Bosses inundated with job applications from people 'lacking in literacy, numeracy skills' - Employers and Manufacturers Association

New Zealand bosses are struggling to get quality applicants for the masses of jobs that need filling, the Employers and Manufacturers Association (EMA) says.

It comes as industries across New Zealand face critical staffing shortages. 

Speaking with AM on Tuesday, leading economist Cameron Bagrie said making it easier for critical workers to enter New Zealand was a measure the Government needed to look at - calling its refusal to alter immigration settings a "mistake". 

Earlier on Tuesday, the EMA released the results of a survey showing 100 percent of employers had vacancies they were struggling to fill and 53 percent were receiving job applications where prospective employees were "lacking in work readiness skills".

"Between 17 percent and 22 percent of employers said job applicants were lacking in literacy, numeracy and IT skills," the EMA said.

"There is also a significant mismatch between the skills required for advertised roles and the skills of applicants, with 55 percent of applicants for roles having lower skill levels but only 27 percent of the vacancies being for lower-skilled work. Similar mismatches in medium and highly skilled roles highlight a need for more in-work training to build [the] capability of the local workforce."

The EMA said COVID-19 forced border closures and the Government's immigration reset were exacerbating the skill shortages.

And the shortages couldn't come at a worse time, with 100 percent of 335 businesses across 50 sectors and industries struggling to find staff and 40 percent advertising for more than half a year.

The EMA was calling for a more managed transition period for necessary and skilled migrants to enter New Zealand amid the Government's immigration reset. The reset makes it easier for migrants to become New Zealand residents but only if they are paid certain amounts, meaning most employers who want to hire migrants would need to pay them the median wage ($27.76 per hour/$57,740 a year). 

Defending the immigration reset on Monday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the likes of the critically short hospitality sector wasn't having to meet the same wage thresholds as other migrant visas.

"We know of the pressure they have and we want to ease that and continue to make it easier for them to bring in staff," she told AM. "That's one of the things we've done to try and assist with that right now."