Why do businesses need foreign workers when there are so many unemployed people?
The question is simple but the answer is not as the experience of Hawkes Bay apple exporter John Bostock shows:
. . . Bostock New Zealand is the largest organic apple producer in the country.
In documents released to RNZ, Bostock told ministers it ran a marketing campaign in October on TV, social media, traditional backpacker boards and seasonal worker websites.
By the end of October, it reached nearly 600,000 people.
The company had 227 applications and all of them were contacted to move their application forward.
The company had 77 people respond, in which 55 got jobs and 22 people withdrew their applications.
Despite multiple attempts to contact them, 150 people did not respond after their initial application.
Bostock New Zealand said based on these figures, it would have to extend its reach massively from 600,000 to over 3.1 million people to achieve their goal of finding an extra 300 seasonal staff.
That was not far off the total working-age population in New Zealand – 3.9 million people. . .
Workers need to be fit to do the work but that isn’t the only reason employers can’t find enough locals to do the work.
The companies said there were many reasons why New Zealanders were not suitable for the work: they’re not available for as long as they need to be, not fit for the job, underage, could not commit to the job or had family or animal/pet obligations that could not fit around the work.
Bostock gave the government some examples:
- Person A and Person B – working full time but were free over the Christmas break. However, thinning finishes at Christmas and picking would not begin until early February so the timing did not work.
- Person C – applied saying she was not very fit, but had three weeks free over the Christmas break and wanted to give it a go. She also had some allergies and asthma. After having an honest discussion about the physicality of the job and that picking would only be available during the final week of her holiday, she decided not to progress her application.
- Person D – applied from Indonesia, worked as an RSE before and would like to come back, but Bostock could not accept any overseas applications due to Covid-19 travel restrictions.
- Person E – the 15-year-old and wants a summer job while school is out. Because seasonal employees were required to be 16 or over, Bostock could not progress his application.
- Person F – working remotely and would like to travel to Hawke’s Bay and stay in Bostock accommodation, but was only available to work for a few hours in the evenings Monday to Friday as he already had a full-time job. Unfortunately due to the nature of the available roles and timings, Bostock was not able to accommodate his requirements.
- Person G – wanted to bring her family of four (two adults plus a 12-year-old and 14-year-old) to Hawke’s Bay for a short family holiday and wanted to find work for all four of them for a fortnight. Because Bostock required seasonal workers to be 16 or over, they were unable to offer work to the two children, meaning an adult would also be unavailable to work as they would be with them.
Dairying has similar problems finding people who want to work and will stay working when and where they’re needed. One of our sharemilkers used to use backpackers who were usually keen to work and save for a few months before continuing their travels.
Covid-19 has put an end to that and a lot of farms are relying on a few permanent employees supplemented by a series of relief milkers.
The cows get milked but it’s not a good long term solution to the problem of not enough locals who are both willing and able to work fulltime.