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NZ’s Business Output Hurt by Lack of Brains

4 September 2002

NZ’s Business Output Hurt by Lack of Brains

OPSA Vice-President, Michelle Watt, is not surprised New Zealand businesses’ biggest growth problem today is finding skilled staff. Figures released last week by the New Zealand Labour Department (‘Skill Shortages – June 2002 Quarter’) showed 39% of businesses had difficulty finding skilled labour - this is up 18% from the March Quarter of 33%. The percentage of businesses whose prime constraint in expanding output is a shortage of skilled staff increased to 12% – the highest level since 1975. The Canterbury Manufacturers Association and Auckland Regional Chamber of Commerce & Industry have also found similar figures from their own surveys.

“Obviously people don’t consider the rewards of education worth the costs, New Zealand is quickly becoming one of the dearest places to get educated and of course this will have a negative impact on business output” said Ms Watt.

The traditional areas of Polytechnic training are especially difficult to find skilled labour. NZLD’s figures show worst affected sectors are manufacturing and building. The Ministry of Social Development documents significant skill shortages in vehicle service and repair, engineering, building and construction, forestry, drivers, agriculture, health and personal care, food and hospitality.

“The lack of a student allowance is a large barrier to many people gaining a Polytech qualification - who can afford a couple of years with no income?” said Ms Watt, continuing, “Student debt hits lower paid workers the hardest. Because lower paid workers take longer to pay their debt they pay more interest - some nurses will pay more for their education than many lawyers and doctors.”

The report states the government has “… a role to play in the alleviation of skill shortages” (Appendix I, 4). Ms Watt agrees, “Though skill imbalances occur from time-to-time for various reasons this is the worst for many years and student debt will only aggravate it, if we want a better country through business expansion, it is essential the government invest more heavily in education”.

Further Information:
Michelle Watt (03) 477-6974 Patrick Conway (04) 915-4059
OPSA Vice-President 021-1121-789 Ministry of Labour, Labour Policy Group

Phil Baskerville (03) 477-6974 Simon McLoughlin (04) 915-4495
OPSA President 021-610-056 Ministry of Labour, Labour Policy Group

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