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Navigating New Horizons: How will an extra 128,900 Kiwis change the employment landscape?

In the dynamic landscape of New Zealand’s job market, the recent surge in migration is reshaping the employment landscape.  

Whilst there continues to be a vast need in some sectors, we know the labour market is softening, and businesses are being more cautious than they were a year ago. With positive net migration however, demand for workers is still there, and though wages are impacted, the talent pool is slowly, but surely, diversifying.  

With a net migration gain more of than 128,900 in the October 2023 year (the highest on record for an annual period) – equivalent to Rotorua and Napier’s combined population – we delve into 5 considerations this migration wave might have on hiring trends, and the opportunities and challenges that lie ahead for NZ businesses in 2024. 


  1. Focus on Wage Dynamics

The influx of skilled migrant workers has introduced some impacts on wage dynamics. While the increased talent pool may alleviate wage pressure in certain sectors, crucially, both employers and job seekers should remain vigilant with wage considerations.

For employers, the increased talent pool means employers should have a broader range of candidates to choose from, and as a result the same competition for talent may not be what it was a year ago. This may just stabilise the wage pressure we’ve seen in recent years with minimum wage increases, COVID19 and cost of living all causing impacts. Though in many instances, even as recent as our first week back in January, some employers remain well out of step with candidate expectations.

There may still be some re-alignment to come between employer and employee expectations. Staying close to the market through analysis, reporting and real-time feedback from your recruiter can ensure you are aware of what candidates in TODAY’s market are seeking to ensure you can continue to attract top talent.

For job seekers who now face higher competition for the same role, you may need to consider your wage expectations, or better still, work with trusted advisors to ensure you can understand the value of your skills and showcase these along with your experiences in a unique way to stand out in a more competitive candidate market.


  1. Continue to drive Diversity

With a surge in migrant workers, the talent pool naturally becomes more diverse. Whilst recruitment agencies have a unique opportunity to assist clients in harnessing this diversity for their advantage (e.g., access to different experiences and skillsets that Kiwi’s just won’t have been exposed to), employers too should recognise this market as an opportunity to drive better diversity within their businesses.

Understanding the skill sets and cultural backgrounds of the incoming workforce allows employers to choose from a rich array of skilled candidates, fostering innovation, productivity, and adaptability within their teams, whilst enabling a more diverse and inclusive workforce, which will ultimately lead to better business outcomes.

Employees and candidates seeking work should lean into their unique backgrounds and experiences. Whilst we see many migrant candidates trying to “fit in” to their respective employers, the right opportunities will allow such candidates to be themselves and embrace their backgrounds, which ought to be encouraged by all in the employment relationship.


  1. Adapt to Shifting Employment Intentions

The cautious shift in employment intentions among businesses, as highlighted in recent migration forecasts, may be a reason for savvy employers to be bold and proactive in such a market.

By staying attuned to market cautiousness, employers can pounce on the slow decision making some employers will take in the hiring process in the current climate. This particularly plays out when it comes to talent acquisition and workforce planning. If you have a role that needs filling, be sure to be structured in the hiring process, and get through it promptly. No doubt, candidates will hedge their bets where they can and consider multiple roles, however they’ll naturally prioritise and consider opportunities that are presented soonest, rather than waiting for a slow starter to come to the party with an offer.

For candidates, understanding this cautiousness allows for more informed and strategic career planning, and likely more time to make your own career decisions; your recruiter should be aware if an employer is slow to decide and consult with you accordingly, but with the increased competition for roles, don’t let that slow you down from signalling your own intentions.


  1. Hit Increased Demand Head-On

Recognising that with more people arriving in the country, the demand for goods and services amplifies, creating a ripple effect of increased needs. Employees are at the heart of such times, contributing to the workforce and participating in the collaborative effort to meet the growing demands of an expanding population.

For employers, this presents an opportune moment to expand operations and invest in the business where you can; take on new projects and bolster the workforce at a time when many businesses are being cautious, tightening belts, and taking longer to make decisions. This will allow you to get ahead of the curve when things will inevitably turn.

For employees, leaning into the challenges and working hard to identify improvements in your role, your department, or business can help push the business forward to position it for strength when that turn takes place. This also provides you with greater chance of stretch, promotion, or opportunity to consider new roles when you’ve outgrown the current one.


  1. Be Strategic with Talent

The importance of strategic talent acquisition is more important than ever for NZ businesses. Being adaptable during challenging economic periods can provide specific advantages.

Employers can:

  • Align employer branding with societal needs (cost of living, as an example), such as paying living wages, and demonstrating a commitment to fair employment practices.
  • Emphasize diversity in employer branding to showcase your dedication to fostering an inclusive workplace. Sharing success stories of employees who have thrived through migration or diversity initiatives not only strengthens employer branding while resonating with a diverse talent pool.
  • Recognise the importance of professional development for employees in uncertain times. Businesses can actively support their employees’ growth through opportunities for upskilling, training programs, and mentorship initiatives, which contributes to a skilled and adaptable workforce, while reinforcing the employer’s commitment to its people.
  • While collaborating with specialised recruiters remains valuable for insights into the talent landscape, businesses should also proactively engage with their current employees on a human level. Engagement not only attracts top talent but also cultivates a loyal and motivated workforce, essential in navigating mirky economic waters.


The recent surge in migration in New Zealand means a dynamic employment landscape with both challenges and exciting prospects.

Focusing on adaptation ensures employers can benefit from staying well-informed about market trends, the evolving dynamics of the job market, and strategically aligning their hiring strategies.

For employees and candidates navigating this environment, its crucial to remain proactive and informed. Keeping abreast of industry trends, upskilling where necessary, and seeking opportunities for professional development can enhance your competitiveness in the job market.

Ultimately, fostering collaboration between everyone in the employment relationship contributes to a more resilient and inclusive employment ecosystem, where everyone can thrive that little bit more as the population continues to grow.


-Troy Thurston


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