Nine in 10 NZ employers find it hard to recruit talent: report

Immigration, lack of skills fuelling ongoing talent shortage

Nine in 10 NZ employers find it hard to recruit talent: report

Nine in 10 employers from New Zealand are still struggling to find talent, as the government faces further pressure to address the problem.

Findings from the Employers and Manufacturers Association's 2023 Skills Shortage Survey revealed that out of 543 responses, 90% of employers with vacancies admit struggling to find staff.

In fact, 30% of the respondents said they had been advertising for vacancies for over six months.

Only 12% of the respondents said they do not have any vacancies.

"The survey results confirm just how bad things really are for business trying to find staff," said EMA chief executive Brett O'Riley in a statement.

Hard-to-fill positions

For 44% of the respondents, the situation of filling vacancies has become worse over the last six months, with only 22% saying it has improved.

In terms of roles, highly skilled jobs were the hardest positions to fill, according to 71% of the respondents. This is followed by:

  • Low-skilled jobs (44%)
  • Team leader (24%)
  • Mid-level management (20%)
  • Senior management (12%)

Immigration remains a problem

The government has expanded to its Working Holiday Scheme and introduced the Accredited Employment Work visa to address the ongoing talent shortage in the country.

However, many employers said they have found it difficult to navigate the migrant visa process.

"This may be because the migrant visa is the stage the employer has the least control over, and it takes the longest timeframe to complete, but there may be other drivers e.g. they may feel they don't have enough information to be able to support their migrant when going through an application," the report said.

Literacy, numeracy skills driving the shortage

The problem lies not only in New Zealand's immigration settings, but also the lack of literacy, numeracy, digital skills of domestic job applicants, according to the report.

The survey found that the number of businesses or job applicants who are lacking literacy skills doubled to 44% in 2023, up from the previous 22% in 2022.

Similarly, the number of businesses or job applicants who are lacking numeracy skills jumped to 43% in 2023 from the previous year's 19%.

With technology becoming more incorporated across businesses, the report found that 72% of businesses and applicants lack basic digital skills.

"When you're looking for staff and facing a complex visa process for overseas talent, education issues with local talent, and a tight labour market, what do you do? That's the question we've continued to put to the government, and we are working with them to find an answer that balances the various factors," O'Riley said.

What are employers doing about it?

As skills and educational problems fuel the current talent shortage, employers are using or are planning to rely on the following strategies:

  • Training and upskilling (71%)
  • Immigration (47%)
  • Youth engagement and apprenticeships (39%)

"There were also many comments about employers focusing on things that make their workplace attractive to both applicants and current staff in the People Experience / HR area, e.g. EVP (employee value proposition)," the report said.

But upskilling and addressing educational problems are "long-term" solutions to the talent shortage, according to O'Riley.

"Almost half the people we surveyed said the skill shortage situation was getting worse, so immigration has to step in to provide some assistance, and also bring in the skilled workers who can help upskill colleagues," the EMA chief executive said.

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