As gridlock grips Tauranga there is no denying the population has continued to skyrocket over recent years. This has rolled in favour of employers who can pick and choose from an extensive line up of candidates as more people scramble for a job. But what does that mean for employees? Reporter Leah Tebbutt finds out why almost 7000 people are underemployed.
Nearly 7000 people in the Bay of Plenty would like to increase their hours of work or are overqualified for their job, new figures show.
The issue is particularly pronounced in Tauranga. Some people in the city were taking jobs well below their skill set because there were not enough jobs to go around, an economic agency says.
Stats NZ figures show an estimated 6900 people in the Bay of Plenty region were underemployed or underutilised.
This was the fifth-highest rate in the country - to the end of March 2019.
The data also revealed there were 4600 available job seekers and 7800 people unemployed in the region.
However, this number was down from the quarter before. In the December 2018 quarter, 9500 people were underemployed in the Bay of Plenty.
Priority One projects manager Annie Hill said the figures were indicative of the job market in Tauranga.
The agency's Wish You Were Working Here initiative which shared CVs was taking more than 50 applicants a month and had hundreds of people on its database.
"Tauranga is a sought after city to live in. Lots of people want to move here for the lifestyle, but there aren't sufficient jobs to accommodate them."
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She said people were taking jobs below their skill level just to get into the "highly competitive" industry, but some chose to persevere.
Chile-born Melanie Bruna Veliz studied for six years overseas, gaining a degree in social services with a post-graduate in Human Resources and Family Support.
However, after moving here with her partner five years ago, she had struggled to get work in her chosen field and was currently working in a retail job in the Mount.
Veliz studied English for six months and volunteered at her local trade aid to meet people and help her chances in securing a job in the area she studied.
She said "no one gives her a chance" because she hasn't been able to gain work experience in this country.
She said she had met several people in a similar situation to her and that it was "really frustrating".
The situation had caused her to "replan her whole life again" and consider another three years of study to get a good job in what she loves here.
A Bay woman, who did not want to be named, said she was highly-qualified but after making the move to Tauranga and suffering a redundancy, she was "underutilised" in her new job.
She managed to get a job fit for her skill set at the Tauranga City Council but was made redundant two years later due to restructuring.
She said although she loved her new job and it ticked her boxes in the "feel-good factor", she felt as if she was not using her skill set in the area where her passion lies.
She said she felt "trapped" as her family had happily settled and her young son was at an age where friendships at school were of high importance.
She was considering applying for work in Auckland and making the daily commute to get back to doing what she was trained to do.
Talent ID director Kellie Hamlett said it was a tight market across all sectors in Tauranga.
"It is hard to employ people into customer service and sales roles where they used to be quite easy to fill."
She said candidates representing themselves well were snapped up quickly.
Her advice to employers was to have strong workforce planning and to be quick off the mark when it came to offering new roles.
Workers from overseas were also contributing to a large number of those underemployed, she said.
"They are highly skilled and highly qualified, but they accept roles that are lower than their capability so they can get here and get working and then move to other roles.
Managing Director at 1st Call Recruitment Phil Van Syp said there were limited jobs at the top end in Tauranga, so there was a lot of "high-skilled competition".
He said there was minimal movement in senior positions and "there were only so many big companies in Tauranga".
Ministry of Social Development regional commissioner Mike Bryant said ministry brokers provided a free recruitment service connecting people to a variety of jobs every day.
"The most common areas which we help people gain jobs in are the hospitality and service industry, manufacturing and processing and trades and labouring.
"But in the last financial year, ending June 30, we helped 8044 people off the benefit or into employment in the Bay of Plenty."
He hoped the number of contracted services the ministry used would continue to build the skills and qualifications people needed to find employment.