Racism, sexism or just failing skilled migrants?

Here’s an interesting story that has come up in the Herald:

Female mechanic claims sexism

A qualified mechanic says she is being rejected by employers because of her ethnicity and gender.

Indian migrant Rushika Patel, 30, faces deportation if she cannot find work in the next six months.

Patel graduated in July last year with a degree in automotive engineering and has lost count of the jobs she has since missed out on.

The Glenfield resident says she is being rejected because she is an Indian woman trying to enter a male-dominated industry.

What do you think about this?

This story to me highlights a deep unfairness in the New Zealand Immigration system. Not the kind of whinging “life’s not fair” many would expect, more a case that good people acting in good faith have not been given a fair go.

Here’s how I view this problem being created:

  • NZ decides it needs qualified mechanics but does not have enough;
  • The skills is officially added to the Immigration department’s Immediate Skill Shortage List for all areas of NZ;
  • The immigration department encourages people from overseas to come to NZ to fill these shortages;
  • People come confident that their skills are needed, paying fees and levies to the government, bringing all of their wealth to NZ and investing their futures here;
  • Many people arriving discover the disconnect between immigration requirements and employer needs – realising that although immigration accepted their qualifications NZ employers will not;
  • If the person’s skills are not recognised they must thenĀ  pay international fees (in this case $60,000) to gain NZ qualifications on the understanding that they can then get work;
  • Applicants rightly assume that only recognised qualifications accepted by industry would ever be used in these circumstances and so confidently pay the fees and also tens of thousands to support themselves while they study;
  • Once qualified the person can only work (in this case) as a mechanic. They can’t start a business, claim benefits or work in any other field. While unemployed and looking for work they have no source of income or assistance from NZ;
  • After all of this if they don’t find a job within 12 months they can be deported.

Now flick this around and imagine that you as a New Zealander were being encouraged by the UK or USA to come and work on the basis that you and your family might be able to stay permanently.

When you arrive you are told your qualifications aren’t good enough and you’ll have to pay $60,000 to up-skill. Then you are put on a course which will give you a qualification employers will not accept.

How would you feel if at the end of this process you were deported back to NZ having been effectively stripped of all of your savings? I’d call that unfair but that is exactly what is happening here.

Unfortunately the facts are not widely understood by mainstream New Zealanders – most people view migrants as taking limited jobs rather than filling gaps, helping employers grow and creating additional jobs for kiwis.

If this system was set up correctly it would ensure that:

  • New Zealand gets the skilled workers we need to fill shortages and create jobs;
  • There is good and transparent information to help people make good decisions before setting out to NZ on issues like qualifications, skill shortages, employability and chances of success.

This would create a situation where NZ gets what it needs and migrants are able to make informed decisions.

Unfortunately the current system is not delivering. It is becoming less and less transparent, bureaucracy has increased, errors and inconsistencies have crept in (such as people are being charged tens of thousands of dollars in international tuition fees to take courses which are not accepted by employers) and many migrants are being stripped of savings and sent packing.

Is this how kiwis want New Zealand to be? A honey trap for highly skilled workers?

Or do we want a system that delivers huge economic and cultural benefit to the country. In 2006 the same number of migrants currently in the quotas contributed $8.1 billion to New Zealand’s economy. Think about that – without increasing the number of migrants how many jobs could be created? How many struggling businesses supported?

In this situation a family has received poor information which has lead them into a situation where they could lose all they have worked for through no fault of their own. Fairness should be a cornerstone of immigration policy ensuring that people are given all of the information they need when they need it to make informed decisions.

When there is a risk they should know what that risk is and what their chances of success are just as any kiwi heading overseas would want.

I would argue that these unfair situations hurt New Zealand and should be corrected to make sure that our immigration system provides exactly the workers our employers need but cannot find locally.

Is that too much to ask?

Site achitect, www.move2nz.com


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6 Responses to “Racism, sexism or just failing skilled migrants?”

  1. Belinda (WHITE FEMALE!) Says:

    A female mechanic?! I am not sure I would want her working on my car! Why did she go into such a field in the first place? Arrogance perhaps? A mechanic is physically labour intensive and does require a certain degree of strength so why would a female study in this field when there are so many other options. Is she trying to prove a point or does she merely have a chip on the shoulder? Nevertheless it is sooo irritating when people pull out the almighty race-card when things do not work out in their favour! I guess that makes a white female mechanic is even worse off because they cannot use racism as an excuse when they do not get a job!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Not to mention White Men who are even more deprived because when they do not get a job they cannot use either excuse (sexism nor racism). They can say nothing, they have to just suck it up with boot in the behind to face deportation.
    Your quote “Life’s Not Fair” Well, You got that right!

    Be that as it may what I find strange is the fact that the Sexism / Race-Card Tuggers always seem to think that Life owes them something!

    • move2nz Says:

      Hi Belinda,

      Thanks for your comments which I have to disagree with. If you view a woman entering any male-dominated province as arrogant how would you have viewed women’s suffrage for the vote? Some women are extremely strong and quite capable of heavy lifting just as some men are not – try telling Valeria Adams (NZ’s Olympic shot-putter) that all women are weak and should be automatically blocked from some kinds of work!

      As the father of three extremely capable daughters I know that most of the barriers are in people’s mind – happily not theirs. If this mechanic can perform her job to the required level why is earning a living doing something you like and are good at arrogant?

      You appear to have missed the sense of both the news article and my comments in that it’s not a race card being pulled. Migrants have been actively encouraged to come to NZ, paying tens of thousands of dollars on courses for qualifications which will not help them find work.

      The important theme behind these stories is that there is a significant disconnect between immigration requirements and employer’s needs which is not serving NZ’s people or businesses well.

      I consider highlighting this problem and working towards correcting the problem a positive step that will add benefit to NZ while saving migrants from encountering similar problems – after all if a migrant does not have what NZ needs it does not serve any purpose to encourage them to come here.

      Fair, sensible and informed immigration practices should be a minimum.


  2. ssakazmiSaad Says:

    I am cent percent agree with your analysis as I had face the same issue even though I have a recognized I.T qualification with several years experience in service industry but still I’m trying to struggle for the better prospect. Immigrants are here because NZ requires their skills and experiecen to boost their economy and they all invest here to proof their loyality but on the other side some thinks they are burden on NZ economy. In reality its not true. Even I had discussion with the Minister regarding the current processess of immigration, and he acknowledged that systems needs improvement but so far my knowledge is concern there is no change in the system. I wish that system could realise this problem as early as possible so every one contribute with their best to support NZ.

  3. Zaryab Says:


    Indeed very helpful words by Mike. Is it an eye opener? I started considering the option to move to NZ being a Chartered Accountant, I can get reciprocal recognition and can get NZ Chartered Accountant therefore, employers can not say I lack NZ qualification. But things seems not as good as these are being projected. I have a spouse and kid and can not afford to risk my savings even I want to in return of settlement in NZ with atleast the existing post / role I have as I am working in UK which is equally demanding in respect of work ethics.

    Horns of dilemma, any suggestion.


  4. Michael Says:

    Hi Mike,

    Very interesting reading. To me it seems there are two issues at play here:
    – the disconnect between Immigration NZ’s process of updating the skill shortage listst and what the employment market really needs
    – The ability of immigrants to adjust to local ways ie. how to be successful in a new country.

    I’ll first touch on the disconnect. I have seen from upclose how a dear friend got his permanent residency because his profession (advanced paramedic) was on one of the skill shortage lists. Obviously with really only one employer in this field it should have been very easy to verify for INZ that there never was a shortage for (advanced) paramedics in employment. St. John has some 2.500 staff and an additional 10.000 volunteers. If you want to join St. John as a paramedic you’re more than welcome to join them as an unpaid volunteer for the duration of 2 years. After the 2 years you’re ‘allowed’ to apply for a paid position. Considering that INZ is an employment market instrument of the Department of Labour I can’t see how INZ would justify there decision to list the advanced paramedic profession as a skill shortage: apparently there is an abundance of talent in St.Johns talent pool .

    So I do agree that INZ is very much out of touch with what the market really needs.

    Than there’s the second issue. Being a white european male immigrant in my mid 30’s (2 Bachelor degrees and a 3 year MBA under my belt) I can tell you that the employment situation is just outright poor at the moment. Without selling Rushika short, I can’t see how her situation is any different from o so many people out there, immigrants AND KIWIS.

    When I first arrived in NZ I sent out 380 unique job applications, not getting any response. I learnt (in time) that you have to understand the informal circuits, meaning becoming a face, instead of staying an anonymous name. I started to invest heaps of time in networking (which is easy enough in New Zealand). Within a few weeks I was involved in 25 frequently recurring networking groups and events. That lead to me eventually after 8 months securing my first job. Than the network I built through that job lead to my current role as an executive search consultant. What I’m trying to say (and yes I do agree with Belinda on that point): It is very hard work landing yourself a role in a new country. And I see many people coming to NZ, expecting doors to automatically open for them on the back of their previous experience.

    The situation on the employment market is pretty poor. Without an exception we get between 50 and 200 applicant for every single role we have. Many of them immigrants but mostly New Zealanders. Even highly educated kiwis, with a wealth of relevant industry experience often don’t make it to the interview table, because the competition is absolutely killing. There’s masses of good kiwis sitting at home for 6, 9 or even 12 months because they simply can’t get an interview. Again the winners are the ones who know how to play the informal game.

    The reality is that when times get tough, you look after your own first. I don’t necessarily agree with it, but I can’t see how you can change that without positive action (which we don’t want either).

    Cheers, Michael

  5. Tom Says:

    Its a mix of several factors…. people in managerial positions don’t really have the qualifications or thorough exposure ( more of the ones I’ve seen would classify as ‘School Dropouts’

    Given the lack of a strong educational grounding does vastly limit one’s horizons, apart from lack of exposure to the global industry.
    We in NZ tend to have a ‘Village mentality’ even in our cosmopolitan cities!

    Racism isn’t the only factor but a complete lack of competence at all levels, Govt and Private sector – too much of favouritism / ‘Mate..ism’ If I could use such a term.

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