EMA survey: Where are the workers?

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A recent survey of EMA members showed that 100% of responding employers with vacancies were struggling to fill them, with almost 40% of employers advertising for more than six months.

The survey had 335 businesses respond, mostly from the manufacturing, transport, construction, health, and retail sectors, including 50 different sectors and industries.

EMA members say there is a serious shortage of New Zealanders to fill vacancies, recruits are costing more, and staff poaching is on the rise.

One employer noted: “Whilst there are people in New Zealand that can fulfil these roles, there is simply too much competition and not enough people for the number of positions we have. Our business is affected greatly.”

Another said: “We are eventually finding people, but we are having to resort to head-hunters and poaching staff from other companies. Advertising for roles is just not getting the level of response required to find the right people.”

A gap in some basic skills was also an issue, with 53% of employers saying job applicants were lacking in work readiness skills. Between 17% and 22% of employers said job applicants were lacking in literacy, numeracy and IT skills.

There is also a significant mismatch between the skills required for advertised roles and the skills of applicants, with 55% of applicants for roles having lower skill levels, but only 27% of the vacancies being for lower skilled work.

Similar mismatches in medium and highly-skilled roles highlight a need for more in-work training to build capability of the local workforce.

One employer commented: “New Zealand, as with other countries, has a lack of skilled workers which is forcing pay rates to increase. We are having to raise prices as a result.”

Employers also commented that job applicants did not necessarily have the right attitude, reliability and relevant experience.

The lack of immigrants, due to the Covid-enforced closure of the border and recent immigration reset, have also exacerbated skill shortages.

The new Accredited Employer Work Visa (AEWV) settings are aimed at bringing higher-skilled workers into New Zealand.

Immigrants require at least a median wage ($27.76 at July 4, 2022), with the exception of a few industries.

Employers who took part in the survey were asked the pay rates of their vacancies, and 35% of them said they would not be able to fill them with the new median wage threshold without an exemption.

The EMA wants a more managed transition period for necessary and skilled — but lower paid — migrant workers to enter the country, while we also work on upskilling the New Zealander workforce to fill those gaps.

A full analysis of the results of the survey can be found here.

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