Health Manawatu's biggest industry, and growing fast

Health has overtaken education as Manawatu's biggest industry.

Since 2012, healthcare and social assistance has become the largest part of the Palmerston North and Manawatu economy, and it is growing faster than anything else.

The Palmerston North City Council has launched a profile on the activities, written by council economic adviser Peter Crawford.

The report shows health-related activities provided 7440 jobs in February 2012, with those people earning a total of $347 million.

That was 12.8 per cent of total earnings in the region.

Between 2000 and 2012, annual earnings increased by $204m, a rise of 143 per cent, accounting for 17 per cent of total income growth in the region, and growing nearly twice as fast as the rest of the economy.

Health also plays a bigger part in the regional economy than it does nationally.

Mr Crawford said the health and social work force in the region was more highly qualified than average, with one in three employees having a university degree.

Those people brought earnings up to above average despite the low pay for some care workers.

It was also a slightly older work force than in other industries, which could pose challenges in future as skilled staff retired, and it was dominated by women.

Palmerston North Mayor Jono Naylor said good health was fundamental to general wellbeing as well as economic prosperity.

While the MidCentral District Health Board was the largest health and social sector, there was also strength among private providers, hospice, mental health and care services for people with intellectual disabilities.

"Providing high quality of care isn't just about the amount of economic activity created but about enhancing the quality of life for all people in our community," said Mr Naylor.

MidCentral chief executive Murray Georgel predicted health would continue to be the largest player in the regional economy, faced with challenges of an ageing population and growing expectations. There was also potential to use information and technology to do things better.

UCOL acting chief executive Clare Crawley said there were great opportunities to build on the region's twin strengths in education and health. There was an important role in training a highly skilled health work force, working together on research, innovation and potential new business developments.

Manawatu Standard