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NZ wage disparity tops global index

By Andrew Drummond

Rebuilding earthquake-ravaged Christchurch is driving demand for highly-paid construction professionals while other New Zealand workers struggle to maintain wage growth equal to inflation.

These are the findings of Hays' global skills index 2012, released in London on Monday.

"The scale of the task for the next five years, at least, in Christchurch is absolutely phenomenal," Hays' chief executive Alistair Cox told NZN at the launch.

"It has brought significant demand for qualified engineers and other professionals in the construction sector, while elsewhere the economy is not demanding a growth workforce from its four million-odd population."

The index, which looked at 27 countries, saw NZ record the highest possible wage disparity between high and low skilled industries, the former mostly made up of quantity surveyors, residential and commercial project managers, machine operators and drainage specialists.

The nation also posted the lowest-possible result on overall wage pressure, meaning that real wages are not rising, and in some cases are declining when compared to inflation.

"We're talking about jobs in agriculture, retail and across most sectors," Mr Cox said.

"Wages might be rising by 0.5 or one per cent, but then inflation neutralises the benefit."

The rebuild of the country's second-biggest city is also producing a "talent mismatch" between NZ's North and South islands, the Hays report concluded.

"We're seeing services related to the Christchurch reconstruction moving up to Auckland where the expertise exists, and where workers can have the lifestyle, accommodation and access that typically appeals to higher income earners," Mr Cox said.

Hays has 245 offices in 33 countries, including bases in New Zealand and Australia.