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They may have helped keep COVID-19 out of the Pacific Nation, but closed borders also now mean there is a critical shortage of migrant labour, igniting protests among businesses and workers struggling with a staffing crisis.

Shortages began after New Zealand sealed its border in March 2020.  In early July, this year, as part of a two-month campaign to draw the government’s attention to the severe shortages in skilled labour, around 2,000 eateries stopped service and turned out the lights.

Some restaurants in Auckland and other major cities temporarily shut due to understaffing or just to give their exhausted staff a break, media reports have said.

Further cuts to the number of low-skilled migrants are to come, with the announcement in May this year of a reset on immigration, adding to business frustrations.  When borders do eventually re-open, the focus will shift to look to attract more highly skilled migrants and rich investors.

Also unhappy, are essential service workers. About 30,000 nurses are set to walk off their jobs later this year in a series of strikes for better pay and working conditions as they complained of burnout.

Employers including Canstaff have said that whilst the labour shortage exists currently, they do not expect this to be an ongoing theme post COVID. Mr Matt Jones from Canstaff said – “We can see a significant increase in demand in labour. As soon as the borders are open again, we foresee a flood of applications for work, in fact we are already seeing this.”