Out of workers: Exporters call for more Government action on labour shortages
The NZ International Business Forum has joined the call for more Government focus on labour shortages, writing a letter to immigration Minister Kris Faafoi.
Exporters were facing a “perfect storm”, said NZIBF chief executive Stephen Jacobi.
They were “on the one hand facing issues getting goods to market due to the disruption to shipping and the supply chain and on the other the shortage of workers due to the closed borders”.
Jacobi said the letter was written to highlight concerns the NZIBF board had about proposed changes to immigration settings and ongoing border restrictions for critical workers.
NZIBF represents together some of the largest exporters including dairy, meat, horticulture, wine and fishing interests, along with other internationally focused
It was important to recognise that the economy had done so well through the pandemic because of the ability of exporters to trade, Jacobi said.
He was concerned that the current conditions were threatening that success story.
“It is highly likely that New Zealand will continue to experience severe labour shortages, particularly when unemployment is low and apprenticeships are increasing,” he said.
“These anticipated shortages are now at a level where we are deeply concerned they will
imperil export growth and hence the economic recovery”.
Board members had been reporting significant problems in attracting a local workforce able to carry out essential tasks including harvesting and processing, he said.
Anecdotal evidence suggested that lugging the shortfall it wasn’t as simple as just offering higher pay rates, he said.
Jacobi said he hoped the Government would continue to engage with exporters and stay flexible on policy as evidence of more serious problems emerged.
He said the industry also needed help to get key workers across borders and through MIQ as they looked to re-engage with customers in major markets.
The Government has indicted it will look to “reset” immigration policy post-Covid, encouraging local business to have less reliance on low skilled migrant workers.
In a response to a Herald question about the letter Minister Faafoi said acknowledged”there are sectors still facing skill and labour shortages”.
To support these sectors, we have enabled critical workers to come into the country through border exceptions as MIQ and other COVID health controls allow,” he said.
“Through these exceptions we have brought in more than 17,000 workers, their partners and dependent children to support New Zealand’s economic activity while border restrictions are in place”.
He noted the Government had announced a number of new border exceptions that would see thousands of skilled and critical workers arrive in New Zealand over the coming months to help provide a boost to key sectors.
“We’ve also made it easier for onshore migrants to stay and continue to work here while our border restrictions are in place – including around 10,000 Working Holiday and Supplementary Seasonal Employment visa holders who were granted a further six month extension to their visas last week”.
The Government would continue to consider class border exception requests from sectors that are facing critical workforce gaps where these cannot be filled domestically and where sectors can demonstrate a plan for education, training, wages and other work conditions and initiatives that will attract New Zealanders, he said.
Individual employers could also apply to bring workers to New Zealand through the ‘other critical worker’ visa process if they meet the criteria.
The Productivity Commission has been tasked with a full policy review – the first since the 1990s – and is currently seeking submissions from the public.
A draft report with proposed recommendations will be released in October 2021.
A final report will be presented to the Government in April 2022.
The Productivity Commission is welcoming submissions until December 24, 2021.
To make a submission, click here.
OUT OF WORKERS: A Business Herald Series
• The tech sector’s new pain point
• Worse than Covid: Hospitality’s battle for staff
• Kate MacNamara: Immigration and the puzzle of New Zealand’s tight labour market
• ‘Ridiculous’ shortage of MIQ spaces for construction workers
• Covid-19 highlights labour shortage in seafood industry
• Horticulture has ‘wall of work coming’ and dwindling staff
• James Cameron laments worker shortage
• Tourism jobs go begging, receptionists making beds
• ‘Devastating’: Worker shortage causes crisis – employers plead for help
• Business Hub: Peter Wilson: The brains behind Government’s big immigration reset
• Immigration reset: ‘Go back to the drawing board’
• Liam Dann: The great worker shortage could solve itself – but no one wants that
• Michael Barnett: Why valuing a job by an hourly rate is flawed
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