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NZ employer survey reveals pandemic effect

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) recently released its National Survey of Employment Intentions (NSEI), reporting on workforce and workplace change.

The Survey reported on changes in workforce size and composition, and workplace arrangements in the 12 months between March 2020 and 2021.

“The information collected is intended to highlight what might be happening at workplaces rather than in the economy as a whole,” says MBIE General Manager of Data, Insights and Intelligence, Jacqui Ellis.

“The results can help to inform employers of trends in the workforce and offers a different perspective to other sources of information such as official statistics that report data at a national or aggregate level,” she said.

Ms Ellis said the initial impact of COVID-19 on the workforce saw the biggest changes in full-time staff numbers over the periods surveyed.

Six months after the COVID-19 alert level announcement, almost a quarter of the responding employers (23%) stated there had been a decrease in the number of full-time permanent staff and only 7% stated there had been an increase, the survey found.

However, a year after the announcement 28% stated there had been a decrease and 18% stated there had been an increase, reflecting a more positive outlook.

”Employers who were looking to recruit staff anticipated difficulties in being able to do so” Ms Ellis said. The level of expected difficulty is higher in March/April 2021 (44% ‘very likely’) than it was in September/October 2020 (26% ‘very likely’),” said Ms Ellis.

The main actions that the survey respondents considered they would take if they experienced recruitment difficulties were using contractors or consultants, upskilling existing staff, or asking staff to work longer hours, she said.

The most frequently mentioned occupations that employers stated they would like to hire in the next 12 months were the same in both survey waves. Highest on the list were tradespeople, labourers and process workers, administration and office workers, and sales and marketing staff.

The most frequently mentioned skills that employers stated they would like to hire in the next 12 months were personal qualities such as reliability and attention to detail, trade skills, customer service, organisational skills and management, and communication and literacy skills, said Ms Ellis.

“COVID-19 saw an increase in flexible working arrangements,” said Ms Ellis.

In the first survey wave, six months after the introduction of the alert level framework, 24% of employers had increased the number of employees who could work remotely (e.g. could work from home). This percentage had increased to 30% a year after the introduction of the framework.

Survey participants were New Zealand employers, rather than individuals, and the results provide information from business owners and partners, and managers responsible for employment decisions.

The Ministry says results have been weighted by industry and employee size to be representative of New Zealand businesses with one or more staff in addition to the owner.

A total of 2,049 employers responded to the first survey in September/October 2020 and of these, 759 responded to the survey wave in March/April 2021.  

The survey was completed during an unprecedented period of history globally, with the survey conducted after the Government announced the COVID-19 alert level system.

Fieldwork for the first wave was undertaken in September and October 2020, 6 months after the announcement about the COVID-19 alert levels. During this time New Zealand, with the exception of Auckland, was at Alert Level 1. Auckland was at Alert Level 2 for the first half of the fieldwork and moved to Alert Level 1 in October.

Fieldwork for the second wave was undertaken in March and April 2021. During this time all of New Zealand was at Alert Level 1.

Read more about the findings in the National Survey of Employment Intentions

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