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NZ Businesses' Labour Bugbear Heads World Table

New Zealand Businesses' Labour Bugbear Heads World Table

For the second year running, New Zealand businesses head the world in one particular respect when compared with companies of other nations; but it is a dubious honour.

The 2005 Grant Thornton International Business Owners Survey (IBOS) has found skilled workforce unavailability is the major constraint New Zealand firms face in trying to expand their businesses. And this particular concern worries New Zealand businesses more than those of any of the other countries surveyed.

Companies were asked what factor was the major constraint to the expansion of their businesses.

Last year, in the same annual survey, New Zealand also headed other countries in another one of the constraints categories, but at that time it was the Government regulation and red tape factor that it topped the league for. This time, regulations and red tape were still a constraint in New Zealand, but had slipped behind the skilled workforce deficiency as a curb to growth.

This year, 50% of New Zealand business owners surveyed said the lack of skilled workers was their biggest barrier to expansion, with Russia (45%) and Australia (44%) next in feeling this factor most acutely. The New Zealand figure was almost double the global rating on this aspect.

The majority of New Zealand businesses say they are either more focused or significantly more focused on attracting and retaining key skilled staff than they were a year ago.

Asked about factors they thought were important in attracting and retaining such staff, New Zealand businesses were in step with international opinion by putting "possessing a good corporate reputation" and "understanding of core values, mission and goals" at the top of their list.

And they were also in tune with international opinion in putting two particular factors at the bottom of the pile: "allowing work beyond retirement age" and "providing facilities for leisure activities for employees."

Commenting on the survey, Grant Thornton New Zealand chairman Peter Sherwin said the skills shortage internationally was one of the key findings from the overall survey.

"New Zealand is not alone in this. There is a tightening skilled labour market in many parts of the world that is consistent with an upward phase in the economic cycle," he said.

"But New Zealand is obviously feeling the skilled staff pinch more than most. It is not surprising given the combination of a sustained high economic growth rate that is better than the OECD average, and the hangover resulting from a lack of trades training in an earlier period."

Mr Sherwin said it was encouraging to see that possessing a good corporate reputation and staff understanding of core values, missions and goals were at the top of New Zealand businesses' success factors when it came to retaining key skilled staff.

"This shows that people want to be proud of where they work, and they want leadership and communication when it comes to understanding where the company wants to go."

He said that it was pleasing to see that red tape did not figure as strongly as it did last year as a constraint to growth.

"But it is still a high enough barrier to be of concern. Clearly, still more will have to be done to cut out these Government-fed frustrations before businesses and their staff can see the true benefits of an economy that has been bowling along nicely otherwise.

"Imagine where the economy might be now if it were not for skilled staffing shortages and overdoses of rules, regulations and form-filling."

The survey involved more than 6,300 medium-sized businesses internationally, with 150 New Zealand firms questioned.


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