10 Nov 2022

Staff shortages still hitting hospitality and other sectors

5:36 pm on 10 November 2022
Staff wanted signs

Staff-wanted signs are still a common sight throughout the country. Photo: RNZ / Nona Pelletier

Staff-wanted signs are dotting windows across the country.

On Auckland's Karangahape Road, a two-month old sign in Fort Greene bakery's window advertises for a baker and a chef.

Co-owner Andrea Mulhausen said she was willing to pay well, but with unemployment remaining at near-record lows, those who applied knew it was a jobseeker's market.

"Suddenly, no one wants to work the weekends or the afternoons, evenings," she said.

"(They want) nine-to-five Monday-to-Friday jobs, I'm like why are you trying to work in hospitality when it's sort of the opposite?"

Several times this year, she has had to close completely to give overwhelmed staff a break.

It comes as business leaders call on the government to make targeted immigration changes, to help solve the jobs crisis.

In Point Chevalier, Ambler Cafe and Bistro manager Lucy Evans said she had just filled the head and sous chef positions, but still needed a kitchen hand.

However, that could change by next week.

"The hard thing about it is you never quite know if you're going to have a staff pack up and leave overseas."

And at Emporium, a variety store in central Whangārei, Nina said she had been looking for someone to cover weekends for two years, despite the low skill level required.

"The minimum requirement to work here is very, very simple I would say, just say like greetings. You don't really need experience to do the job but not many people want to do the job."

Sarah White from Tribe Recruitment said while vacancy rates had not changed much, there were fewer applicants for jobs.

In particular, demand for seasonal staff was up by about 20 percent from last year, she said.

"If I look at our temporary workforce, that's taken a real hit over the last two years.

"As a result there's less people wanting to be a temporary employee compared to what they used to because the cost of living and inflation's got a lot higher."

Employers across the board were finding it was taking about a month longer than normal to fill positions, she said.

However, the retail and hospitality sectors were not the only ones struggling for staff.

Work visa application form

Brett O'Riley says the government could increase the labour force by granting an amnesty to people who had overstayed their visas. Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

Employers and Manufacturers Association chief executive Brett O'Riley said almost every industry had been affected by skills shortages, low unemployment, and the ageing workforce.

"Certainly in the construction sector there's a real shortage of highly skilled roles like project management, engineers, quantity surveyors," he said.

"In the manufacturing sector we see a shortage of technicians, we see a shortage of auditors. We see a shortage in the health system of nurses and doctors."

The solution lay in immigration policies and embracing technology, O'Riley said, and the government could instantly increase the labour force by granting an amnesty to people who had overstayed their visas.

"There's 16,000 overstayers in New Zealand who currently can't legally work in New Zealand, so that's a labour-force that we could activate," he said.

"Beyond that it really is about immigration. Could we have more flexible immigration arrangements with the Pacific Islands? We know that there are people there that are looking for jobs."

Longer-term, the government would need to encourage businesses to invest in technology and training, O'Riley said.

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