Even before COVID, what was being said by business was that the demand for workers was across all sectors and bands of employment.  However, the government policies are purely focused on making it easier for highly skilled migrants to gain work and residency visas.

They've now restricted the ability to get visas further by using a wage band as a proxy for skill, which demonstrates that they’re still in the fantasy world of ‘it’s just a skill shortage', and not recognising that it’s a labour shortage as well.

Uncertainty around residency means NZ is not an attractive option for skilled migrant workers

We now have a situation where people considering a move to New Zealand don't know what's in store for them, where we don't have a residency programme available, and where they can’t judge whether a future policy release is going to get them to a residence. If they can't see it today, what hope does an employer have of convincing a person to get on a plane?

Essentially, INZ is saying “the borders are open – you can bring in workers”, but they have failed to give employers a critical tool – a residence programme – that will encourage or facilitate businesses being able to hire from overseas.

Parent visa frustrations

Thousands of parents and their families have waited six years since the visas were frozen in 2016 pending a review.

Parent residence visas allowed people whose adult children already had residence or citizenship, to join them and their grandchildren – but it was controversial because of fears they would be a burden on social welfare and healthcare.

In August last year, more than 8,500 parents, in 5,463 expressions of interest (EOI) were waiting to apply - the oldest dated back to 2012. INZ estimates suggest thousands more would apply if income criteria on children of twice the median wage were removed.

Of those already on the waiting list in 2019, 85% were not eligible because their children did not earn more than $104,000 a year.

But even those who met the criteria, such as doctors, have said that the long wait for the programme to reopen and have their parents join them has prompted them to return home or emigrate elsewhere.

Automation creates remote (overseas) workers

 

The government's push for automation, and for people to stay at home and work remotely, has also resulted in businesses hiring more people living overseas. It means those workers don't need a work visa, and employers don't need to pay according to minimum labour standards.

In many respects the government's response about working from home and the emphasis on automation is undermining the border policy; it encourages overseas outsourcing which is cheaper and a lot less hassle.

Dressing up old policies as their own

My view is that this government has simply dressed up the accredited employer and new work visa system as part of the great reset. Talk about taking credit for the work of others!

All they've done is put their name tag on work done by someone else. They've actually done nothing new other than to say ‘we're going to restrict work visas’ by setting a minimum payment threshold.

They have explicitly stated that the objective is to reduce the number of work visas issued and reduce the number of migrants. Their anti-migrant approach goes back to Kris Faafoi’s comment about the immigration reset not being about the numbers. Yet the data shows it is absolutely about the numbers.

If you've got an ill-conceived sociological objection to being reliant on a migrant workforce, you run the risk of destroying economic opportunities for New Zealanders because business activity gets stymied. Which means the economic benefits we should all enjoy is restrained.

And why would you be doing that?

 

 

Aaron Martin is Principal Immigration Lawyer at New Zealand Immigration Law