The head of New Zealand’s biggest employer organisation says unemployment should be lower given the strength of our economy.

Kim Campbell, CEO of the EMA, blames a lack of training, and social issues, for our unemployment rate staying close to 5 percent despite good economic growth.

“We should be closer to 3 percent than 5 percent. What explains the nagging 2 percent? They are social issues, not economic. It sits in intergenerational unemployment, literacy [lack of] and substance abuse – drugs are an issue.”

He also called on New Zealand companies to put more resources into training and the retraining of mature workers.

“Everywhere I go – local bodies, mechanics workshops and laboratories – they can’t get enough skilled staff. In our learning institutions we are not producing enough skilled staff at the pace they are needed and in the locations that they are needed.”

Despite a skills shortage, Campbell said New Zealand was in good shape to handle whatever gyrations in world trade US President Donald Trump throws at us.

“After 20 years of restructuring we are a reasonably competitive economy. It’s much more broadly based than say even 10 years ago where a drop in dairy [prices] would have had us cutting our wrists.

“We are able to weather the storms, because emerging from the rubble of the 80’s we have a much more skilled workforce – we are seeing tremendous strength in the services sector.

“Businesses are producing movie content, software, engineering design services – and in agriculture we are seeing the emergence of much more competitive horticulture, things like kiwifruit, wine and other things.”

In this video interview with business journalist Rod Oram, Kim Campbell says there is a huge opportunity for New Zealand businesses to make money from the “greening” of our economy. 

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