For the eighth year in a row, Auckland Business Chamber has conducted a national survey detailing the feedback of New Zealand employers around issues and opportunities in employing migrants in their workplaces.

The New Kiwis Employer Survey Report is designed to elicit ‘real life’ feedback from employers, reflecting their experiences when recruiting and employing migrants both on and offshore.

The survey was sent out over February and March 2021 and an impressive 865 employers responded.

The survey was divided into 5 main sections, which we will go through and briefly summarise.


Manufacturing/operations is still the biggest sector hiring migrant workers, with 11%, followed by hospitality/tourism and building/trades both on 9%.

Interestingly, retail has seen a rise, growing from 4% to 6%, even with the economy slowing down due to COVID-19.

Almost half of the respondents are based in Auckland, 48%, down from 58% only two years ago.

The vast majority of respondents agreed they had a diverse workforce culturally, as well as in age and gender.

According to the survey, over one-third of all staff in 2021 are migrants, with less than a quarter of respondents (24%) reporting they had no migrant workers at all.

A massive 9 out of 10 employers would rate their migrant workers as either excellent or very good.

Female Asian migrant

Recruitment methods

When asked what attributes they look for when hiring migrant staff, employers ranked “interpersonal skills” as number one, followed by “verbal communication.”

When asked if previous New Zealand work experience was important, only 15% said it was very important, with the majority of employers (62%) saying it was not or only somewhat important.

When it comes to recruitment, Internet Job Boards like Seek/Trade Me are the preferred choice (73%) when it comes to finding new employees.

Word of mouth is still an effective approach for job seekers to consider with 65% of employers reporting they “always” or “regularly” use this approach.

When asked if they would hire people not yet living in New Zealand (offshore candidates), 45% of employers said no, up from 37% last year. This may be a result of the pandemic.

Barriers faced when employing migrants

By far the biggest obstacle when hiring migrant workers is the communication barrier. Almost half the respondents said lack of English (written and/or verbal) and trouble being understood was the main difficulty when hiring migrants workers.

The second biggest issue was the immigration process, with delays in processing, difficulties understanding visa types and insufficient time left on work permits all factors.

When asked what would make it easier to employ a migrant, respondents confirmed an appropriate level of English as a main reason, along with the person already here in New Zealand.

Barriers faced by migrants

Just as it is a barrier for employers, a lack of English communication is also an issue for workers.

Much of the challenge is around understanding Kiwi English including slang and colloquial language.

However, with increasingly diverse workforces, new migrants transition well and are better prepared for the New Zealand workplace culture when they have strong English communication skills.

In saying that, two-thirds of migrant workers remain in their job for 12 months or more, about the same as non-migrant workers.

Migrant workers in New Zealand

Results of the survey

When asked what the most important reasons were for hiring a migrant worker, the response clearly indicated that employers wanted people who had the right skills for the job, irrespective of whether the candidate is a migrant or Kiwi.

37% of employers responding to this year’s survey indicated that they were considering employing within the next six months, a minor decrease over last year’s survey.

When asked if they were experiencing any difficulty filling roles, 45% confirmed that they were, although this figure is down from 53% just two years ago.

The main skills shortage areas appear to be in the Engineering/Architecture industry, with 67% of respondents reporting difficulty finding staff.

The Building and Trades sector is also reporting challenges, with 61% of employers having trouble filling roles, such as Excavator Operators, Electricians, Plumbers and Drainlayers.

The survey still demonstrates that migrants need to understand NZ culture as quickly as possible and really develop their interpersonal/communication skills to gain confidence with employers.

How we can help employers find new staff

As this survey shows, employers are expressing increasing difficulty in finding and competing for staff.

This is where we come in.

We have been providing highly skilled immigrant workers to New Zealand businesses for years, growing in reputation and scope.

Indeed, 24% of respondents to the survey reported using the New Kiwis website, double the percentage of reporting to have used the service in last year’s survey.

We are growing, as is our reputation.

Our service is free and provided by Auckland Business Chamber and Immigration New Zealand, so you don’t have to worry about budget, cost or overheads. All you have to worry about is finding the perfect employee for the role.

If you would like to know more about how we can help you find migrant workers, then please register with us today and let’s find the right fit for the job.