Help Wanted: Biggest constraint on Canterbury economy

1 March 2023

New research shows New Zealand’s need for workers will outstrip supply by a quarter of a million people by 2048, says the Canterbury Employers’ Chamber of Commerce, part of the BusinessNZ Network.

A new report commissioned by the BusinessNZ Network, “The Future of Workforce Supply” - Sense Partners’ shows that without policy changes, our tightest labour market ever, will only get tighter.

Canterbury Employers’ Chamber of Commerce Chief Executive Leeann Watson says “this report reinforces what we have been hearing across our membership and the Canterbury business community and underscores that we simply have no slack in our labour market”.

“In our latest Quarterly Canterbury Business Survey, for the third quarter in a row, the number one issue creating a barrier to performance, growth, and productivity, was labour market constraints”.  

“We are no longer just competing with Australia for talent, we are now in a global war for talent and New Zealand’s labour shortage, after two years of border closures, is the most intense in the OECD.   

While there has been an important focus on growing local talent and skills, this report demonstrates that this is simply not enough.  

“We are now in a position where inaction is not an option. The labour market will not correct itself. As our ageing population retires from the workforce and we rebuild our economy, there is no doubt that we prioritise immigration to boost the economy.”    We know from previous experience in Canterbury, particularly post the Christchurch rebuild, that the diversity of skills, experience and networks that migrants bring, make a strong contribution to our communities working alongside local skills to help New Zealand businesses flourish.”   

Besides immigration, the report demonstrates additional measures for Government to chart a favourable course out of this crisis. For example, increasing participation and employment of Māori, Pasifika, women, and older people, to help close the workforce gap and making capital investment in labour-saving technology simpler and more accessible, particularly for small business who often find accessing finance challenging.  

“Businesses want to be part of the solution and look forward to engaging and working with the Government to urgently address current constraints that are hampering our economic recovery, to ensure we’re getting the skills we need, where they’re needed.”   

The full report by Sense Partners can be found on the BusinessNZ website


Notes to the editor: 

  • This report was commissioned and prepared before weather events of both Auckland Anniversary weekend and cyclone Gabrielle. If anything, recent disasters and the subsequent rebuild makes the need for international skills and talent even more crucial than before
  • New Zealand’s need for workers will outstrip supply by 250,000 people by 2048. But the shortages will not be even oversupplied with Management and Commerce, Creative Arts, Food Hospitality and Personal Services
  • Undersupplied in Education, Engineering and related technologies, Health and Society and culture
  • There will be a significant shortfall of people with no post-school qualifications
  • The share of the working age population in work is the highest on record, and higher than comparable OECD countries 
  • For more info on the economic analysis found in this report, contact Sense Partners’ Kirdan Lees: [email protected]
  • Business New Zealand is committed to New Zealand’s success and sustainable growth through free enterprise. We represent New Zealand businesses both large and small, advocating on their behalf to make sure their voice is heard in Government. 

For more information, or to arrange an interview, please contact:

Leeann Watson, Chief Executive, 027 447 7775, [email protected],

The Canterbury Employers’ Chamber of Commerce (The Chamber) is a not-for-profit membership-based service organisation that has been the home and voice of business in the Canterbury region since 1859. Comprised of over 2,700 member organisations that represent over 75,000 employees, The Chamber’s purpose is to empower people in business by providing advisory and consultancy support in employment relations, human resources, health and safety, international trade, manufacturing, migrant support, research and development grants, and training and development in many areas.