained constant.

  • Staff at tertiary level tend to start their careers relatively late due to the length of the education they need to qualify. In New Zealand, only 10% of academic staff are aged under 30, slightly above the OECD average (8%). In contrast, the share of academic staff aged 50 or over is 46%, which is above the OECD average by 6 percentage points.

  • Young adults who are not in employment, education or training (NEET) for prolonged periods are at risk of adverse economic and social outcomes in both the short and the long term. After increasing during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, the share of 18-24 year-olds who are NEET in New Zealand declined in 2021. The share of NEET among young adults was 13% in 2021, at pre-COVID levels.


OECD (2022), Education at a Glance 2022: OECD Indicators, OECD Publishing, Paris,

OECD (2022), “Regional education”, OECD Regional Statistics (database),

For more information on Education at a Glance 2022 and to access the full set of Indicators, see:

For more information on the methodology used during the data collection for each indicator, the references to the sources and the specific notes for each country, See Annex 3 (

For general information on the methodology, please refer to the OECD Handbook for Internationally Comparative Education Statistics: Concepts, Standards, Definitions and Classifications (

Updated data can be found on line at and by following the StatLinks under the tables and charts in the publication.

Data on subnational regions for selected indicators are available in the OECD Regional Statistics (database) (OECD, 2022). When interpreting the results on subnational entities, readers should take into account that the population size of subnational entities can vary widely within countries. For example, regional variation in enrolment may be influenced by students attending school in a different region from their area of residence, particularly at higher levels of education. Also, regional disparities tend to be higher when more subnational entities are used in the analysis.

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The data on educational responses during COVID-19 were collected and processed by the OECD based on the Joint Survey on National Responses to COVID-19 School Closures, a collaborative effort conducted by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO); the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS); the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF); the World Bank; and the OECD.

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