Skills shortage survey confirms worst fears

March 28, 2023

Ninety per cent of businesses are struggling to fill vacancies, and nearly a third have had roles in the market for more than six months, according to the latest EMA Skills Shortage Survey.

The EMA Skills Shortage Survey 2023, received 543 responses from across the country, representing 17 different sectors and a broad range of business sizes.

"We’re aware of the skill shortage and have been pushing hard to increase the number of skilled migrants allowed into New Zealand, in combination with initiatives to get local people into permanent work," said Brett O’Riley, Chief Executive of the EMA. "The survey results confirm just how bad things really are for business trying to find staff."

Restrictions around the number of work visa have been compounded by an increase in the lack of literacy and numeracy skills in domestic job applicants. The 2022 survey showed this issue was at 19-22 per cent. It has now doubled to 43-44 per cent.

"When you can’t fill roles through immigration, you look to the domestic market, or to upskill existing staff, but they need a level of proficiency. Poor literacy and numeracy skills will continue to hold people back and disrupt business growth."

Upskilling and training staff may be the easiest solution for the 71 per cent of businesses unable to fill technical roles, with 54 per cent already engaged in apprenticeships, and another 24 per cent planning to take on an apprentice in the next twelve months.

"We know education is part of the solution and it is encouraging to see that 84 per cent of businesses surveyed plan to maintain or increase their training budget, said Mr O’Riley.

"But that’s a long-term solution and 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."

Forty-seven per cent of businesses are looking to hire skilled migrants, and while the majority were open to any nationality, others are specifically targeting the Philippines, South Asia (India), Southern Africa, and the UK.

While most businesses found they could navigate the migrant visa process, many have found it difficult.

"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."

The full results of the EMA Skills Shortage Survey 2023, a collaboration between the EMA and Immigration partners Malcolm Pacific Immigration, are available on the EMA website

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