Ngā whanaketanga o te rohe me te ao tuku mahi hei ngā rā ki tua | Future growth of our region and labour market

Male and female co-workers discussing paperwork.

© Oceania

The Marlborough population is expected to grow by approximately 10,000 people over the next 15 years. However, this population growth will predominantly be in people aged 65+. The traditional working age population (15-64 years) is only expected to grow by about 2,000 people over the same period. Growth in the region is largely driven by migration (both domestic and international). Our aging population and reliance on migration presents labour market challenges for Marlborough in terms of attraction and retention, both into the region and into the workforce.

Population estimates by regional council(external link) — Stats NZ

Subnational population component changes and median age (RC, TA), 30 June 2018-2021(external link) — Stats NZ

Based on the projected growth in people aged 15+ and the projected labour force participation rate of 68%, by 2038 we will have roughly 31,000 people participating in the labour market.

At the same time, the number of filled jobs in Marlborough is expected to grow from about 28,000 to about 35,000 (Source: Employment projections — Infometrics not public). Comparing the forecast number of filled jobs with the projected 31,000 people expected to be participating in the labour market shows a shortfall of approximately 4,000 workers by 2035 (not taking into account people working multiple jobs).

Growth in the region will largely be driven by the Agriculture, forestry and fishing, Manufacturing and Health care and social assistance sectors (Source: Employment projections — Infometrics not public). This is especially the case for the wine industry which projects a job growth of 17% and aquaculture where the workforce is projected to double nationally.

In addition to new jobs, each year about 70% of our advertised roles are to fill existing vacancies (Job openings — Infometrics not public). We need to make sure we have the workforce for both existing roles (as people retire or move away from the area) and newly created roles.

The nature of work is changing

While we do not know the exact skill requirements for the future, we do know that industries are increasingly adopting new technologies. This will change the skill requirements for both new and replacement roles. A number of our industries including aquaculture have indicated that they will become more mechanised over the next 10 years. Our aviation sector is also undergoing change with the move to lower carbon planes. We want to work with sectors as they begin to understand the skills implications of these changes.

We also know that that there will be a number of sunrise industries in Marlborough over the next 15 years, for example medicinal cannabis and the screen sector. Marlborough District Council has a particular emphasis on supporting start-ups and increasing the uptake of technology within our existing industries.

We need to make sure we have the right systems in place to help people upskill and retrain to meet both current skill shortages and the future demand for skills. This includes through our local training providers and also online learning options. Training needs to be flexible and accessible to make it easier for people to keep their skills current and to retrain. Career advice and employment support needs to be expanded to support people to successfully navigate career and job changes.

Technological change and the future of work 2020(external link) — Productivity Commission

Ka ahu mai te hunga whai mahi i hea? | Where will our workforce come from?

There are several potential pools of labour:

  • New entrants to the workforce: school leavers and new graduates from tertiary educations; people who are entering the workforce for the first time
  • Re-entrants to the workforce: people who have not been in the workforce for a period of time, such as due to studying, caring or health related reasons
  • The existing workforce: people who are already employed
  • Migrants: to augment the domestic workforce where there is a real need or advantage. Some sectors, especially wine and aged care have a heavy reliance on migrant workers.
Current and potential workforce in Marlborough (a snapshot in time)
current and potential workforce

Te āheinga ki te whakamahi i te hunga mahi o ēnei rā | The opportunity to better utilise our current workforce

By 2035 we have a projected shortfall of about 4,000 workers, yet we currently have 3,700 people who could be better utilised to meet existing demand. This group of people will not be able to meet all of our workforce and skills requirements. However, we need to look at how we better engage these people in the labour market.

Certain demographic groups are more likely to be underutilised including disabled people, women, young people and Māori. These groups (among others) were identified in the Government’s Employment Strategy. This strategy focuses on groups that consistently experience poor labour market outcomes, and on the opportunities to unlock people’s potential and address inequalities. Action plans for all priority groups have or are being developed.

We also have an ageing workforce that could be better utilised. There is currently large proportion of older workers in Marlborough, with people aged 55+ accounting 6,500 filled jobs. The number of older workers in our region is likely to grow as the population ages.

Stats NZ Employment indicators – Age and Region by variable – Feb 2022(external link) — StatsNZ

This means that workplaces need to find ways to keep older workers engaged in the workforce. In addition, older workers want to stay in the workforce for longer. A 2019 survey of older people (55+) in Marlborough found that about 70% would consider working part-time.

We have heard from older workers, Te Kotahi o Te Tauihu Charitable Trust, younger workers and people working in the disability sector that flexible work arrangements are critical to getting people engaged in the workforce. This includes, working from home, working during school hours, job sharing and flexible start and finish times. Perceived lack of flexibility can be a barrier to people engaging with the labour market.

Workplaces need to look at the ways in which they structure roles, and what support they are able to provide to assist more people to better participate in the workforce. This could include offering school hours or transport to more remote workplaces.


We have an underutilisation rate of 10%. This includes those who are working part-time and would like to work more (underemployed), the unemployed, and people who would like to engage in the labour market.

If we take an expanded view of our untapped potential, there are also people working full time (30 + hours) who would like to work more hours and are not who included in the underutilisation rate.

Ngā wero o te whakatutuki i ngā hiahia e pā ana ki te hunga mahi o ēnei rā me ngā rā ki tua | Challenge with meeting our current and future workforce needs

Despite some availability in the labour market, Marlborough employers consistently report difficulties with recruiting people to both skilled and unskilled roles. Reasons for this vary from not being able to attract people to Marlborough, skills mismatches within the local workforce and then perceptions about the industry (especially for entry level roles).

These challenges need to be addressed to support both our current and future workforce and skills demands, and to enable people to participate fully and equitably in their places of work, community and society.