Market Update Q2 2020 - Contracting

Tribe's Head of Contracting, Kelly Dillon, gives her take on the contracting industry for Q2 of 2020.

Contracting landscape

The contingent workforce in New Zealand had been on the rise prior to COVID-19, but if we look back to the GFC, contingent workers were the first to be let go in large organisations. Although when restructures and redundancies cut too deep, these contingent workers were the first to be rehired due to the flexibility and fewer risks associated, in comparison to re-hiring permanent employees.  

Current situation

The employment market in NZ has been hit hard, but not as severely as originally forecasted by economists. We’re now starting to see second rounds of redundancies around the country and unemployment rates rising. We are unlikely to see the full impact of COVID until after September when the wage subsidy runs out. But keep reading, all is not doom and gloom!

The employment market

Nationwide, businesses have been imposing hiring freezes, making redundancies, and restructuring their models. Yet this does not seem to have affected a number of specialist sectors including health, construction and IT, with job openings on the rise.

Competition for roles

Many businesses may find independent contractor arrangements much more attractive than hiring permanent employees.  With unemployment rates rising, many employees who’ve been made redundant are now open to temporary or contract roles to secure an income, even if this means their role is ‘less secure’.

With more people in the job market, it is more important than ever that contractors continue to grow and develop their professional networks as competition for contracts increases significantly.

For employers

During this unprecedented time, businesses should be open to contractors for a number of reasons:

  • Immediate productivity, most contractors will require little training
  • Allows you to hire for expansion or reduction of employees on a project basis
  • Cost effective, contractors often work flexible hours for the most part, often do not work full days and weeks, and in this environment, even more flexibility is required
  • A business can also tap into talent that it might not otherwise gain access to, career contractors
  • Less time for managers and the need for micromanaging
  • Less distracted by other office antics and office politics


As at the 2019 Census, NZ has only 144,000 people who identify themselves as contractors. It seems like a relatively low number, so it’s important to point out this does not include temps or casual/seasonal workers. I have yet to see a forecast of what those numbers might look like in 12 months’ time, but I have some predictions:

  • Contingent workforce numbers will continue to increase
  • Change – get used to it
  • Increased automation and continued investment into AI
  • Less hierarchical organisational structures to drive collaboration
  • Limited access to skilled migrant workers creates opportunity for Kiwis
  • Increased focus on work-life balance, mental health, and diversity 

Growth areas for contracting in NZ

  • Healthcare and social assistance
  • Technical roles, specifically within data and technology
  • Education and training
  • Construction

I love all things contracting, please get in touch with me on or 0211471825 if you wish to have a discussion about any of the above.


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