As New Zealand gets ready for the next election in a few weeks, it is no surprise that discussion around immigration is warming up, and enticing comments against ethnic communities are used to get political mileage, in an attempt to ride the xenophobia wave.
Labour says its immigration policy will target people who can make the strongest contribution to New Zealand regardless of ethnicity or country of origin.
The policy recognises the strong and positive contribution immigration has made and continues to make to our countryâ€™s development, says Labourâ€™s Ethnic Affairs Spokesperson, Phil Goff.
Highlights of Labour’s immigration policy:
- Encourage high-wage migrants: ensure that the immigration system promotes a high-skilled high-wage economy rather than exploiting cheap labour
- Drive migration away from Auckland: reward skilled immigrants who live in the regions, where their skills can unlock growth
- Promote settlement services: seek to reduce the numbers of migrants on temporary visas for long periods
- Refugee support: increase the number of refugees New Zealand accepts
- Restructure Immigration department: reform the operation of Immigration New Zealand where necessary
- Protect workers’ life: prevent exploitation of new migrant workers
Recently, the ruling National-led government announced an extra $5.6 million over the next four years to help new refugees during their first 12 months in New Zealand.
All quota refugees spend their first six weeks at the Mangere Refugee Resettlement Centre, before being resettled in five regions throughout New Zealand: Auckland, Waikato, Manawatu, Wellington and Nelson.
Core funding for resettlement services for quota refugees has remained at the same level of $7.6 million a year since 2004/05.
Labour seems keen to retain that support for new migrants as well as refugees.
â€œ(Labour’s policy) recognises that policies that encourage immigration need to be accompanied by strong settlement programmes to enable new migrants to settle and participate fully in their new country as quickly as possible.
â€œThese programmes include assistance to speak English fluently, to help new migrants find employment and to ensure that people can access good housing.
Most new migrants choose Auckland to settle in, as it is New Zealand’s largest and most culturally-diverse city. It also offers the most job opportunities. However, the growing number of job seekers creates high competition for jobs in Auckland.
Population growth in Auckland is also pushing up house prices, making it the most expensive city in the country for houses. It also puts pressure on limited infrastructure in roading, public transport and utilities.
Labour intends to fix this by encouraging new migrants to settle outside New Zealand.
â€œLabour will provide incentives in the points system to encourage migrants who want to settle outside of Auckland. This will be part of Labourâ€™s wider policy of regional development.
â€œEnsuring that new migrants settle in and are welcomed to their new communities also requires active policies that promote tolerance and good race relations and understanding about cultural diversity.
If Phil Goff’s comments are anything to go by, this will be the most immigrant-friendly immigration policy that New Zealand would see in the recent years.
â€œNew Zealand should also encourage new migrants to retain and pass on their language and culture to their New Zealand born children,” says Phil Goff
â€œLabour will utilise the points systems for work based permanent residency and the number of temporary work visas issued to ensure that immigration flows are not subject to severe fluctuations.
â€œA modest increase in the refugee quota will be implemented consistent with housing availability.
â€œLabour will review and where necessary reform the operation of Immigration New Zealand. It will act more vigorously to prevent exploitation of new migrant workers and to crack down on immigration fraud.
Earlier this year, the current government introduced new business visa to encourage migrants to set up high-quality businesses and create new jobs.
The Entrepreneur Work Visa operates under a new points-based system that will result in higher quality, more productive businesses, says New Zealand’s Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse. It replaced the Long-Term Business Visa, which was “attracting too many low quality applications”.
There are over 100,000 migrants in New Zealand on work visas for less than two years, while 147,000 New Zealanders remain unemployed. Migrant workers are brought in for relatively low skilled jobs on low rates of pay with deductions from their wages which leads to undercutting of the local labour market, says National’s Trevor Mallard.
“This is not fair either on New Zealand citizens and permanent residents or the migrant workers involved. That people wonâ€™t work for the wages offered is a market signal that wages in those sectors need to rise, not a reason to undercut wages.”
Why immigration is so important
New Zealand’s economic growth is intertwined with migration growth, as new migrants fuel the economy with more skills, money and cultural diversity.
After throttling migration to a halt in the 2000s, the government had no choice but to open the migration tap to revive the struggling New Zealand economy.Â The results are positive.In 2012-13, New Zealand’s net migration became positive – 7900 more people moved to New Zealand than left for overseas, according to the 13th annual Migration Trends and Outlook report.This was in stark contrast to the situation of a year earlier when there was a net migration loss was 3200.
Our long-term migration is expected exceed 30,000 from mid-2014 onwards.
New Zealand economy grew 3.5 per cent in 2013, and is expected to record an impressive 3.6 per cent growth this year (2014).
At such a poignant time, having skilled workforce with the right set of skills will create a strong competitive advantage for New Zealand, and this is possible through well-sourced migration.
With strong expected growth in the economy, New Zealand has already started attracting skilled migrants.
New Zealand migration highlights:
Net migration gain in 2012/13 following net loss in 2011/12
India is the largest source of skilled migrants
China is the largest source country of family-sponsored migrants
1 in 5 international students gained permanent residence
Migration is expected to increase alongside economic recovery
According to a report by Immigration New Zealand, the total number of people approved for temporary work visas in 2012/13 was 144,978, a rise of fiveÂ perÂ cent on the previous year.
The Essential Skills Policy category recorded a rise for the first time (in 2013) since the start of the global economic slowdown.
India is the largest supplier of skilled migrants to New Zealand.
Of 18,156 people who received a visa under the Skilled Migrant Category (SMC), the most (19 per cent) were from India in 2012-13, followed by the United Kingdom (15 per cent).
However, not all these Indians are fresh migrants to New Zealand. Most are international students who have contributed to New Zealand economy through student fees and transitioned to residence.
New Zealand’s visitors trend is also reflecting changing priorities of migrants. The UK is no longer the largest source of tourists.
China now supplies the most visitors after Australia, compensating for the lower numbers from traditional long-haul destinations such as the United Kingdom.