Immigration changes good for growth

26 November 2019

4. Kirk HopeImmigration changes recently announced by the Government will go some way towards simplifying how businesses can bring in the people and skills they need from overseas.

Migrants make up a vital part of the New Zealand workforce, doing the jobs that New Zealanders can’t or won’t do.

Looking at the currently great forecasts for the primary sector – with dairy, meat, wool, horticulture and seafood industries expecting outstanding export revenues over the next year - we need to recognise these economic benefits won’t be realised without migrant workers on dairy farms and in meat processing plants.

That’s why it’s heartening to see the Government taking a common-sense approach to immigration.

Getting rid of the ANZSCO classification system for deciding the skill levels of jobs is a great move.  Using a prescriptive and outdated list of jobs no longer works for our dynamic labour market.

New jobs are being created requiring new skills, and some of those skills will need to come from overseas.

It is also good to see the removal of skill shortage lists for regional New Zealand.

The regions are the economic backbone of New Zealand and supporting the regions is critical for our ongoing economic prosperity.  With many young people drawn away from small towns for work, study and the attractions of city life, provincial businesses have found the process of finding staff very painful in recent years.

Migrant workers will now be able to bring their families with them under the new policy settings.  This will benefit regional communities as new families come to town and their children go to local schools.

I’m mindful that migrants are also an important part of the workforce in our cities.

The new policy settings will retain skill shortage lists and labour market tests in major cities.

This is understandable, given the stress on city infrastructure caused by rapid population inflows over recent years.

However, for us to build the city infrastructure and services we need, migrants will have to be part of the solution.  Auckland, the first place where many migrants land, is in particular need of infrastructure development.

We’d hope that those skill shortage lists and labour market tests can be improved over time, based on more accurate and relevant labour market data.

A new feature of the revamped system will be accreditation for employers wanting to bring in migrant workers.  Accredited employers won’t have to be reassessed every time they seek to bring in a worker, helping to streamline the process.

Given that visa processing delays from work volume have seen immigration timelines blow out over the last few months, faster turnaround times will be welcomed by businesses and migrants alike.

Six different visa classifications will now come under a single employer-assisted visa.

Making the immigration system simpler and more responsive will go a long way towards rebuilding confidence in the integrity of the system.

I will be watching the development of the sector agreements closely.  Sector agreements will enable particular industries to negotiate directly with Government around their workforce needs.

The industries most likely to sign up to sector agreements are already working hard delivering on-job training and trying to attract people into their companies.

For them, immigration is the necessary back-up when there are simply no people willing or able to do the work.

Government working directly with industry to understand their workforce needs is a welcome development, and I look forward to this new policy approach helping ensure New Zealand has the people and skills it needs to thrive.

 

Kirk Hope | Chief Executive | BusinessNZ | www.businessnz.org.nz

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