Immigration policies designed to keep workers down not out


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Immigration policy under “free market” economies are designed to keep working people down – not out.

Capitalist “democracies” love to have large segments of the working class with no, or very few, rights – and that is true for New Zealand as well.

The US has at least 11 million so-called “illegals”. Some estimates put the number nearer 20 or 30 million. Maintaining their status as a pariah sector of the working class through periodic deportations of some is designed to keep those millions free to be exploited to the fullest extent possible.

In New Zealand, it is difficult for people to simply cross our border so this government has implemented a policy to achieve the same goals “legally”.They have done this by dramatically increasing the number of workers on temporary work visas while making it harder to transition to permanent residence.

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While there a few tens of thousands of “overstayers” those that have overstayed a visitor or work permit, there are hundreds of thousands of workers legally in New Zealand on “temporary” work or student visas who are desperately hoping to transition to being a permanent resident, who often can’t change their employer, who are free to be abused and exploited.

Parallel with the work visa exploitation there has developed an industry to attract fee-paying students to do courses of little educational value just so the student can a get a leg on the ladder that for one in six of them may lead to permanent residence. There is evidence of corrupt behaviour at all stages of the process from recruitment, training, and qualifications gained.

There are horror stories being reported almost weekly in the media. Workers being paid a few dollars an hour, workers paying the boss their own wage, workers paying tens of thousands of dollars for a job sponsorship.

The current government vastly expanded the number of students and workers being given temporary work visas each year to its current combined annual total of around 250,000. A whole new sector of Private Training Establishments (PTE’s) has grown up to provide courses to the desperate students. But the state education system as a whole from high schools through to polytechs and universities, after being squeezed of funding by the government, have become dependent on fee-paying students to survive.

This was essentially admitted by Mark Flowers the chairperson of the Metro group of six big metropolitan institutes of technology, who told Radio NZ: “We have absorbed cost increases for some years now without really the ability to raise fees. It is getting tighter, there’s not as much head-room as there was. On the other hand increasing international revenues has definitely assisted, and I think we’re putting in better systems.”

The government hopes to double the size of this industry from its current $2.5 billion to $5 billion by 2025. To achieve that goal the government radically increased the range of students able to work while studying. Currently, there are about 100,000 fee paying students. They have been told they can get work while they study, and job offers when they graduate, and ultimately permanent residence with ease. Many of them have taken on loans to fund their studies.

Once New Zealand started sourcing new migrants from anywhere in the globe using “objective” criteria, government’s have been able to manipulate flows to suit their own agendas. With China and now India becoming a major source of migrants there is also an almost unlimited potential inflow depending on policies adopted.

Given New Zealand has for some decades been losing around one percent of its population to Australia each year, that loss has had to be compensated for if New Zealand capitalism was not to have a deep going crisis. Big business needed labour to exploit at the cheapest price they can get away with and a domestic market to sell to.

Over the last three decades, that migration has transformed New Zealand society with approximately one in four of its population born outside the country. In the main city Auckland nearly 40% of its 1.4 million population was born outside New Zealand. One in four Auckland residents are Asian.

The current government appears to be opening the tap on migrants for a number of reasons. The economy appeared to be stalling in 2013 and again in early 2015 after an initial period of recovery following the 2008 financial crash and subsequent recession. Foreign labour was deemed important for the rebuild of Christchurch following the 2011 earthquakes. An aggressive recruitment of overseas students was agreed on in October 2013 which included liberalising the right to work while here.

Employers in certain industries (tourism, hospitality, farming, horticulture) were complaining that they couldn’t attract enough staff (at the wages they were offering). In some industries that Unite represent staff like tourist hotels and fast food, the bosses confessed that 30-40% of their staff were on temporary visas.

The combined impact of these changes has been significant. For 22 months through to May 2016 every month saw annual numbers of permanent and long-term (PLT) migrant numbers increase. The May annual net gain figure of 68,400 was a new record. This involved a record 124,00 PLT arrivals less 56,400 PLT departures.

The using MBIE data for the 2014/15 year 170,814 temporary work visas were issued that year as well as 84,856 student visas. A policy change to allow more Indian students in has seen their number go from almost nothing a few years ago to be the largest country of origin group at over 10,000.

This report also noted that only 17% of students were able to transition to residency five years after their first student visa. Similarly, only 18% of temporary work visa holders had transitioned to residency by three years after their first work visa.

While the government has massively increased the number of student and temporary work visa holders they have also significantly reduced the number able to get permanent residency from 50,000 a year to 43,000. That has been achieved by reducing the skilled migrant approvals from 35,000 to 23,000.

The government has removed a range of categories that were able to be used to get a residency visa including that of “restaurant manager”. We had members of Unite who had spent tens of thousands of dollars on bullshit courses and worked for companies like McDonald’s and Restaurant Brands to get promoted to a manager’s role, suddenly told that it was all a waste of time and money.

Even Treasury, a government department known to be on the side of the bosses in nearly all matters, has questioned the economic wisdom of the current policies.

Bernard Hickey reported in the June 12 NZ Herald that Treasury “released a series of papers over the past year that showed its growing discomfort with the increase in low-skilled migrants and the risk that they are displacing local workers and keeping wages down. As the Treasury officials noted:

Current policy settings may not be doing all they can to support the growth of higher productivity firms and industries, including facilitating the flow of higher-skilled migrants to sectors of the economy where skill shortages may be acting as a significant constraint.

In addition, our current approach to selecting migrants may have encouraged reliance over time on lower-skilled labour in some parts of the economy.

This may have been discouraging some firms from either increasing wages and working conditions or investing, either in training existing workforce or in capital.

When Treasury looked at the 21,000 migrants given residency in 2014/15 under the “Skilled Migrant Category” (SMC) they discovered that a “significant proportion” now works in low-wage occupations. The top ten SMC categories are Chef, Dairy Cattle Farmer, Cafe/Restaurant manager, Retail Manager, Carpenter, Dairy Cattle Farm Worker, Retail Supervisor, Aged or Disabled Carer, Truck Driver, Registered nurse (aged care)

This is simply a cruel and heartless policy that sees overseas students and workers competing with each other in a desperate and ultimately futile dream for over 80 percent of them to achieve New Zealand residency.

Workers in this country and around the globe need our own policy on immigration. Ultimately we can never stop workers seeking a better life. That is true for New Zealanders going to Australia or workers coming to New Zealand. We should support every step that equalises the status of workers here, whether they were born here or not. As a first step, that means that no worker on a temporary visa should be tied to one employer. Any worker must be free to change employer at any time. Workers currently in this country brought here by the government and bosses to use and abuse should have the first choice on staying.


  1. Yes Mike,

    We don’t need TPPA/or EU type beaurocratic technocratic agendas here either, as they are disguised planned attacks on the workers by their planners the CORPORATIONS.


  2. But Key said there is no immigration CRISIS but then again he said there is no housing CRISIS that he’s borrowing a billion to fix!

  3. We should stop the free movement of people between New Zealand and Australia. This is causing the large swings in populations making it difficult to plan. Those emigres will boomerang bang when they retire, as they are not eligible for the pension in Australia. They will become a burden on NZ.

    Also, cut out the Mickey-Mouse courses designed to extract the money and hopes of international students for the dream of a long-term future in NZ. Tied employment is a recipe for exploitation of vulnerable migrants.

    • Also it’s possible to transfer your retirement fund over to a kiwi provider. Before about 2012 that wasn’t possible.

      Let me clear something up for you David. Ex pat don’t rely on no one because we earn enough to save for our own retirement. I understand that is a forign concept to some one such as yourself who have lie about things to get your point across, just like John Keys lies.

      • What about the bleating about the lack of social securities in australia for those who moved since 2001? Who is lying? Even had a campaign by Andrew Little. Keep your head in the sand mate.

  4. Good post. I’m pleased at least there is a discussion about how migration is being used to exploit workers (local and international) and keep wages low and people untrained.

    I was at the library and saw a magazine about property investment and the headline was Chinese investors tell their stories.

    Anyway had a look at the first one. Chinese student arrives and can’t speak english, was told by the agent Auckland was in Australia so is confused on her way to Hamilton where her course is. She barely passes her course but gets a job as a car sales person, after 3 months she has permanent residency and leaves her car sales person job and learns to play black jack and count cards and goes all around the casinos gambling. She then decides to invest in property and starts buying up but does not reveal how many she owns (especially North Shore in Auckland). After that she trains as an actuary. She looks young maybe 30?

    Does it really sound like someone creating jobs and wealth in NZ?

    (I’m sure she is a lovely person but is this type of migration helping NZ society or making things worse for locals?)

    • @ Save NZ. Unfortunately these anecdotes are becoming almost normal, AND unfortunately all at the expense of the genuine ‘international student’.
      Of course if Immigration NZ and the gummint were really genuine in their concerns – they’d be offering some sort of amnesty and full protection to those prepared to come forward and expose the absolute SHIT many have been through. In some cases it’s tantamount to people trafficking. And bear in mind many of these students feel an obligation to repay parents, friends, relatives for financing their overseas ‘experience’ in NZ’s education industry.
      Sometimes they do so by resorting to prostitution, or crime, overstaying visas and so on.
      My suspicious are that the reason they haven’t offered an amnesty is that they’ll be faced with a deluge, and something that could seriously embarrass some of their core suppotas.
      My advice to you, and others is to keep in touch with people you have encountered (international students or otherwise) while in NZ or who have now left – for the purposes of what will hopefully become a proper investigation. I know I am – and the cases are mounting up.

    • Creating wealth for oneself, and people she may be connected with, and acting for. The overly PC mad New Zealand administration is not up to it, and most dare not raise any questions, as it may instantly be labeled “xenophobic”, “racist”, “sexist” and so forth.

      That though is only back firing, and will not help anyone seriously and honestly discussing the challenges there are. Some are genuine, others come to just fill their own pockets, or to build a nest egg or more, earning rent from desperate others, all wanting to live in the BS “paradise” Paul Henry and the likes talk about.

  5. Quote from above: “While there a few tens of thousands of “overstayers” those that have overstayed a visitor or work permit, there are hundreds of thousands of workers legally in New Zealand on “temporary” work or student visas who are desperately hoping to transition to being a permanent resident, who often can’t change their employer, who are free to be abused and exploited.”

    I am confused about Mike’s claim that there are tens of thousands of overstayers here, as recent media reports seemed to contradict it, this is unless the government has again fiddled with statistics:

    Here some older figures:

    But Mike is correct in his analysis that this government has allowed in an ever growing number of persons that work on temporary work visa basis, and we also know about the significant increase in student numbers, paying high fees to PTEs and also to state sector and private schools educating our children and them.

    I have some of these overseas students that must be working part time come and knock on my door, being forced to sell questionable services and also more mainstream services for their employer, and some will probably only earn commissions. Some of them seem desperate to sell anything, to earn some money.

    While it sounds fair to end this practice of issuing work permits only for migrants to work for a particular employer, I think we need to look at immigration as a whole that needs remedying.

    Many New Zealanders have returned home the last few years, as the Australian government has signaled to Kiwis living there, once the economy slows, you will be first out of the job, and you will NOT get social services to stay here. The UK has also tightened immigration rules, so fewer go there for OEs, and the slow economy in much of Europe has also motivated some to come back home. Others may follow with economic slowing in China and other places, and while there may have been fewer permanent resident visas issues, there are still hundreds of thousands of various nationalities who live abroad with Returning Residents Visas, if they would all come “home”, we will have a real crisis.

    A country should first look after its own workers, and only allow migrants that take jobs that need filling, with skilled persons, e.g. in health services, in technical jobs and so forth.

    It is bizarre to say the least, that we have many work in the restaurant and fast food sector, and in supermarkets and in low skilled jobs all over the place. Surely some of these jobs can be done by Kiwis, and the whole situation seems to be based on a strategy of the government using immigration to simply keep wages and salaries down, to create additional local competition for jobs, and also to “boost” the economy by simply growing the population, thus creating more “demand”.

    Abolishing the rule that a new worker must stay with a particular employer for some time, while not addressing other issues will not solve anything for local workers, as these migrant workers will simply go and shop around and compete for more attractive jobs with existing workers.

    New Zealanders are never asked what kind of immigration policy they want, and what size of a population they want, governments make decisions above the local’s heads and simply cater for big business and their own political agendas.

    It is time we have an open and sincere discussion about immigration and what size population people can and want to live with, as additional people will over time put more stress on existing resources, including water, housing, transport, health, education and social services.

  6. “Over the last three decades, that migration has transformed New Zealand society with approximately one in four of its population born outside the country. In the main city Auckland nearly 40% of its 1.4 million population was born outside New Zealand. One in four Auckland residents are Asian.”

    Migrants bring diversity and skills to New Zealand, we know this, we have been told this, but New Zealand stands out as a smallish nation with an unusually high immigration rate and population base on a per capita basis, much higher than the UK, Canada and Australia, as far as I know.

    Part of the problem was years of flow out of New Zealanders moving overseas, for better opportunities and incomes. That seems to have been reversed, not so much by the government offering a better kind of income situation for returnees and locals, but simply by default, the world economy having suffered the GFC and fall out from that. Australia has slowed due to China buying less resources like minerals, and they have other domestic issues also.

    With the Brexit, who knows, we may also have many Kiwis come back from their lengthy UK stays, to try and re-establish themselves here.

    In view of all this, we do not seem to have so much need for additional new immigration to replace jobs, as enough skilled people seem to be coming back home.

    This temporary visa business, tied in also with a questionable private training institute business, that is a worry, and I have met a fair few students that went to these, some rather frustrated and disappointed with what they gained from doing the courses.

    But common sense is something this government does not have, it runs the economy like a casino, and wants to expand operations, bringing in a million Mainland Chinese tourists, many fast tracked to head to Casinos here, and they bring in tour guides and others from there also, catering for them.

    They are now talking about having Chinese construction firms come here to build infrastructure, possibly also homes:

    That will mean, they will bring some of their workers and managers also, and what gain will there be for New Zealand.

    The day will come that we will have ten million or more population, we will end up where the rest of the world is, over populated, more polluted, with no remaining local species and intensive farming and high rise slums in our cities.

    Growth for growth sake is a disaster, but we are addicted to growth, and nobody likes to realise resources are finite, they simply do not want to hear that, like a crack smoking addict, rushing ahead to eventual self destruction.

  7. The Labour Inspectorate is either utterly under-resourced, or incompetent, or both, or maybe its just that it operates under that bugger’s muddle of a Munstry that doesn’t seem to understand what the culture of a public service entity should be.
    It’s compounded by the education ‘industry’ (Dave above, you’re correct: ….”courses designed to extract the money and hopes of international students for the dream of a long-term future in NZ”) – aided and abetted by Mickey Mouse private tertiary institutions, immigration “consultants”, and even some in the legal profession – all clipping the ticket.
    As Mike says, the problem could be solved (at least partially) by untying visas to a particular employer (as a few court cases have now proven).
    Like many of the ill-thought out policies of this gummint though, it’s all destined to backfire on them.
    Labour laws are regularly being flouted by various means (such as taking passports; insisting employees live in certain places for exorbitant rentals; returning cash payments to the employer; promising permanent residency for cash payments $30k and above; and so on).
    It’s only recently that the Bugger’s Muddle is cracking down – but as you suggest, under-resourcing (or incompetence, or whatever) makes the efforts pathetic.
    Just as an aside – I know of cases where non-government opportunists trying to scam those requesting immigration services have had information that can ONLY have come from the Immigration Service of the Bugger’s Muddle

  8. “Workers in this country and around the globe need our own policy on immigration.”

    I agree Mike, but the devil is in the details. In internationalist theory, if there were no state-enforced borders, and people could move anywhere they want, they would move away from over-populated areas. But by the same logic, people should be moving away from Auckland into the less population regions, but they aren’t. For similar reasons, without immigration controls, people living in poor countries want to move to rich countries. Now this is understandable, but if they all did that, the countries they moved to en masse would simply become poor countries, with all the same economic, infrastructural, and environmental problems.

    Because immigration policy is such a wicked problem, it’s shaping up to be an important issue in the election next year. As usual NZ First are using very polite criticisms of immigration to dog whistle racists (mainly old, white racists, but also right-wing Māori nationalists) into voting for them. If Labour and the Greens defend workers’ right to freedom of movement, I expect this will be spun by nationalists as a sign of unreformed “neo-liberalism”. Of course, neo-liberalism is about free movement of *capital*, not workers, but never let the truth get in the way of a good spin line.

    As it happens, I think we do need to have limits on immigration, but for environmental and sustainability reasons; for example stopping our farmland and bush reserves disappearing under housing, and living within our resource limits for things like sources of renewable energy and infrastructure for waste management (eg there’s only so much landfill space in a small island country). But how do we balance the need to be responsible stewards with the need to show solidarity to workers regardless of their place of origin? In other words, how to discuss limiting immigration while rejecting xenophobic and economic nationalist arguments for it (immigrants take up jobs but also create them by spending what they earn as customers)?

    • Although I agree with most of what you say this bit is wrong:

      immigrants take up jobs but also create them by spending what they earn as customers

      Because, as Treasury showed, immigrants are mostly taking low skilled jobs they’re actually reducing productivity per capita and that is actually making us all poorer – as you point out will be the result of an open borders policy in your first paragraph. In other words, the warning you put in there about what will happen is already happening.

      We actually need to stop immigration for at least a few years just so that we can take stock of where we’re at and rebalance.

    • ALWAYS ANTI RACIST – does that mean to Refugees too? What also annoys me, is that there is a refugee crisis and we take a pitiful amount of refugees and our doors are open to the factory owners, fraudulent applicants and plutocrat kids coming to NZ to buy up property and gain residency migrants. What a double standard!

      Surely there are chefs, fruit pickers and restaurant manager’s refugees?? It is not like the National government wants a high standard of education or achievement to settle here.

      In fact just show an easily manipulated bank account, pay your commission to the agent, and bobs your uncle – your in!

      • …yes of course open borders means open to refugees? Because that’s what the word open means? Seriously is this difficult for people to understand?

      • And I should care about “New Zealand” why? I care about people, even if they weren’t born in New Zealand. Because y’know, that’d be what we call “Racist”.

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