The Coalition Government and Immigration Policy in 2018

December 3 2018 by Hetish Lochan, Associate, Lane Neave

The Coalition Government and Immigration Policy in 2018: 

A pain in the pocket for employers. The formation of the Labour/NZ First coalition was a cause for concern for many employers who feared the new government would be ‘closing the doors’ to overseas workers. Whilst no major policy changes have been introduced, we have seen subtle tweaks to the system which have made it more challenging for employers who rely on migrant labour – both in terms of the direct cost of employing migrant workers and the ease (or lack) of getting work visas. These challenges will be more difficult for those who employ migrant workers in roles at the lower end of the skills spectrum, in sectors such as retail, hospitality and tourism.

The subtle movement here by the government is to increase the cost of migrant workers to New Zealand employers, with a hope that this will passively move employers away from reliance on offshore labour and invest in training New Zealanders instead. A similar approach is being taken by the Australian government. Everyone agrees that we should operate a ‘New Zealanders first’ policy, but this only works if there are enough Kiwis available, who are suitably skilled and/or willing to be trained. There are not enough in both counts in the Southern Lakes region. Since the introduction of the low/mid/highly skilled classification system in August 2017, the minimum pay rates for classifying the skill level of employment have been raised twice, representing a 6% increase.

The required wage for maintaining staff in the mid-skilled classification is now $21.25 per hour (up from $20.65 per hour) and this upward trend will continue. For many employers, staff that are in the mid-skilled classification are employees that have been trained and upskilled over 2-3 years, or have completed their apprenticeships. Therefore, they are important to retain and often difficult to replace. The impact of the skill-level classifications is even greater when combined with the significant increases in visa application fees. The fee for an Essential Skills work visa application is now $495, up a whopping 60%.

The impact of this price increase is greater for those applying for a low-skilled Essential Skills visa, which now must be renewed every 12 months. It’s clear that the intention is to encourage employers to make considered decisions before employing a migrant worker in to both low and mid-skilled roles (many of which are entry level or ‘second job’ positions). In addition, putting pressure on employers to increase hourly rates to make it more attractive (possible) for Kiwis to work in the region fits with their agenda too. This is especially relevant for the Southern Lakes region where 60% of workers are on a visa. This outcome is being driven largely by these changes hitting employers where it hurts most: in the pocket.

Hetish Lochan
Associate, Lane Neave

- Hetish Lochan, Associate, Lane Neave
Please note that care must be taken with the wording of comments. Where possible, avoid negative references to specific businesses or individuals. The Lakes Weekly Bulletin reserves the right to edit or withhold comments. Comments may be reproduced in the printed edition of LWB.

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    I totally agree....what this area needs is to import another say 10,000 Indian taxi drivers.....we are so desperately in need of more of their driving skills to get us around the place.....

    Posted 03/12/2018 2:54pm (9 months ago)

  • Your Name Here

    A pain in the pocket... are you serious?!
    First of all I’ve been living and working here for years and not even ONCE anyone paid for my visa so that increase it’s on migrants only not employers - which by the way I would prefer to have my medical exams paid as those can go over $1000!

    Second as a migrant I welcome those wave brackets. Now I can say to my employer that there’s a law and they have to pay me a decent wage - no more working for peanuts!

    So if you employer didn’t like this go on and hire a less qualified and likely less hard working kiwis see how well it goes for your business. Because as far as I know I’ve never seen a Filipino arriving late and taking longer breaks I’ve never seen a Brazilian stop working to chat with their mates for 10min every now and then I’ve never seen a Asian go to the bathroom and stay there 30min on the phone having a smoke...

    So no, the changes aren’t all good for us migrants but as far as wages are concerned the only ones against are the employers that are not willing to pay decent wages to very qualified migrants just because of their nationality.

    Posted 05/12/2018 6:34am (9 months ago)

  • My 2 cents

    Your Name Here.

    Never seen a Brazilian stop working to chat to their mates? - You've never been to Alpine Supermarket then pal

    Posted 06/12/2018 8:21am (9 months ago)

  • Your Name Here

    I would shop anywhere BUT Alpine!
    That’s for tourists who can afford to pay twice as much as they would shopping elsewhere :p

    Doesn’t change the fact that the only ones complaining about wage brackets are employers who would have to stop lining their pockets with ‘slave’ labour...

    Posted 07/12/2018 6:55am (8 months ago)

  • Jimmy

    This town is finished in terms of they culture it had is now gone, I mean why on earth do we need k mart when we have best natural aesthetic views anywhere in the world?, all the money being siphoned out to large corporations paying minimum wage to a worker who goes home to sleep with a stranger or 'hot bedding'. they have no idea about the community they have destroyed (by destroyed I mean because our lifestyle has changed from what is was), businesses want to squeeze the lasts drops out of the workers, workers should rise up against the capitalist classes who exploit the migrants and have driven all the good people away from the town. A week or so strike should do it. Hit their pockets.

    Posted 10/12/2018 12:33pm (8 months ago)

  • Daniel

    Great policy from the Labour/NZ First Government. Far too many employers complain they cant find Kiwis or Permanent Residents to work so have to hire people on a visa. If we dont just hand out visas to anyone who asks for one then employers will be forced to pay more. "Your name Here" doesn't agree but less people on visas who will work for peanuts means employers will have no option but to pay more so us locals can afford to live in the best place in NZ. Keep up the good work Jacinda.

    Posted 09/01/2019 7:53pm (7 months ago)