The number of people on the jobseeker benefit in the Bay of Plenty has jumped 42 per cent since this time last year, alarming new figures show.
However, a recruiter says the region is crying out for workers, saying some people receiving benefits show "no motivation" to work and are failing to show up to interviews.
And an iwi leader says some people simply cannot afford to abandon the benefit and take on a minimum wage job.
Ministry of Social Development data shows the region has the third-highest number of people on the jobseeker benefit, with 9.3 per cent of the working and able population needing financial support.
This translates to more than 6000 more people on the benefit in September compared to the same time last year, from 14,400 to 20,400.
The combined number of people in the Tauranga City and Western Bay of Plenty District Council on the jobseeker work-ready benefit was 3045 in September, up from 2026 the same time last year.
The work-ready benefit shows the number of people actively seeking fulltime work who are unable to support themselves financially.
MSD says it has moved 1036 people in the Western Bay from the benefit to jobs in the past three months. This refers to Tauranga, Mount Maunganui, Te Puke and Greerton.
The ministry also said there were 886 vacancies job vacancies across the region in a variety of roles from administration to horticulture.
There was a significant spike between March and April - when the Covid-19 lockdowns began - with the number of people on the benefit jumping by nearly 550 to 2700.
increased between May and September by 320.
Rotorua had the highest number of beneficiaries in the Bay of Plenty with 4032 people on the work-ready job seeker support in September.
Bay of Plenty and Waikato 1st Call Recruitment general manager Ange Singleton said they had jobs, but people weren't showing up to interviews or were failing drug tests.
And this was not a matter of a lack of skills, she said, as those who got booked into interviews were someone of interest.
"We have so many jobs across the country that we can't fill because people will not turn up for interviews because they get so much assistance from the Government," she said.
"We hear too often lately that people feel they are better off staying at home as they earn too much on the Job Seeker Benefit," she said.
"There is no motivation."
There were up to 20 jobs across the region every day, typically being ongoing requirements from clients, and up to 15 for day-to-day assignments.
The most jobs were in manufacturing, civil construction, general labouring, and trades and services, but there was a variety of jobs for varying skillsets.
She said there has also been a spike in Rotorua from national clients working on major projects, opening up opportunities within construction and civil trades in Rotorua and Taupō.
"We have work if people want it."
She said people may need to consider relocating, with the Waikato region having triple the amount of available jobs than the Bay of Plenty at the moment, something she said was a viable option.
But Trade Staff's Central North Island manager Geoff Campbell said there was a skill shortage in the construction and industrial sector.
"The industrial sector is still going fairly strongly ... if you come from a tourism background, it doesn't transfer well into a construction site."
Last week, New Zealand Kiwifruit Growers Incorporated (NZKGI) chief executive Nikki Johnson said 14,500 workers were needed as the industry grew and the border closed.
Ngai Te Rangi Settlement Trust chief executive Paora Stanley said some people on the benefit could not afford to abandon the benefit and take on a minimum wage job.
Although they could be paid the same amount, there were additional costs of getting to work, which made staying on the benefit more financially viable.
"Why would somebody get out of bed if they're not going to get paid more?"
Self-esteem and meaningfulness was just as, if not more important, to build up in those needing to enter the workforce, he said.
While there may be temporary and seasonal jobs available, he said some of the conditions were "really crap", and having several months work then being thrown back out would affect people entering with low confidence.
"They come in with low self-esteem, they've been rejected 10 times, they don't want to be rejected again," he said.
"Once you bring up their self-esteem and show them how good they are, it makes a huge difference."
"It's not an easy fix.
"For some people with low self-esteem, alcohol and drugs are where they turn to ... drugs are the symptom, not the problem."
He said the question of "why don't these people work in these places", needed to be asked.
Stanely said they were currently working on a "parachute" style approach to getting people into jobs in a meaningful way into industries that needed workers.
This involved a clear plan showing where the workers would go and how long they would be there, and where to send them to once the seasonal work had ended.
Tauranga Chamber of Commerce chief executive Matt Cowley said the issue was complex and Government incentives needed to be looked at as to whether they were discouraging people from finding work.
"I think the motivation is there, it's more the incentives, and if they've got more reason not to work."
This was apparent when it came to income thresholds with other benefits, and Cowley said people could be working more which would deduct from other benefits.
He said seasonal work and the primary sectors had always struggled to fill jobs but workplaces that require specialised skillsets were struggling after the borders shut.
MSD's social development regional commissioner Mike Bryant said they were working with Te Arawa Lakes Trust to help connect whanau with jobs.
"Each partnership sees Iwi Relationship Co-ordinators connecting whanau with MSD training and job opportunities."
He said in addition to monitoring the labour market to predict industry needs, the work services team could advertise a vacancy, shortlist and help with the interview process on behalf of employers.
• Anyone looking for employment in the horticulture and viticulture industry can search for employment on the Work the Seasons website
• MSD latest industry data shows that around 1200 people will be needed for the kiwifruit industry.
• Offers a range of contracted employment programmes and support services to facilitate a return to work
• Employers interested in hiring a client who may need to be upskilled or mentored may qualify for the Flexi-wage subsidy.
• Funding and support is available to candidates who to need industry-specific skills to help with short-term pre-employment or in-work training.
• Those with a disability or a mental health condition can join the one-year Mainstream Employment programme to get paid work experience and a long-term job.