Former Economics Editor of the NZ Herald

Finding skilled workers is a hard task, says survey

Forestry was one of the industries with the highest levels of hard-to-fill vacancies. Photo / Natalie Slade
Forestry was one of the industries with the highest levels of hard-to-fill vacancies. Photo / Natalie Slade

The number of businesses who say it is getting harder to find the skilled workers they need is well above the long-term average, the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research reports, and a survey by Statistics New Zealand sheds some light on what they are likely to do about it.

In the institute's latest quarterly survey of business opinion, 29 per cent of the firms surveyed said getting skilled or specialist labour is harder than it was three months ago.

That is little changed from its average 28 per cent level over the previous four quarters, but compares with a long-run average of 16 per cent.

"Labour is hard to find but not getting much harder," NZIER principal economist Shamubeel Eaqub said.

"This suggests the pressures on wages is increasing but is not yet acute."

Firms report less difficulty filling unskilled vacancies than skilled ones but the trend is one of increasing difficulty.

And labour is slowly creeping up as a factor firms cite as limiting their ability to increase production.

Meanwhile, Statistics New Zealand's annual business operations survey of 36,000 businesses, published last week, found 31 per cent reporting vacancies that were hard to fill, particularly for tradespeople. The trend has been rising since 2009.

Forestry, machinery manufacturing, construction, telecommunications and computer systems design were the industries with the highest levels of hard-to-fill vacancies - all above 40 per cent.

When asked what actions they had taken as a result, 39 per cent of the businesses reporting hard-to-fill vacancies said they increased salaries, 35 per cent trained less qualified recruits, 26 per cent brought in contractors, 23 per cent recruited overseas and 29 per cent stepped up training.

Only 51 per cent of the firms considered all their staff to have all the skills required to do their jobs, and for tradespeople the proportion falls to 44 per cent.

- NZ Herald

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