What are New Zealand's most overworked jobs?

Last updated 14:36 06/10/2017

The average truck driver works between 60 and 70 hours a week.

Miwa Sado had emailed her dad a month before she died saying she was feeling stressed and overworked.
Jobs that have reputations for being the most overworked don't tend to be desk-based.

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A Tokyo journalist's death by overwork has a name in Japan - "karoshi".

In New Zealand our work-life balance is what attracts many skilled migrants to relocate, but we've got a growing number of overworked jobs. 

In the latest OECD Better Life Index, New Zealand had the ninth-highest percentage of employees working more than 50 hours per week, at 13.8 per cent.

​New Zealand scored higher in the Index than the United States, Australia and the UK. This level of work could impair personal health, jeopardise safety, and increase stress. 

Japanese woman dies after working 159 hours overtime
Midwife shortage at major hospitals 'emergency situation' 

But for some jobs, long hours tend to come with the territory, so what are the most overworked jobs in New Zealand?

Construction workers

A study of a large New Zealand construction company found 40 per cent of employees worked more than 50 hours a week and nine site-based workers worked over 60 hours a week.

WorkSafe recommended construction management limit the amount of overtime employees can work, monitor on-call duties, and avoid incentives to work excessive hours.

Regularly working more than 12 hours a day was listed as a fatigue risk for construction workers, as was working at "low body clock times" between 3am and 5am, or 3pm and 5pm. 

As with other industries, short-staffing plays a role in the longer hours.

Civil Contractors New Zealand said not enough people were being drawn into construction, and the industry would need another 30,000 workers in two years' time.


Understaffing at maternity units across New Zealand has been called an "emergency situation", by the New Zealand College of Midwives.

A DHB employed midwife in Auckland, who did not want to be named, remembered one day after a 13-hour shift she got into her car and cried the entire way home. 

"That was an exceptional day ... but you're constantly being asked to do overtime and stay for a couple more hours."

She now works a more normal schedule on a community midwifery team.

"I think that I didn't realise the pressure I was under while under the adrenaline of the hospital, until I came out and I started not doing shift work.

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"It's less fast paced now and I just feel so much better in a way that I can't really pin down to anything."

She said that overwork in her industry was "pretty much exclusively a staffing issue". 

Truck Drivers

First Union transport, logistics and manufacturing secretary Jared Abbott said the average truck driver worked between 60 and 70 hours a week. 

There is an allure to longer hours for truck drivers, who often have lower pay rates, Abbott said.

"By law they can only work 70 cumulative hours before they have to take a 24-hour break ... and you can't drive more than 14 hours a day."

He said while the maximum hour load was too high, a lot of drivers relied on getting that many hours.


Abbott mentioned paramedics also had a reputation of being overworked. 

"Because of they're requirement to attend incidents that are critical they are often working very long hours without a break."

"They're making life or death decisions for people and they really need to be alert."

* Comments on this story are closed.

- Stuff


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