Brain drain: Recruiters say New Zealand's tough job market pushing workers overseas

By Luka Forman for RNZ

The brain drain is underway, with some people heading overseas to get away from New Zealand's tough job market, recruiters say.

Dozens of companies and government agencies have announced redundancies in recent weeks, and some of those left without a job are looking offshore for their next move.

Seek's latest job report showed the number of job ads was declining, while the number of applications per ad was rising.

CTP recruitment managing director Michael Viner said while it was a challenging time to look for a job, it was not all doom and gloom.

"I think there's a lot of bad things being put through the media, so that might give people some anxiety if they're looking for a job. You're hearing, it seems to be daily - layoffs, or redundancies or restructures.

"The numbers still stack up, unemployment rates [are] still only about 4 percent. I think we've been through the bad stuff economically, and I'd start to have some more confidence there."

However, Viner said the so-called 'brain drain', talented Kiwis heading overseas, was a big concern.

"If you're under 30, for example, and you're not married, don't have a mortgage - they're pretty much leaving now. It's never good. Certainly in the last couple of months, a lot of really, really talented people are leaving and hopefully they come back sooner rather than later."

Employment Minister Louise Upston acknowledged the problem, saying it was the reality of being in a recession.

"People who are in that set of circumstances, and I really feel for them, have to make some choices and for some that may well mean that we lose a range of people, including some of our best and brightest offshore."

Madison Recruitment chief operations officer Christian Brown said overseas recruiters were actively trying to poach New Zealand talent, and many were tempted by what was on offer.

"I think from an employer's side, you'd like to think that there are people heading overseas more for an OE [overseas experience], for a couple of years. But we are seeing more and more Kiwis heading over to places like Australia and setting up shop there and ending up living there for life."

The market had shifted from favouring job hunters, to favouring employers, Brown said.

It meant it was a good time for job hunters to make sure their CV was in tip-top shape, he said.

"There's nothing worse than seeing someone put attention to detail as a strength on their CV and then seeing the CV is full of spelling mistakes. But I do think it's really important for people to make sure they're looking at the specific job and taking the time to tailor their skills."

There were still plenty of jobs out there, and it was important for candidates to stand out from the crowd, Brown said.