New Zealand is experiencing the worst worker shortage in at least fifty years. And it's hitting businesses in my Southland electorate very hard.
It's no surprise that our daily news feeds are increasingly flooded by stories from businesses worried about their livelihoods due to the ongoing worker shortage.
Everyone I talk to would love to hire someone locally, who isn't there with the biggest workforce shortages in nearly five decades.
Nearly every day, the issue of chronic worker shortages and immigration issues are being raised with me by hospitality, accommodation and tourism operators, contractors, plumbers, and farmers and growers, to name just some of the industries affected.
The stories are all too common. Small businesses are highly distressed due to spending a signification part of their day trying to recruit staff. Still, they are left overworked and understaffed despite paying wages at the top end. Recruitment agencies say they have no workers available on their books.
Businesses report experiencing problems with the Immigration New Zealand website, and glitches in the system result in them having to resubmit applications numerous times. The immigration system is complicated and has resulted in extensive processing delays of visa applications. It means prospective employees cannot commence work for months in many cases.
Hospitality operators say they find the 'job check' requirement just another layer that Immigration NZ has introduced, making an already complicated process even more challenging.
Farmers are saying they have to work exceptionally long hours, with calving underway but insufficient workers to do all the jobs on the farm. Fruit was left rotting on trees last summer due to a lack of pickers, and there are growing concerns that this will happen again in the coming summer without enough seasonal workers and backpackers.
All of them have one thing in common. Loss of income and diminished livelihoods, all because they want to operate successfully but can't due to a lack of staff.
For many businesses, having a steady income means getting ahead under their own steam and looking after their families and employees. They don't need to rely on the Government to keep them afloat.
When businesses thrive, they don't just thrive for themselves and their families. They thrive for the prospects of their children, their communities, and the local economy.
A lack of continuous income due to having to close for days on end due to a lack of staff means less food on the table, clothes for the kids, and petrol in the tank. It means those families struggle to pay bills, the rent, and the mortgage.
There is a global war for workers, with other countries competing for Kiwi workers. Still, our Government has made it more challenging with its "immigration reset" for Kiwi businesses to compete for that talent that everyone needs right now.
The negative outflow of people from New Zealand is exacerbating our labour shortages. We are 4,000 nurses short, and the Government won't give them an immediate path to residency like in Australia.
It is just as perplexing that as we open our doors to international tourists again, and our overseas workers are an essential piece of that puzzle, the Government is making it more difficult to recruit from abroad.
We need a government to help businesses create real jobs and access the workforce necessary to fill those jobs.
We need an immigration system that doesn't act like a police force but instead as a recruitment agency for the talent our country needs.
Instead, their approach seems set on enforcing make-believe immigration policies on businesses for make-believe workers in a make-believe world.
The Government needs to put this right and give businesses the confidence they need to grow and invest in their workforce.
When businesses have that confidence, they create jobs for real people that put food on the table, provide clothes for the kids, and pay the bills for families up and down my Southland Electorate.
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