Ministry of Business and Innovation - Occupation Outlook

Occupation Outlook | Main MBIE Site

Factory Workers

Job Prospects

Job Prospects... At a glance

Job prospects are quite good for skilled factory workers, but not as good for unskilled workers. Overall income is slightly lower than average but employment is expected to increase (especially for skilled workers). In general, factory workers are becoming increasingly skilled. This could make it harder for unskilled factory workers to find work in the future.

How to become a factory worker

What they do

Factory workers work in manufacturing factories and plants in a wide range of industries dealing with all types of products, including timber, pulp and paper, food and drink, plastics, textiles, chemicals, and energy.

Jobs can range from very manual simple tasks to the operation of complex machinery in plants where safety is a critical concern. The work can be repetitive and sometimes physically demanding, but also quite technical and highly responsible where the operation of large machinery is concerned.

The level of responsibility and risk is reflected in a wide range of income levels. At the low end, simple, low-skilled tasks generally command low incomes, whereas at the other end, the operation of highly complex machines in large plants may command quite high incomes. Most factory workers will be at the lower end of the scale, however.

Their tasks may include:

  • sourcing, weighing and mixing raw materials, and loading into machines
  • wrapping products, and filling, labelling and sealing containers by hand and machine
  • storing and stacking finished products, and cleaning machines and work areas
  • inspecting and grading products
  • assembling components and subassemblies for further processing and to make finished product


In general, there are no entry requirements to work as a factory worker, but some roles may require considerable on-the-job training, particularly where complex machinery is involved. There may be opportunities to gain a qualification through on-the-job training. These will often be New Zealand certificates ranging through Levels 1 to 5.

Although qualifications are not essential, employers will be looking for employees who turn up to work on time and can do a good job. Drug testing may be required in some factories and plants, particularly where the operation of machinery is involved.

Cost of study

Learn on the job

The least expensive way to train as a factor worker is to learn on the job. Some employers may support employees to gain national certificates in the relevant forms of factory processing work involved.

Rents vary from place to place. Estimated market rents by region, city and suburb are available on the MBIE Tenancy Services website.

The StudyLink website provides general budget advice for students, and the Sorted website provides help with detailed budget planning.

Tenancy Services: 

Where to study

The Industry Training Organisations (ITO) that look after training for factory workers are Competenz and the Primary ITO. They arrange training nationwide.

There are institutions offering a relevant qualification in most parts of New Zealand. 

Primary ITO: 

Completed qualifications

Qualifications are not required for the great majority of factory workers entering the job.

Income and employment prospects


The 2019 annual income for factory workers is estimated to be around $42,800. Inexperienced factory workers may start out on the minimum wage or the training wage.

Estimated Average Income

Source: MBIE estimates based on Statistics NZ Census and Labour Cost Index

Employment and skill shortages

Factory Workers’ employment

HistoricProjected Growth
2006 2013 2023 2028
23,220 20,028 20,290 20,980
  -2.1% 0.2% 0.6%

Source: Statistics NZ Census and MBIE projections. Percentages are compound annual growth rates.
* Projected growth rates are based on the category “831 FoodProcess Workers”.

The number of factory workers in employment fell from 2006 to 2013. This reflects an overall decline in manufacturing employment from 2009 (after the Global Financial Crisis) to 2013. Since then, employment has stabilised and even increased slightly. Steady growth is expected into the future.

Factory worker employment is also subject to pressures from automation and mechanisation, which may reduce the number of unskilled workers required. On the other hand, the number of skilled and more highly rewarded factory workers, who operate more complex machinery, may increase.

Employment chart

Source: Statistics NZ Census and MBIE projections

Factory workers are not on Immigration New Zealand's skill shortage lists.

Immigration NZ, skill shortage list:

Where to find job vacancies

Factory worker vacancies are advertised through public media such as the Trade Me Jobs and Seek websites. Employment in this industry can also be found by proactively approaching employers.

Trade Me Jobs: 

Career path

Factory work is diverse; so are workers’ career paths. In the past, factory work was often regarded as a job you could stay in for your whole career without changing. This is no longer the case. As the technology and production methods change, so do the factory jobs, and workers may have to get more training or education to be able to keep up.

Some factory workers move into supervisory or managerial positions.

Competenz and the Primary ITO have more information on career opportunities for factory workers.

Primary ITO: 

Related occupations

The following occupations are related roles or alternative titles. Some of the roles may require a higher level of skill than entry-level factory workers.

  • Boiler Attendant
  • Chemical Production Operator
  • Driller
  • Energy and Chemical Plant Operator
  • Glass Processor
  • Meat/Seafood Process Worker
  • Packhouse Worker
  • Plastics Technician
  • Plastics Worker
  • Product Assembler
  • Pulp and Paper Mill Operator
  • Sewing Machinist
  • Textile Process Operator
  • Water/Waste Water Treatment Operator
  • Wood Processing Worker

Other information


More information on factory workers is available on the Careers New Zealand website and through the "Just the Job" video.

Careers New Zealand:
Just the Job video clip: A Career as a Production Worker - Bottling Industry


The Australian New Zealand Standard Classification of Occupations (ANZSCO) is the official classification of occupations in New Zealand.

The occupation of factory workers has been coded to the following ANZSCO codes for their purpose of this report:

3992 – Chemical, Gas, Petroleum and Power Generation Plant Operators
399916 – Plastics Technician
711 – Machine Operators
7115 – Plastics and Rubber Production Machine Operators
7116 – Sewing Machinists
7122 – Drillers, Miners and Shot Firers
7129 – Other Stationary Plant Operators
831 – Food Process Workers
832 – Packers and Product Assemblers
839 – Miscellaneous Factory Process Workers