Posts Tagged ‘skill shortage’

Freedom in the Press? Nope

February 21, 2013

After jumping up and down about what the damage being caused by cuts to skilled migration in New Zealand since mid-2009 I noticed the following article in The Press this week:

Govt denies limiting skilled worker entry

The Government has tightened the screws on skilled migration aggravating the nation’s skills shortage for political reasons, an Auckland immigration consultant says.


Aha I thought. Someone has finally got a member of the press to show interest. I have been trying to do this for years, sending article after article about this very subject to journalists only to have them ignored. So I posted a reply which went into a little extra detail about this decline in the number of migrants.

I was pretty surprised to see that my reply was blocked by The Press moderators.

So I posted again to mention my post had been blocked.

Predictably that post was blocked too, so I have posted my original item below with links to the published articles:

My tuppence

I agree, immigration is a tool to fill skill shortages, to create jobs for New Zealanders and create prosperity. Properly managed immigration should not create competition with New Zealanders for jobs and I am delighted to see an increasing number of New Zealanders being trained to meet NZ’s needs.

Skilled permanent migration is effectively by invitation only meaning that the New Zealand government has complete control and this is at it should be. Through the last few years successive Ministers have confirmed the economic benefit brought to New Zealand through immigration.

Since 2009 I have been commentating on the Skilled Migrant Category which makes up 60% of all residents coming in to New Zealand. This is the stream used by highly skilled workers. Strangely while other residence streams have stayed fairly stable over the past four years the number of applications granted under theskilled category have dropped and dropped and dropped.

On 29 July 2011 I was so concerned about this continuing drop that I wrote to the Minister of Immigration (then Jonathan Coleman) to express my disquiet. In my letter I mentioned:

“As immigration department statistics confirm, from January 2010 the number of applications selected from the pool under the SMC [Skilled Migrant Category] each fortnight fell from an average of 705 in the year to December 2009 to an average of 556 in the year to December 2010.”

In a published article on 16 Apr, 2010 I wrote:

“The Minister appears to be concentrating on attracting investors rather than skilled workers, forgetting the massive economic benefit (levies, taxes and billions added directly into local Kiwi businesses) skilled workers bring.”

“This of course is a double ‘whammy’ for New Zealand – as we advised the Minister back in November 2008 when he took office – because not only is the country going to miss out on what is likely to be in the region of $2.5 billion each year because of his decisions, but New Zealand businesses are now realising there is a serious shortage of skilled workers. The damage this will cause to New Zealand’s economic recovery can only be guessed at, but I believe it will be huge and long lasting.”

“It’s frustrating as hell but a realisation of what we have been warning of since 2008 is slowly growing. Whether mainstream NZ will understand the source of this damage remains to be seen.”

In a published article on 30 March 2012 I wrote

“This year (although the quotas have been now spread over 3 years) the department is heading for a shortfall of 8,442 (based on departmental statistics to February 2012) or 33.8% on the Skilled Migrant Category.”

Now in February 2013 we are half-way through what has been made into a three year quota period. Bearing in mind that the quota for these highly skilled and experienced workers sits at between 45,000 and 50,000 per year we are currently on track to miss the minimum quota by nearly 22,000.

Since 2010 I have been wondering aloud in articles published online how the decisions to cut skilled migration would affect New Zealand, how businesses would be affected by rising skill shortages and how much economic damage these decisions would cause.

Only the final question remains to be answered as the skill shortages are really starting to bite. I guess we will never know the full cost of the choices made to cut skilled migration by politicians – the cost to New Zealand workers and businesses – but whatever the figure is we know it will be measured in billions of dollars.

Mike Bell
licensed immigration adviser
architect of migrant community website


Canterbury Skills Shortage List

January 12, 2013

This article from move2nz is a little out of date now, relating to a November 2012 change, but is worth adding here as it affects a large number of people I see every day in Christchurch.

The idea of the Canterbury Skills Shortage List (CSSL) is to highlight occupations in which Canterbury employers are struggling to find skilled and experienced staff.

It is one of three Essential Skills In Demand lists, the others of which are the Immediate Skill Shortage List and the Long Term Skill Shortage List.

As the Canterbury rebuild progresses the kind of skills needed will change and the list is reviewed and updated every three months to keep up with this. Initially skills most in demand were in engineering, surveying and planning, but following the November update there is clearly an increasing need for trades staff with the following additions:

  • Solid Plasterer (333212)
  • Painting Trades Worker (332211)
  • Wall and Floor Tiler (333411)
  • Fibrous Plasterer (333211)
  • Brick layer (333111)
  • Carpenter (331212)
  • Roof Tiler (333311)
  • Joiner (331213)
  • Glazier (333111)
  • Floor Finisher (332111)
  • Stonemason (331112)
  • Drainlayer (334113)
  • Carpenter and Joiner (331211)

I have certainly seen a lot more trades workers coming through and have been busy all month advising people about requirements, helping them get all of the paperwork they need and putting together their Work Visa applications.

How does this affect me?

There is a ‘New Zealanders first’ process in New Zealand meaning that foreign workers can only be considered for jobs if there are no NZ citizens and residents available. Getting good information on your employability before getting on a plane is very important – imagine arriving only to find that there are dozens of unemployed people in your field meaning your chances of getting hired are close to nil.

The CSSL helps to create some certainty as it flags occupations where there is a real shortage of local workers. Not only does it mean that if your occupation is on the list and you meet the requirements (see below) you are very likely to find work, it also means you should not face the usual barriers in getting a Work Visa.

The main barrier in getting a Work Visa is the Labour Market Test – basically any employer wanting to hire you has to prove they have made a genuine effort to check for New Zealanders before offering you the job – for example by advertising the role, checking with the unemployment office (Work and Income) and providing evidence any kiwis who applied were unsuitable. This can add a lot of paperwork to your Work Visa application, delays for you as an applicant, and increases costs for the employer.

The good news is that if your occupation is on the CSSL and you are suitably qualified (see below) the employer should not need to check for New Zealanders first before offering you a job – making the whole process more transparent, predictable and safer.

Qualified and experienced

Before assuming you can use the CSSL to get work in Canterbury it is vital to check that Immigration New Zealand consider you to be ‘skilled’. This is a specific definition which relates to your occupation and also your ability to work in that occupation.

The information you need is held in the Australian and New Zealand Standard Classification of Occupations or ANZSCO. This defines:

  1. The skill rating of each occupation – between 5(low) and 1 (high); and
  2. How experienced you need to be to do the job competently.

The example I always use is brain surgery: yes it’s a skilled job, but they won’t let me do it without the right qualification. Luckily for most occupations a number of years experience can be substituted for formal qualifications.

For example for ‘Joiner’ the requirement in New Zealand is:

  • NZ Register Level 4 qualification (for example a trade apprenticeship); or
  • At least three years of relevant experience.

It is important to confirm at this stage that the second point refers to relevant work experience you can prove as you will need to include that proof with your application.

All of the requirements for the CSSL are shown in a downloadable PDF you can find hereand may need to be looked up on the ANZSCO website. Just type the reference code (for example 331213 for ‘Joiner’) in the search box and click on the resulting link. You’ll see the ANZSCO requirement under “Indicative Skill Level”.

Watch for additional requirements
It is important to note that some of the occupations listed on the CSSL have additional requirements above those listed in ANZSCO.

For example Glazier (333111) starts with the ANZSCO requirement (which is the same as for joiner) but then adds:

… AND evidence that the work will be done under the supervision of an appropriately Licensed Building Practitioner (LBP) who is licensed to supervise relevant Restricted Building Work (RBW) OR that the duties of the Glazier will not include RBW.

Knowing what these requirements are in advance is important so that you won’t be caught out and declined a visa application.

Work Visas

You have probably noted that I have been talking about the CSSL in respect of Work Visas rather than residency. That’s because the CSSL only helps with applications for temporary Work Visas. It doesn’t give you any additional benefit for residency beyond helping you get a skilled job in New Zealand.

Once you have a Work Visa you may well be able to apply for residency if that’s what you want to do, but be aware the requirements are more strict and you will need ongoing employment, not just a short term contract.

I hope this information is useful and will help many people assess their eligibility before looking for work in New Zealand.

Mike Bell

– site architect,
– licensed immigration adviser, New Zealand Immigration & Settlement Services

This article was posted in the December 2012 newsletter and is reproduced here by permission.

Racism, sexism or just failing skilled migrants?

January 18, 2012

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 then  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,

A looming Skill Shortage epidemic for New Zealand

June 22, 2011

Why New Zealand is losing the international battle for skills

According to Wikipedia “Immigration” is the act of passing or coming into a country for the purpose of Permanent Residence.

It’s a pretty popular idea! According to a Gallup poll run in 2009 roughly 700 million adults would migrate to another country if they had the chance.

Favourite dream destinations were Europe (30%); the USA (24%); Canada (6.5%); UK and France (6.5%); Spain (5%). Interestingly just as any people (25 million or 3.6%) wanted to move to Germany as Australia. New Zealand is not mentioned.

I guess it depends on who you ask, but most of the 500+ people I met at the 2008 Opportunities Expos in the UK were interested in what they call the ‘Big Three’: Australia, Canada and New Zealand.

The Big Three
Migration is split into two main groups: skilled (workers and entrepreneurs) and family reunification. What we have seen in the past couple of years has been some pretty big changes with the Big Three:

  • Australia: Increasing their ‘Skill Stream’ by 11 percent, from 113,850 last year to 125,850.
  • Canada: Increasing their ‘Skilled Migrant’ stream by 22 person, from 153,491 last year to 186,881.
  • New Zealand: Decreasing the ‘Skilled Migrant Category’ by 13 percent, from 31137 last year to a capped 27,000 this year.

Skilled Migration ComparisonAustralia, Canada and New Zealand

Bucking the Trend

So New Zealand is busy heading in the opposite direction to Australia and Canada, but why?

Um, actually I have no idea, I was hoping someone could tell me.

Since 2001 the New Zealand Immigration Programme has had a target quota for Residence Approvals of between 45,000 and 50,000 and that hasn’t changed. Ministers have constantly spoken about the benefits and need of migration, but keep on cutting numbers.

Residency applications are split into four groups: Skilled/Business (61%); Humanitarian (9%); Parent/Sibling(12%); and Family Sponsored categories (18%) (percentages are averages since 2001). The Skilled Migrant Category, part of the Skilled/Business group, is the single largest sector making up over 55 percent of all Residency Approvals.

Residency Approvals

(Click for enlargement))

The immigration department’s year runs from July to June so we don’t have a full year to look at, however figures are available to May 2011.

Comparing the 11 months from July 2010 to May 2011 against the same period in the previous year we see some interesting differences.

#1 difference is an overall drop of 4,721 approvals.

#2 difference is that the group most affected is the Skilled/Business stream.

An uneven drop

As you can see from the previous graph, the drop in numbers has not been even, in fact numbers for the Humanitarian and Parent/Sibling groups have increased slightly. Both the Skilled/Business stream and Uncapped Family streams however have fallen.

Looking a little deeper at the Skilled/Business stream (which includes the

Skilled Migrant Category, Work to Residence, Entrepreneurs and Investors) the real drop has come from the Skilled Migrant Category. Through this period there have been 5,150 less applications approved in this stream, an actual drop so far this year of over 21 percent.

So while Australia and Canda are increasing their Skilled Migrant streams, New Zealand has cut the capped amount by 13 percent and actual numbers by over 21 percent over the past 11 months. This is not a blip or mistake, this is a policy being implemented. From January 2010 applications being accepted under the Skilled Migrant Category were cut by 30 percent and this is the result.

It takes time for changes like that to filter through the system with the effect first showing in July 2010. This means that numbers will continue to fall over the coming months no matter what changes might be belatedly made to increase the count.

Temporary Approvals

(Click for enlargement))

Temporary Work Visas

So is the New Zealand government leaning towards temporary visas rather than permanent? In a recession this can be a useful strategy to get industry moving.

Comparing the same eleven month period of June 2010 to May 2011 to the same period in the previous year we can see that this is not the case. Overall approvals for temporary work permits have dropped by 15,822 (10.3%) to 137,890.

Some areas such as the working holiday schemes are fixed, meaning that this shortfall also comes from the 'Skilled' areas:

  • Graduate jobsearch: down 2,765 to 8,727, a drop of 25%
  • Long Term Skills Shortage: down 154 to 386, a drop of 28.5%
  • Essential Skills: down 7,201 to 20,701, a drop of 25.9%
  • Skilled Migrant: down 308 to 892, a drop of 25.7%

So New Zealand has also cut temporary skilled migration by over a quarter.

New Zealand is losing the international battle for skills

While Australia and Canada are attracting the most desireable globally mobile skilled workers New Zealand has implemented a policy to cut these numbers.

As a result skill shortages in New Zealand are reaching a critical boiling point.

While training programmes are planned to provide semi-skilled workers and graduates New Zealand business has been starved of skilled, qualified and experienced staff. Also contributing to this problem has been a drop in wages and conditions over the past two years causing an increase in numbers of the mostly highly skilled staff heading to Australia. Record numbers are now leaving New Zealand for Australia.

A looming disaster

I believe a disaster in New Zealand employment is coming, a disaster which move2nz predicted and warned the Immigration Minister Dr. Jonathan Coleman of in March 2009, soon after he took office. Sadly this feedback has been completely ignored and as a result New Zealand business will soon be in serious difficulties.

While immigration could be used to help the position bureaucracy has massively increased leading to long delays for processing. Any changes to migration numbers to correct this situation will take months to actually filter through because of this and it is my strong belief that New Zealand jobs and businesses will suffer as a result.

So where does this leave you, the migrant?
Some time soon either the current Immigration Minister, or if the government changes in November the next Minister, will need to make swift changes to correct this catastrophic imbalance. Initially this will likely only be aimed at temporary workers, for example with the rebuild of Christchurch, but that will lead to opportunities for Residency.

Migrants with skills and experience who are prepared and ready may very soon have excellent opportunities to find work in New Zealand, helping to grow our economy, create jobs and finally push New Zealand's economy out of the doldrums. So have your application ready, the next six months may be very interesting!

Statistics taken from the Immigration New Zealand website.

Please note that I am not a licensed immigration adviser and this article is not intended in any way as individually tailored immigration advice.