Government by its own admission is working on the nitty-gritty of its immigration policy.
Given the fact that Labour Party had run a loud election campaign of cutting immigration numbers between 20,000 and 30,000 a year, from record levels of around 70,000, it is interesting to note that the government had not included immigration in its first hundred day plan.
The recent most Statistics NZ press release confirms that the annual net migration rate continues to remain moderately high in January, despite some minimal fall in numbers. Annual net migration was at 70,100 in the year to January this year, from 71,300 in January 2017, Statistics New Zealand said.
Clearly, the government has not yet taken any decisive action to disturb record immigration numbers.
On the other hand, the government continues to maintain ambiguity on how best to address (read reduce) international student numbers.
By its own admission government’s persistence to take away study-rights from international students enrolled in low-quality education courses can bring 7000-10000 fewer students in the country every year, which many experts argue will translate to a rough figure of $261 million per year.
The feel of this money that could potentially be lost would depend on the subjective choice of the readers, depending upon which side of political divide one is.
Regardless of the divide, it seems that the challenge of managing mutually competing goals of maintaining government coffers, ensuring regular supply of skilled workforce to employers and businesses, and achieving some aspirational goals around immigration numbers, have caught up with them.
Indeed, cutting down the number of international students is an aspirational goal, especially when the country is reeling with acute skill-shortage across several sectors and regions.
The Immigration Minister Ian Lees-Galloway is currently meeting representatives from several sectors including mulling on a report from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) on impacts of removing work rights from low-quality educational courses.
The Minister and other senior members of the government are seen publically acknowledging the skill-shortage in different sectors and regions, particularly in rural New Zealand.
However, they are not choosing to utilise those international students who are willing to pursue a career in those sectors, by first getting the education in NZ and then getting job experience in those sectors in the hope that they can utilise the pathway to residency.
Instead, the government is choosing to demonise the internationally established pathway to residency which is offered to international students around the world as a “backdoor to immigration.”
The fact that government is not ready to clean its own mess, if there is a mess, in student-migrant worker exploitation within NZ, and instead mulling on a knee-jerk or not carefully planned policy on immigration, focussing on “record level of immigration.”
Any policy focusing just on “record level of immigration numbers” would not be able to address the pressing challenges of NZ economy – getting skilled workers in places where needed and supporting $5 billion export education industry.