Historical differences between the occupations of Māori and Pākehā are not easy to track, since Māori occupations were not recorded by the census until 1926.
Te Aute College
The first schools set up for Māori aimed mainly to train them for manual and trade occupations. Te Aute College in Hawke’s Bay was an exception. Its principal, John Thornton, taught the same academic subjects as the country’s top schools, in order to give Māori their own doctors, lawyers and clergymen. From the early 20th century the school was pressured to provide more agricultural and manual training and a less academic curriculum, and reluctantly did so.
Māori in the workforce
Until 1945 three-quarters of Māori lived in rural areas. Most were likely to have worked on their own land and fishing grounds, supplemented with extra money earned from farm work such as shearing and casual labouring.
The wartime demand for industrial labour, and the post-war move of Māori to cities, changed this way of life. By 1976, 38% of the Māori workforce was in manufacturing. Since the 1990s there has been a growing representation of Māori in professions such as law, medicine and business administration.
Ethnicity and occupational distribution
The extent of occupational differences between Pākehā, Māori, Pacific peoples and Asians in New Zealand is partly a result of the different age structures of those ethnic groups. Managers tend to be, on average, older than sales workers, so ethnic groups with older age structures will tend to have a higher proportion of their population working in managerial positions.
Education also makes a difference in occupational choice and, although the gap is closing, Māori and Pacific people tend to have lower levels of education than Pākehā or Asian workers. Those factors account mainly for the different levels of representation in occupational groups.