The government has radically cut the number of permanent residents being accepted.
This has affected the skilled worker category hardest.
The new target is an annualised 33,333 – 40,000. The skilled worker category has fallen even more – from 27,000 to 18,700. It also reduces as a percentage from 60% of the overall total to 51%.
There is no logic in these decisions. New Zealand desperately needs skilled labour.
Instead of allowing more permanent residents in the government has continued to allow bosses to import labour on a temporary work visa. The number of these remains around 250,000 a year – yes, a quarter of a million a year. This has created a pool of at least 150,000 workers here at any one time on a temporary visa.
For around two decades the number of permanent resident numbers approved each year has been around 45-50,000. For many years this number was matched by NZ residents leaving permanently for better wages in Australia and elsewhere.
During this same period, both Labour and National governments radically increased the number of temporary work visas and student visas with the right to work to around 250,000 a year.
It was those “temporary” categories that drove up the so-called “net migration” number to a record 72,400 in the year to July 2017. It fell to 63,800 for the July 2018 year. When people hear that number they think it is a net permanent gain number but it has nothing to do with that flow.
But those numbers are simply net numbers arising from the flow of permanent and long-term visitors – including all those on student and temporary work visas.
The reduced net exit of permanent residents made a small contribution to that overall net gain.
80% of the new residency applicants come from the pool of temporary visa holder already here so there is little immediate impact on the net flow number as well.
During the last few decades there has also been the growth of a permanent “temporary” work category of some tens of thousands of people who have made New Zealand home for a decade or more, often with children born in New Zealand, but who will never get the points needed under the so-called skilled workers’ category.
Whole industries have become permanently dependent on “temporary” workers, creating an underclass of vulnerable, easily exploited workers.
Continuing this system unchanged is to condemn tens of thousands of students and young workers to a miserable existence at the hands of greedy bosses, school owners and landlords happy to take advantage of their plight.
No new laws to supposedly protect workers, or new Labour Inspectors being appointed, will change that reality.
If New Zealand needed more people to live and work here we should have increased the permanent resident numbers not decreased them.
Reducing the number simply makes it impossible for that group of long-term workers on temporary visas to regularise their status as permanent residents, which they should be able to do.
Using only the points system for skilled labour creates an elitist system that preferences some skills over others that may not make sense. For example, this year teachers were brought to New Zealand from overseas this to fill the massive shortage. But the pay being given these workers wasn’t enough for them to qualify for permanent residence. So we have PhD’s driving taxis, while Chinese carpenters are desperately needed an would never qualify for residence.
My grandfather on my mum’s side was a miner and on my dad’s side a bricklayer. They just arrived and were granted residency immediately. Neither would earn the points required by our current system. New Zealand needs workers as well as professionals or business people who can simply buy a residency.
The system is broken.
The first steps we need to take could include:
1) No worker should have their temporary visa tied to a particular employer.
2) All workers who have had their temporary visa renewed at least once should have the right to transition to permanent residence.
3) The range of skills required that should be eligible for permanent residence applications from offshore should be significantly broadened (teachers, carpenters, nurses for a start).