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Cultivating the Knowledge Economy in New Zealand


This qualitative research was designed to define knowledge-based organisations including any perceived skill shortages they may face and any specific attributes that they look for in people when recruiting overseas.

In addition, the research also examined the respondents’ perceptions and experiences of immigration policy and service in facilitating the filling of skill shortages. The research consisted of a combination of face-to-face and telephone interviews with 21 key informants in a range of knowledge-based organisations.

Knowledge-based industries were defined by participants as those that utilise skills and experience to add value and innovation. The most commonly used examples were Information Technology, Science, and Research and Development, although a wide range of industries were perceived as being knowledge-based. All the organisations that participated in the research reported skill shortages created by a scarcity of people with specialist skills and experience. Reasons participants stated for the skill shortages included New Zealand not being competitive internationally on remuneration, New Zealand’s small population size limiting the availability of knowledge workers, and a lack of graduates in appropriate fields.

The primary benefit to recruiting from overseas identified was access to greater numbers of people with the skills and experience that the organisations required. The main attributes that organisations looked for when recruiting from overseas included: specialist skills that are not available in New Zealand; fluency with English; and the ability to fit into the company culture.

Some of the barriers that were identified to recruiting from overseas included poor cultural-fit, risk of the immigrant not staying, risk of partner dissatisfaction and the inability to interview the candidate on a face-to-face basis. Employers wanted to reduce some of the risks by increasing the likelihood of retention. They suggested strategies for retaining staff such as bond agreements, assistance in settling migrants into New Zealand and/or ensuring that partners can obtain a work permit.

Author: Colmar Brunton

All publications in subject category: Immigration - Economic (including labour market)