A critical lack of workers is looming in the service industry, one of New Zealand's biggest job sectors, according to a research report released in Parliament today.
The country will need more than 200,000 extra workers in jobs like retailing, hospitality and aged care work in the next three years, according to the researchers from Business and Economic Research.
There's a boom in the fitness industry and tourism, there's an ageing population and a growing economy, all fuelling the need for more service workers.
Bruce Robertson of At Your Service Aotearoa, which commissioned the report, says the looming shortage is "certainly scary".
The Government is less worried.
"I think it's great opportunities for Kiwis when you're in a growing economy, creating more jobs," said Paul Goldsmith, Skills and Employment Minister.
"We're creating more jobs than the population is growing so there is opportunities for Kiwis to get employment."
Jobless figures out today show unemployment fell in the last three months to 132,000.
So in the short-term, businesses will have to turn to immigrants, but they'll also be in short supply when new visa changes kick in.
Mr Robertson says there's no single solution to the shortage.
"The issue will be addressed by getting more people coming into the service sector from school as a career option, retraining people who are having a lifestyle change, and immigration is likely to be part of the solution as well," he said.
Youth unemployment is at 13 per cent and industry training organisations want to harness them for the workforce.
"There are a number of programmes that we've got in place to address that group and to try and encourage them and to give them, not just the skills actually, it's the attributes of being enthusiastic about being at work," Mr Goldsmith said.
The Council of Trade Unions says make service sector wages more attractive.
Richard Wagstaff of the CTU says the service sector is the lowest paid sector and one Statistics New Zealand figures today show has pay rates falling faster than any sector.
Employers say they're aware of the wage issues.