Skip to main content

Sport and recreation adds nearly $5 billion to GDP

New Zealand’s sport and recreation industries contributed $4.93 billion to New Zealand’s gross domestic product in 2015, up by $100 million year-on-year, according to new research from Skills Active Aotearoa.

Skills Active is the industry training organisation for sport and recreation in New Zealand. According to its annual research document, the Workforce Scan 2017, this GDP contribution includes $494 million from the exercise industry, $742 million from outdoor recreation, and $2.379 billion from sport and community recreation – with the remainder driven by occupational groups that cross over all the industries.

There are some big players in sport and recreation, such as local councils and ski fields, but the vast majority of businesses in these industries are small – and the pool is growing.

Sport and recreation businesses had an average headcount of 3.3 staff, compared to a figure of 4.3 for the economy as a whole. There were 22,562 sport and recreation businesses employing a total of 75,037 people in 2015, up from 22,212 businesses and 74,460 staff a year earlier. The industries’ GDP per full-time equivalent was $77,480, up 0.6%.

For the full Workforce Scan, click here.

Dynamic industries, changing demands

Skills Active chief executive Dr Grant Davidson says the organisation’s scope includes sport, community recreation, exercise, outdoor recreation and snowsport. It has also recently applied to the Tertiary Education Commission to extend its gazetted scope to include performing arts.

"The work that these industries perform is central to the Kiwi way of life, and how we see ourselves. It’s heartening to see that they are growing not just by economic volume, but in terms of productivity," Dr Davidson says.

"I believe our industries are also growing in influence and impact," he says. "We are increasingly answering the call from government to develop activity-based responses that complement medical responses to upward trends in chronic health conditions like obesity and heart disease."

"Physical activity through sport, recreation, exercise and the outdoors does more than just aid weight loss," he adds. "It helps us to be healthier and happier people – stronger, more resilient, less socially isolated, and more independent later in life."

"On a national scale, these are not small goals. To meet the challenges ahead of them, our industries must continue to build a highly-skilled labour force, well-versed, agile, and fully engaged in its work."

Workforce challenges

The Workforce Scan is based on data collected by research firm Infometrics, along with a range of other sources including a survey of industry organisations. Respondents across all industries surveyed cited recruitment and retention as a key challenge for their businesses.

Work that may be seasonal or based in remote locations, and pay rates lagging behind the national average, are all factors that make it more difficult to find and keep staff in Skills Active’s industries.

Average annual pay across all sport and recreation industries is $48,177, compared with $56,030 for the economy as a whole. Pay growth is also slower in sport and recreation than it is nationally.

Another challenge is Māori and Pasifika participation in the sport and recreation workforce, which at 11.3% and 4.2% respectively, is lower than the proportion of these groups in the general population (15% and 7%).

So, what’s next?

Skills Active’s 2016-18 Action Plan, which is outlined in the Workforce Scan, includes a range of measures to respond to workforce challenges in its industries. These include:

• Strengthening workforce capacity and delivering skills where they are needed, through the provision of workforce planning tools tailored for industry, and career pathway guidance and resources for individuals.
• Ensuring our services and modes of delivery match industry needs, by establishing eight dedicated advisory groups. These groups will identify industry-specific workforce needs, and provide expert advice on the responses proposed by the Action Plan.
• Promoting increased recognition and remuneration for qualified sport and recreation staff, by way of market research on the links between trained staff and business outcomes.
• Channelling more new entrants into sport and recreation industries, by promoting more visibility and understanding of the roles, work settings, career pathways, and benefits available.
• Growing Māori and Pasifika workforce participation by developing culturally appropriate on-job training programmes and resources, and promoting case studies of Māori and Pasifika organisations successfully using on-job training.

The task continues

Dr Davidson says the Workforce Scan paints a picture of a diverse, highly productive group of industries, facing a range of external and internal pressures, but still delivering great value to New Zealand – economically, socially, culturally and in terms of health.

"Our people are the engine room for sport and recreation in New Zealand. By understanding and responding to the challenges that lie ahead of us, we will continue to support and grow this vital workforce."

Updated on 14th December 2016