NZ recruiter concerned as thousands of Kiwis expected to leave country

A recruitment expert is concerned New Zealand's already tight labour market is about to get worse as better pay lures Kiwi workers overseas. 

It comes after a Kiwibank Net Migration report predicts 20,000 working Kiwis will leave Aotearoa by the end of the year with many heading for Australia. 

The predictions are causing concern for employers here who are already struggling to find staff as skilled worker shortages hit many industries. 

Speaking with AM's Ryan Bridge on Thursday, director of recruitment at Robert Walters Shay Peters said employers are increasingly worried. 

"The profile of people that we need here at the moment is exponentially high. We are really struggling and it's starting to affect productivity and unemployment is sitting at around 3.2 percent in New Zealand," Peters said. 

He said New Zealand is going to struggle to retain key staff over the coming year.

"What we are going to need is to increase our contingent labour force and increase our hourly rates to match what we are seeing across the ditch in Australia. 

"But not just in Australia. I think what we are going to see over the course of the next 24 to 36  months is a lot of doers that leave New Zealand, so a lot of qualified professionals that are actually doing a job."

Peters said there is concern over how many people will choose to move to New Zealand to offset the exodus. 

"I don't think we are going to see that profile of individual coming back into New Zealand. I think those with anywhere between two and eight years experience, they're going to be the ones going to Australia and the UK." 

He said New Zealand could be the instigator of employing more remote workers to fill shortage gaps. 

"We could actually take a bit of a lead in this and start hiring internationally for people working into New Zealand, that's one aspect of it.

"But I think the biggest challenge for New Zealand as a country, and I think the Government is starting to understand this, is how we are actually marketing ourselves as a country where you can come to enhance your career as opposed to just a lifestyle choice. 

"It's going to be a 12 to 24-month issue for us - possibly longer," he warned. 

It's a view shared by Australian workplace expert Roxanne Calder who said while Australia is also dealing with a skill shortage, higher wages are luring Kiwis over which is helping to fill the gaps. 

"Right now what we are experiencing is the issue with wages and cost of living and that's not to say that Australia isn't going through that as well, but I think the gaps are increasing in New Zealand and that's probably what the lure is," Calder told Bridge. 

"For us in Australia… in the admin space we have seen [wage] increases that on average sit between 10 and 13 percent but then in some categories, it goes up to 30 percent. Even if you take out that admin space, across the board in Australia every sort of category is peaking and skyrocketing. 

"Labourers [in Australia] have seen a 21 percent [wage] increase, in New Zealand you guys have had 27 percent but it still doesn't compare… so in Australia, the salaries sit around $62,000 versus New Zealand it sits at mid-$40,000.

"It's the same with nurses, same with teachers, baristas in Western Australia are getting $100,000, dishwashers are getting $90 an hour in Sydney…it's hard to compete."