Trade Labour Shortages in New Zealand


New Zealand is going through a population boom, and as of today is gaining 1 new citizen every 6 minutes. This is putting substantial pressure on the basic infrastructure in New Zealand’s largest cities and surrounding towns.

One severe example of this pressure is in the area of Housing, where there is simply not enough qualified tradespersons to build the houses that are required for the current and future population. There are shortages of tradespersons right across the industry, including builders, plumbers, electricians, painters, roofers and drainlayers, in spite of an aggressive immigration policy to bring in these tradespeople from overseas.

The main problem is that not enough competent young New Zealanders are electing to take up apprenticeships in the trades, and the shortfall is having to be met by overseas tradespeople. The irony for Young New Zealanders is that an apprenticeship can lead to a very satisfying and lucrative business career, and that tradespeople in their 30s are generally a lot better off financially than their peers who have gone off to university to get degrees.

While it is the building industry that gets the most attention for staff shortages, the same problem is in the supporting trades, and anybody wanting a new roof for example is likely to have to wait many months just to get a quote. Because of the shortages householders are often prepared to pay more just to get the work done earlier, and this has a number of down side effects. Tradesmen are more likely to take the more lucrative work, and many have been known to walk off a job halfway through in order to finish a more lucrative job. Home owners have seen contract work extended out far beyond the contract of time, simply because their builder or tradesperson and spending only half the time on their project.

A further downside of the shortage and tradespeople is the number of cowboy operators who are filling the gaps. These operators are generally unskilled and their practices are unethical, and homeowners have to take a calculated risk when they employ them. However if the work is urgent then in many cases the home owners have no alternative.