COVID-19: Businesses struggling for staff as unvaccinated workers leave workforce, stifling economic growth

Despite 90-percent of the country being fully vaccinated against COVID-19, there's unease at the proportion of the workforce that isn't.

Around 131,000 workers are estimated to be unvaccinated, prompting concern it's stifling economic growth.

Wellington's favourite barber is shaving its way through the pre-Christmas rush.

"We have been fully booked for the past two to three weeks and we have no bookings available until next year and we're taking walk-ins," Jason Hurier from The French Barber told Newshub. "As you can see all the chairs are busy."

But keeping up with the demand has been hard for The French Barber after losing unvaccinated staff.

"The Government's decisions have been announced quite late in the year which means we don't have time to find anyone for the busy time of the year so we're understaffed and it's been really hard for us," Hurier said. 

This isn't a problem just for The French Barber, other businesses are struggling with it too.

It's estimated that 131,000 workers are unvaccinated, that's 4.7-percent of the workforce.

Northland has the least coverage with around nine-percent unvaccinated, while Auckland workers are the most protected.

"Some holdouts still without vaccinations in the workforce are making it challenging for some businesses to continue operating," senior economist and director of Infometrics Brad Olsen told Newshub. 

An increase in vaccine-only job vacancies is adding pressure on employers.

"The labour market is incredibly tight at the moment, it is difficult to find workers," Olsen said. "We're also seeing people not willing to get vaccinated, are leaving the workforce."

Hurier said that there's a shortage of barbers in New Zealand but especially in Wellington.

Around 40-percent of New Zealand's workforce are covered by a vaccine mandate and the Government's being urged to go further.

"I think they need to be extended systematically to everyone who interacts with the public," epidemiologist professor Michael Baker told Newshub. 

Workplace Relations Minister Michael Wood said in a statement the Government has no current plans to extend the vaccine mandate to further sectors. He said the vaccination assessment tool is available for businesses to help them make decisions about vaccine requirements. 

Watch the full story above.