New Zealand companies would not fill vacancies if they did not recruit workers from overseas, an employment agency says.
The government has been criticised by the Labour Party and New Zealand First after a record number of more than 200,000 work visas were issued last year, but it says they are not taking jobs that New Zealanders would otherwise fill.
Enterprise Recruitment operations director Ian McPherson said New Zealanders were not applying for all the unskilled and semi-skilled jobs that needed filling.
His company was recruiting seven out of 10 information technology workers from overseas.
He said training was becoming better aligned with what the labour market needed, but those needs could change quickly.
Vivo Hair and Beauty managing director James Carlisle oversees a chain of hairdressing salons.
He said companies in the industry were going under because they couldn't recruit skilled stylists - and employing overseas workers was a necessary part of getting the job done.
A total of 266 foreign hairdressers were among those granted work visas last year.
Mr Carlisle said his company employed everyone who passed a trade test, including people that arrived from overseas.
He said a lack of trained staff was slowing the growth of the business, especially in Wellington and the regions, and other owners were selling up because they couldn't find new staff.