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‘Insulting, Confusing’: Hipkins On Clampdown On Low-Skilled Migrants

The Labour leader & former PM Chris Hipkins on work visa changes

The government’s clampdown on low-skilled overseas workers is “quite insulting” for migrants and sends confused signals to those planning to make New Zealand their home, says Chris Hipkins. 

The Labour leader and former prime minister was responding to work visa changes Immigration Minister Erica Stanford announced last week, which essentially make it harder for low-skilled workers to migrate or lay roots in New Zealand. 



“I think the messages that we're getting from the current government are very confused…and I think quite insulting to some of the migrant community who work really hard,” Hipkins said during a visit to the office of The Indian Weekender on April 17.  

Stanford said the new rules would put New Zealanders at the front of the queue for low-skilled roles like hospitality workers, bus and truck drivers, supervisors, fast-food cooks, labourers, kitchen hands, cleaners, factory workers, etc. 

The new rules require these low-skilled migrant workers to leave the country after a maximum of three years and reapply for a work visa, beside virtually cutting them off any pathway to residency. 

“If I go and visit our rest homes, for example, we will often find care workers who are working very, very hard, they're often migrant workers…and for the government to be saying ‘actually, we don't need you’... That's pretty insulting to those workers,” Hipkins said.

“We should respect the fact that people have often turned their lives upside down to come to New Zealand because we asked them to come…because we said that, you know, we've got jobs here and we would like you to come and do them.”

In the days leading up to last week’s rule changes, Stanford has blamed the previous Labour government for letting in about 50,000 low-skilled workers, a move she described as “a mistake”.

She said New Zealanders, particularly those on job-seeker benefits, should be prioritised for these roles over migrants. Hipkins points out Stanford was singing a totally different tune when he was the prime minister last year. 

“What [the government] is doing now doesn't necessarily reconcile with what they were talking about before the election. So they were putting huge pressure on us as a government to get more people into the country faster. 

“Now they're saying, well, we shouldn't have done that, when actually they were some of the ones who were making the loudest noise about the fact that we needed to allow more people into the country.
Hipkins was more guarded when asked whether he thought overseas workers were needed in the economy for low-skilled jobs, and instead took a jibe at the government’s public sector job cuts to trim spending.   

“The way the government is going, they will put so many people out of jobs there will be lots of workers available locally for all kinds of work soon.”

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