19 February 2019
Migrant workers play a vital part in our labour market, often undertaking many of the jobs New Zealanders are unskilled, unable or unwilling to do.
In the current environment of persistent skill shortages, low unemployment and a growing economy, all businesses are facing the same ‘big problem’ – where to find the skilled workforce they need to be able to thrive. It is apparent from the feedback I get from business that this challenge is becoming increasingly daunting.
Migrant workers are filling the critical jobs to sustain our export growth and tackle the infrastructure development that New Zealand needs. Often these jobs are at the lower-skilled levels.
To a certain extent, New Zealand is a victim of our own success. Overall, we have a well educated population – New Zealand ranks higher than the OECD average for the number of people holding a Bachelor degree. Like all developed countries that have taken this path, we now face labour and skill gaps at the lower end of the scale, particularly in jobs that currently have limited options for automation or to decrease labour reliance, like aged care workers.
We should all be paying close attention and be getting engaged in the conversation about changes to immigration settings. The Ministry for Business, Innovation and Employment released the consultation paper ‘a new approach to employer-assisted work visas and regional workforce planning’ in December 2018, with submissions due 18 March 2019.
The paper proposes a regional approach to immigration, and sector agreements – the workforce challenges that the Otago region is facing are different to Auckland, and a more nuanced approach to meeting labour market needs of different industries and regions is welcome. This would also empower immigration to make it harder or easier for businesses to access a migrant workforce depending on where in the country they are based.
A new employer accreditation regime places much more onus on businesses and we welcome your feedback on how this would work for your company. We need to ensure that immigration settings continue to provide workers from abroad to do the critical jobs necessary for New Zealand’s prosperity.
Consultation documents can be found here.
Rachel Simpson | Manager – Education, Skills and Immigration | BusinessNZ | www.businessnz.org.nz