23 May 2016

Quake-hit workers have it better - survey

7:18 am on 23 May 2016

Canterbury workers affected by the earthquakes are more likely to have jobs and be better paid than people in similar roles elsewhere, a study shows.

Silhouette of a construction worker.

Silhouette of a construction worker. Photo: Copyright: 06photo / 123RF Stock Photo

The study, by the Motu Economic and Public Policy Research Trust, followed 63,600 people who were employed in full-time or part-time work at Christchurch-operated companies in all sectors from 2010 to 2014.

Motu senior fellow and former chair of the Reserve Bank board Arthur Grimes said the workers had been compared to people in the same jobs and of similar age and gender in Auckland and Hamilton.

He said that by 2014 Christchurch workers were 3 percent more likely to have a job than people in those cities.

"Not only are they more likely to have jobs, but if you accumulate their earnings from the time of the first earthquake through to 2014, they ended up having higher accumulated earnings than people elsewhere, relative to what you would have expected if there had of been no earthquakes," he said.

He said that was likely to have been influenced by a reduced labour supply and people working more hours to pay for assets lost in the quakes.

However, not all workers were doing well, he said.

Women aged 25 to 54 were making less money than expected.

"We think that's probably because they tend to be more heavily concentrated in the hospitality industry prior to the earthquakes, which was heavily hit, and of course they're less represented in the construction industry, after the earthquakes."

First Union South Island regional secretary Paul Watson agreed.

"Young women are finding it difficult to find employment in that area [constuction] because there's just simply not the degree and the level of the hospitality activity that there was previously, and it's taken time, so I'm not surprised by those statistics."

But Mr Watson said he couldn't believe people were earning more overall.

"Some of the pundits might say the economy is going OK, but it depends on what sector you're talking about.

"And there's certain people earning good incomes in Christchurch, but the average person you couldn't say is doing better than the rest of the country."

Dr Grimes said he expected the overall high employment rate and wages to have continued right through to this year.

But Select Recruitment managing director Karen Bardwell said she was seeing a different trend.

"The post-earthquake boom has definitely declined.

"There is more people looking for work, manufacturing shrunk entirely after the earthquakes and has still been light.

"And we've noticed this year, particularly, that there is an increase in unemployment and availability of people unless you're talking about skill-shortage areas, which doesn't seem to change regardless of what's going on in the labour market."

Ms Bardwell said there was still a shortage of and demand for skilled civil construction workers, but manufacturing businesses are still regularly laying people off.

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