Kiwi Conversations #4: Through the eyes of NZ's SME business owners

28 September 2021

In this edition of Kiwi Conversations we talk to SME business owners and get their thoughts on our vaccination rates, the possibility of vaccine passports and our current Covid elimination strategy.

We’re an economy that’s highly dependent on the success of our small and medium sized businesses – given they represent 97% of all NZ firms. We recently talked to 380 SME business owners who own or run a 1–50 employee sized business. A third of them are in Auckland (and in Level 4 at the time) and two thirds out of Auckland, operating in Level 2.

Business owners are finding lockdown even more stressful than the rest of us. And some are not feeling they have the resilience to deal with it – 8% of Auckland SME business owners are really struggling mentally right now, saying they have little resilience left.

Having just been in Level 4 lockdown, 20% of SME business owners are struggling to pay the bills and are worrying over money (vs 10% of the rest of us) and a quarter are stressed about not having paid work (vs 9% for everyone else).

Looking ahead to what’s around the corner, we asked SME business owners how they feel about our national vaccination rates, the current Covid elimination strategy and their views on vaccine passports…

Learning #1: Ongoing negative impacts on our economy due to low vaccination rates are a worry for SME businesses

Despite that, for now, most SMEs still want to sit tight and wait for vaccine rates to rise before moving to a Covid management and control strategy.

Though SME views on this are different around the country, particularly for Auckland, most of whom at the time were still unable to trade. Auckland SME business owners are more likely than those out of Auckland to want to move to a Covid management and control strategy now.

Auckland SMEs are feeling hard hit and think vaccinations are important – but beyond Auckland, they’re perhaps not quite as convinced.

Business owners outside of Auckland are slower to get vaccinated and 10% don’t ever intend to be vaccinated. 36% have been fully vaccinated (73% had one/both jabs), compared to 54% of Auckland business owners fully vaccinated (and 89% with at least their first 1 jab). 

Learning #2: The enforcement of vaccinations is a topic that divides SME business owners – and consumers too, for that matter

Despite the differences in vaccination levels, small businesses, like the consumers they serve, are divided as to whether Covid vaccinations should be compulsory. And they’re also divided on whether businesses should have the right to hire or terminate employees if they choose to not be vaccinated against Covid 19.

Learning #3: The majority of SME business owners nationwide think vaccine passports are the way to go

The majority of SME business owners nationwide think vaccine passports are the way to go, particularly in Auckland. Though business owners outside of Auckland feel less of a need for them, with 22% thinking NZ shouldn’t introduce one. About 10% of small business owners are still on the fence (and incidentally, so too are about 10% of consumers).

But the jury’s still out on whether vaccine passports could lead to inequality and discrimination.

We’d love to hear your questions

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Tags: One Picture, Kiwi Conversations, COVID19, New Zealand, Insights