Government says immigration tweaks will help ease labor pressures

An additional 12,000 holidaymakers can come to work in New Zealand over the next year, and median wage requirements for migrant workers in certain sectors will be temporarily relaxed, the government announced on Sunday.

Immigration Minister Michael Wood said the immigration system was being streamlined to help employers facing a shortage of workers who were battling unemployment at just over 3%.

Key sectors, including elderly care, construction and seasonal snow and adventure tourism, will benefit from a temporary exemption from median wage requirements for foreign workers.

Additionally, people with existing holiday work visas that expire between August 26, 2022 and the end of May next year will be granted a six-month extension.

READ MORE:
* “We love New Zealand”: LOTR The Rings of Power deserves praise for the Kiwi film industry
* The immigration-inflation conundrum
* Paid $7 an hour, no annual leave for three years – former farmhand owed $93,000

The number of people allowed to enter under the working holiday scheme will double to 12,000 for 2022/2023, Wood said.

About 4,000 working holidaymakers were already in the country and more than 21,000 had been approved to work in New Zealand.

Local workers would not be disadvantaged, he said.

    The number of people who can come on working holidays in 2022/23 will double under changes announced by Michael Wood, seen here alongside Rebecca Ingram, CEO of Tourism Aotearoa.

LAWRENCE SMITH / Stuff

The number of people who can come on working holidays in 2022/23 will double under changes announced by Michael Wood, seen here alongside Rebecca Ingram, CEO of Tourism Aotearoa.

“The overall objective of the rebalancing is to focus, first, on seeking recruitment at the national level.

“The basic parameters of the Accredited Employer Work Visa require employers, for example, to advertise for two weeks to see if there are people in New Zealand willing and able to take up this job. at this rate.”

Wood said the changes were about a transition over a period of years, not a return to reliance on cheap labor overseas.

The agreements varied from industry to industry, but all sectors needed to show they were investing in upskilling and training, and committing to industry transformation plans, he said.

The country’s borders fully reopened in July, but fewer people were traveling globally than before Covid hit in 2020 and New Zealand was competing with other countries for migrant labour.

The hospitality and tourism sectors, which have traditionally relied on international workers, have been particularly hard hit, Wood said.

“We have listened to the concerns of these sectors and worked with them to take practical steps to free up additional labour. We know these steps will help close skills gaps as businesses struggle. strive to adopt more productive and resilient ways of operating.”

In May, the government changed the immigration system to make it easier for some migrants to obtain residency, if they were well paid. Then-immigration minister Kris Faafoi said New Zealand would not go back to relying on low-skilled, low-paid migrants.

This meant that those who wanted to hire migrants for most positions had to pay them the median wage.

Under agreements announced Sunday with the various sectors, seasonal snow and adventure tourism companies could pay migrant workers in specific roles at $25.00 per hour, up from $27.76 per hour. ‘hour. The salary threshold would increase each year until 2025.

For meat processing, companies could pay migrant workers $24 an hour for entry-level meat processing positions with a cap on the number of visas set at 320. This will be replaced by a Pacific program from 2024.

Migrants taking these places would get seven-month visas and the salary threshold would be updated every year to reflect changes in the median salary.

The changes have been welcomed by the Meat Industry Association.

The meat industry currently lacks about 2,000 employees and relies on foreign workers to fill the void.

Provided

The meat industry currently lacks about 2,000 employees and relies on foreign workers to fill the void.

“Labour shortages have been a significant issue for the meat processing sector for some time, so this agreement is a welcome boost to our own national recruitment efforts,” said the chief executive. of the association, Sirma Karapeeva.

“Without enough employees, processors cannot operate plants at the desired capacity, fully process all products, and capture maximum value.”

Karapeeva said the industry was initially committed to training and employing New Zealanders but was struggling to fill vacancies despite working with the Department of Social Development and regional agencies to recruit people in local communities.

The sector had a deficit of around 2,000 employees, which meant that it had to recruit from abroad.

The changes would also make a difference for tourism operators, said Tourism Industry Association chief executive Rebecca Ingram.

“We hope this will help relieve some of the immediate pressures on employers,” she said.

“And there are added benefits – while not all Working Holiday visa holders will work in tourism and hospitality, they will all want to enjoy tourism activities and experiences while in Nova Scotia. Zeeland.”

Three-quarters of tourism businesses were looking for people to fill a wide variety of roles, from bike mechanics to marketing, sales roles to sea kayak guides, but the majority of vacancies received fewer than five applications.

Michael A. Bynum