A changing landscape: The impact of the earthquakes on Christchurch workplaces
The earthquakes beginning in September 2010 have dramatically altered the economic as well as the physical landscape of Canterbury and disrupted the lives of Cantabrians and the places they work.
The Canterbury Employers Survey was created to help understand how Canterbury workplaces were impacted by the earthquakes over the last year, to learn how employers and employees responded to the disruption caused, and to identify ongoing challenges and needs.
Employers located in Central Christchurch, Waimakariri, Selwyn and Banks Peninsula were surveyed. To be eligible to participate in the survey, employers had to have at least one employee and had to be operating during September 2011.
While just over half of all workplaces reported that staff levels did not change due to the earthquakes, in most industry sectors the proportion of workplaces that had to reduce staff levels due to the earthquakes was greater than the proportion of workplaces that increased employment. The exceptions to this were the Construction and the Primary, Transport and Utilities sectors.
The sectors that reported the largest negative net impact on workplace employment levels were the ‘Other’ industry group (which includes Telecommunications, Finance, Real Estate, Administration and Recreation services), Professional, Scientific and Technical Services, Manufacturing, and Retail and Wholesale.
The earthquakes had a greater impact on workplace revenue with only a fifth of businesses keeping revenue levels the same and 40 percent reporting lower revenue, while about one fifth reported higher revenue due to the earthquakes.
Employers in the industry sectors most affected by staff losses from the earthquakes were more likely to have had to relocate part or all of their workplace(s). The majority of workplaces in Professional, Scientific and Technical Services relocated part or all of their operations as a result of damage and disruption caused by the earthquakes. Around a third of workplaces relocated in the ‘Other’ industry group and Public, Health and Education. Between 10 and 20 percent of workplaces in the remaining industry sectors had to relocate.
Three quarters of workplaces in the Professional, Scientific and Technical Services said they had received the Earthquake Support Subsidy, followed by over half of workplaces in the ‘Other’ industry group and the manufacturing sector. Overall, slightly less than half of all workplaces said they had accessed the subsidy. The survey found that for workplaces that had received the subsidy the majority said that it ‘helped a lot’ in keeping the business going.
Retaining and attracting staff has become more challenging following the earthquakes, with one in four workplaces saying retaining staff has become harder and, of those that recruited, half reported difficulties in hiring new employees. Workplaces in the Construction sector were finding staff retention and recruitment particularly challenging.
Overall, between 10 and 20 percent of workplaces that renewed an insurance policy said they experienced difficulties renewing insurance following the earthquakes. Workplaces with 50 or more employees were more likely to report difficulty than smaller workplaces.
Looking ahead, most workplaces expect to keep staff numbers the same or increase them over the next 12 months, and nearly half of workplaces expect the outlook for greater Christchurch to improve in the next 12 months.
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