From July 4, 2022, it will not just be a test for Immigration New Zealand’s otherwise jaded bureaucracy that has had little to do during the last two years of pandemic and border closure with limited visa processing but will also be the test of New Zealand’s reputation of attracting the world’s best migrant workers.
Indeed, New Zealand’s reputation for attracting the global skilled migrant workforce and their families has taken a considerable hit during the last few years, even beyond the realm of Covid-related border closure for more than two years.
The massive visa processing delays that began in early 2019, including the skilled migrant category (SMC) visa and the unpardonable delays in partnership visa processing that have kept many migrants forcefully separated for a long period of time, had already repulsed many potentially new migrant workers from choosing NZ as their preferred destination.
The ensuing Covid-related border closure in March 2020 as a response to the Covid pandemic and the government’s conscious decision to inordinately delay plans of opening borders and reconnecting with the rest of the world had only made the situation worse.
Many temporary migrants who were left to deal with Immigration New Zealand’s shambolic bureaucracy and the government’s ever-changing goal post on immigration rules have only sad stories to tell about their experience of living, studying, and working in New Zealand deterring many potential new migrant workers from choosing the country as their preferred destination.
And make no mistake, the recently noted bump in the interest in New Zealand as noted on Immigration New Zealand’s website in the United States of America following the emotional upheaval due to the momentous overturn of the latter’s supreme court of women’s right to abortion will not make much difference, despite the wishful thinking of many.
Last time a similar surge in the interest in NZ in that part of the world was noted when Donald Trump became the president of the United States of America.
Though a much likeable fact then, just like now, there were not any noticeable arrivals of the supposedly rich and wealthy Americans on our shores to either boost our economy or enrich the quality of the migrant workforce in any significant numbers to suggest a lift in New Zealand’s overall brand image as a preferred migration destination.
In the real world, a country’s overall image in attracting migrant workers often is a cumulative outcome of the ease and clarity of immigration rules and settings, allowing potential migrants to make long-term planning required to move to any foreign country.
Sadly, in the last couple of years, New Zealand has either failed or unconsciously denied the incoming migrants that leverage – and this has not necessarily a making of Covid – instead, a lot was due to the government’s own making and beliefs about the value of the temporary migrant workforce.
One such belief of this particular government has been the contempt towards the so-called “low skilled temporary migrant workforce” which it sees as displacing Zealand’s own citizens from the job market for the lack of competitive wages and fairer work conditions.
While a majority of experts and key stakeholders, including the government’s own commissioned productivity commission, have eventually found this view as skewed and without any scientific backing, the government has remained steadfastly committed to this view and marched ahead with its immigration rebalance.
Now is the time when that view will be tested in the real world.
The underlying theme of the Accredited Employer Work Visa system is that the employers will supposedly get more bureaucratic efficiency from Immigration New Zealand during the hiring and visa processing and in lieu, will have to increase costs on their respective businesses by hiring temporary migrant workers at and above-median wages ($27.76ph).
Ideally, this is an unfair expectation upon businesses and employers to be promised more efficient visa processing services when they agree to increase costs on their businesses and pay more than market rates, thereby risking their long-term viability.
From temporary migrants’ perspectives, they need businesses to remain viable and stable so as to be in a position to give them long-term and stable employment.
The full impact of the government’s immigration rebalance yet remains to be seen in the short to mid-term, but July 4 is an important date when the rebalance actually begins on the ground.
To what extent will it eventually succeed in changing the dynamics of New Zealand’s job market and encourage New Zealanders to pick up the work that is being currently filled by so-called “low-skilled temporary migrants,” for now the immigration rebalance is all set to begin from July 4.