A looming exodus of tradies to Australia is being forecast by industry leaders and one sector has all but given up on advertising jobs because ''there's no applicants''.
Many fear another brain drain is on the cards and business owners who did not want to get vaccinated are choosing to leave the country and start up again overseas.
Recruitment agencies in Australia contacted by NZME said certain sectors were offering sign-on cash bonuses, additional leave days and more money.
Kiwis tended to see Aussie as ''a great option with greater choices and exposure to more abundant opportunities''.
Master Plumbers, Gasfitters and Drainlayers NZ chief executive Greg Wallace said there was a worldwide construction boom so ''every country is screaming out for labour''.
Wallace said it had more than 300 apprentices training through Master Link and ''some of those will resign on the day they complete their qualification because they are going overseas''.
''We have seen a spike in that in the last 30 days because borders are slowly opening so what we are seeing is a potential exodus which, I believe will only grow.''
The average tradie rate was 30 per cent higher in Australia, he said.
''If I had a dollar for every time a member asked me if I knew of any available staff, I would have retired this year because I'd be a rich man. There is no point placing advertisements unless you are going to pay 20 per cent more than they are currently earning.
''There's no applicants.''
Wallace was lobbying the government to extend the Apprentice Boost Scheme, which was set to run out at the end of this year.
In his opinion, it did not target industries that were dealing with the labour crisis and the blanket approach needed to be modified.
Master Electricians chief executive Bernie McLaughlin said there was a shortage of qualified electricians.
''There is no doubt it is currently an employee market, we are seeing the pay rate for an electrician increasing quickly and the poaching of staff increasing.''
He said it was common to lose a small percentage of electricians to Australia every year as the NZ/AUS electrical standards were the same.
''Higher wages, lower cost of living and lower property prices are common reasons given.
''While our borders are closed it just makes the shortage worse for our industry. I have been told by multiple businesses that as soon as our borders reopen they will be recruiting for electricians offshore, most commonly from South Africa and the United Kingdom.''
Master Builders Association national vice president Johnny Calley of Tauranga-based Calley Homes said he expected to see an exodus of young Kiwi tradespeople who could get higher wages and cheaper living overseas.
''It's definitely forecast that we are going to lose a percentage of our younger tradespeople.''
He said disrupted workflows on building sites because of shipping and material delays was another reason tradies could look to countries like Australia.
Calley said there were opportunities for people to progress into construction management roles like quantity surveyors and project managers but employers and trainees needed more incentives.
''We're quite weak in that space and we need those people to stay and commit and carry their careers on in New Zealand.''
Classic Group director Peter Cooney said he was aware of people leaving or thinking of leaving because of higher pay and less restrictive Covid conditions in work and home life.
There were many delays and price increases within the sector.
''The overseas market could be enticing for people who don't have a consistent pipeline of work. If we consider the positive, while we may lose some of our current workforce to Australia, as the borders open we will start to attract back skilled immigrants and Kiwis who are currently working overseas and have battled through challenging Covid times in other countries around the world.
''Whether we attract more people in versus those leaving is yet to be seen.''
Graham Rodgers, of Success Group Ltd, said as soon as the borders for returning Kiwis were opened a Bay of Plenty client lost two plumbers to Australia.
A chiropractor was going to Scotland and an acupuncturist was heading to England.
''So they are closing their businesses and leaving. They gave various reasons but both have decided they're not going to get vaccinated.''
Rodgers said the company could place 10 to 15 people a day into jobs but could only get three or four people a week into their Tauranga office to talk about work.
Tauranga Chamber of Commerce chief executive Matt Cowley said it was difficult to attract people to the city when there were comparative options in bigger centres like Auckland or Melbourne.
''There is a global competition for skilled workers, particularly as economies are opening up after Covid lockdowns. Some countries offer workers lower taxes, cheaper living costs, and better career opportunities.''
The recent digital transformation, adoption of technology and workplace flexibility had given workers more choices to work remotely.
''This works in Tauranga's favour initially after Covid-19, but it also highlights that we have intense competition for skilled labour with other great locations across the globe.''
In his view, the Western Bay needed a better recruitment strategy than being close to the beach, especially when housing costs were similar to Auckland.
''But our wages are typically much less than Auckland.''
Businesses were worried about the brain drain as access to skilled staff was the most common issue restricting their growth.
Priority One chief executive Nigel Tutt said the borders reopening would mean an increase in Kiwis exploring overseas options.
''That will be a problem for employers in an already talent-short market. In turn, this will be a barrier to future business growth.
''To adapt to that, employers will need to be on the top of their game and provide welcoming, well-paid and flexible environments for their staff.''
Rotorua Chamber of Commerce chief executive Bryce Heard said a looming exodus of workers going overseas was not a top-of-mind issue for most businesses in Rotorua.
''Right now, many retail, hospitality, tourism and related businesses are entirely focused on survival. I know that survival is an overused cliche that many will not take seriously. But believe me, it is really serious. The effects of prolonged lockdowns are now sheeting home and we are seeing the results in business closures.''
Drake International Australia chief executive Christopher Ouizeman said for the past two years, Australia has faced a labour deficit with demand for labour outstripping supply.
''This has been acute across a number of industries and has seen the powerbase move away from employers to job-seekers and employees.''
Job ad volumes were continuing to rise and attractive financial packages and non-financial rewards were being offered by prospective employers.
These included lifestyle perks like wellness days, additional leave days, flexible work practices and four-day weeks.
Certain sectors were offering "sign-on-bonuses" paid on the first day of work.
Kiwis tended to see Australia as a great option.
''With many multinationals based in Australia and a significantly larger employer base, Australia can appeal to those wanting greater choices and exposure to more abundant opportunities.''
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, in August 2021 the average weekly earnings for full-time workers was A$1737 ($1871.49), he said.
Australia National Employment Services Association chief executive Sally Sinclair said after "big impacts of Covid and related containment measures the Australian labour market is now powering into recovery".
There were skill shortages across construction trade worker occupations and those roles had the highest recruitment difficulty nationally.
Sectors in growth before the pandemic also had continuing demand for workers particularly in the health and care sectors, which was expected to grow by 40 per cent over the next four years, she said.
Stats NZ said the average weekly earnings [including overtime] per full time equivalent employee in the December 2021 quarter was NZ$1391.60. Excluding overtime it was NZ$1360.10.
Movements to and from Australia
• In the first six months of 2021, migrant departures from New Zealand to Australia were 14,300, of those 10,500 were NZ citizens.
• Over the same timeframes migrant arrivals from Australia to New Zealand were 8800 and of those, 6500 were NZ citizens.
- Source Stats NZ