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Posts with tag: visa quota

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The Numbers Don't Lie

Posted by Iain on June 22, 2018, 1:18 p.m. in Immigration

Back in February I predicted that in the current immigration year (1 July 2017–30 June 2018) New Zealand would undershoot its target of skilled migrants by many thousands of people. I was quietly scoffed at by some, but it seems I was right. As we approach the end of the current immigration year, the Government has approved 9,352 resident visa applications. Statistically, each Skilled Migrant resident visa application covers around 2.1 people, so of their stated target of 27,000, the Government has badly undershot that by around 8,000 people, or roughly 35%. I’d call that a big fat failure at a time when the economy continues to create thousands of skilled jobs each and every month and we need every skilled migrant we can get to come and live here. Demand to move here is as strong, if not stronger, than ever. 

I explained in a previous post why the Government of the day increased the pass mark (points required for residence) in October 2016 from 100 to 160 for those with jobs to come to. It had little if nothing to do with ‘raising the quality’ of applicants as the spin doctors and politicians argued so much as blocking the residence pathway the Government had promised to tens of thousands of international students that were completing their studies and taking the government up on its offer of a work visa and then residence. The sheer numbers (it was around 100,000) put at risk sinking the skilled migrant ship, and rather than ‘fess up’ and admit they made a residence pathway offer they simply couldn’t deliver to so many, the Government had to find a way of getting rid of those tens of thousands. The solution was neat if not cruel – push the pass mark up to a level where your average recent 24-year-old University graduate, even with skilled employment in NZ, could not reach. 

That ‘problem’ had its solution but that does not explain why the pass mark has not been allowed lately to settle back to where it mathematically wants to be – which by my calculation is around 120. If the government is undershooting its own target (they used to call it a quota) why, when we need every skilled migrant we can find, when the construction industry alone is reported to be short of 40,000 skilled workers, is the pass mark being held artificially high keeping out around 8000 badly needed people?

I’d suggest the answer is in part a Government comprising three political parties that campaigned last year to a greater or lesser extent on cutting migrant numbers. One was so stupid (but not as stupid as the 7% of voters that believed them) as to promise once in power they would cut migration by ‘80%’. One, the Greens, were a bit all over the place but wanted fewer numbers and the third, the Labour Party, never disavowed the mainstream media that thought when they campaigned on cutting migrant numbers by 20,000 – 30,000, they were talking about cutting places for international students, not skilled migrants.

It would be politically difficult, if not impossible now to let the pass mark fall to where it naturally wants to be so their own target of 27,000 visa approvals could be met. They’d be crucified in the media for their contradictory positions – they acknowledge today that we need thousands of skilled workers to come to the country and help us but at the same time they promised their base that they’d cut the numbers….  Oh, the webs politicians weave!

The reality is, and I suspect against their own better economic judgement because the major party in the troika only got 33% of the vote and are only governing at the pleasure of ‘Mr anti-migrant 7%’, the Leader of NZ First and bizarrely our Deputy PM, being the timid and weak bunch they are, they will not stand up to him because they know they’d risk losing their grip on power.

I cannot see them having the guts to let the pass mark fall any time soon and will wait long enough to hope the people that voted for them and the other two parties might think a lower pass mark that allows us to fill the 27,000 places is a good thing for the economy. When that might happen is anyone’s guess.

Across the ditch in Australia, real cuts in skilled migrant numbers have also recently been confirmed by their statistics despite denials they have been doing so.

Australia will undershoot their own target of 190,000 resident visas by tens of thousands this immigration year. While the Australian economy isn’t as healthy as the NZ one and we are creating in NZ half the number of jobs each month as Australia, despite their economy being six times the size of ours, they too need the skills their artificially high pass marks are keeping out.

We have been advising those we consult with for many months now, that where mathematically (based on the number of applicants chasing a finite quota of places for each nominated occupation), the points required for most skilled occupations should be 60 i.e. the minimum possible, most are in fact at 75 points and are clearly being held artificially high.

This cut is further evidenced in the fact that around 2000 Expressions of Interest need to be selected each round to achieve their annual quota (or ‘ceiling’ as the Politicians now refer to it). They have for most of this year been selecting 300 per selection round. If you are not selecting 1700 EOIs each draw when that is what historically you did to to achieve your annual intake, and tell me that is not a ‘cut’, I say you need to look in the Concise Oxford Dictionary on what the definition of a cut is.

It is true that some of the annual 190,000 places have been taken up by New Zealanders living in Australia because after years of pressure by our Government, that lot finally decided to offer a pathway to PR of Australia for some New Zealanders who had been living and contributing to Australia for a number of years. That doesn’t explain the massive cut in EOI selections however.

Securing a pathway to Australian residence is critical for many because Kiwis are treated as third class citizens in Australia and do not enjoy all the same benefits and advantages of others living there permanently.  Or, it is often pointed out, the tens of thousands of Australians moving to and living in NZ who from the day they get off the plane enjoy practically everything Kiwis enjoy in terms of access to education, health and social security.

As always, we have politicians both sides of the Tasman Sea letting the politics of immigration get in the way of good economic policy. 

In Australia, I genuinely believe it is because Aussies are, to be polite, more politically ‘sensitive’ to migrants than we are in NZ, which if you believe migrant surveys is more tolerant and welcoming for the most part. They also have a political system where single issue parties or even a single politician can decide which party governs and which does not.

In NZ, we suffer these lies and half-truths because neither of the biggest parties can ever get to the 48% of the votes they need to govern alone (owing to the quirks of our voting system 48% would get you into power with a majority of seats and none seem able to get to more than 45%) and they require a minor party to prop them up. In NZ that tends to be our one small party (‘Mr 7%’ who is currently polling 3%) that campaigns every three years on slashing migrants numbers – and given they never fight for it in coalition negotiations, seemingly lying about it – but it is they who hold the balance of power.

So, we find ourselves on both sides of the Tasman Sea with skilled migrant numbers being slashed at a time when both Governments try and tell us they have done no such thing. And both economies need every single skilled migrant both countries can attract.

To them I say, the numbers don’t lie. 

If you believe skilled migrants are, if not good for the economy and society, then at least needed, let the pass marks fall to where they naturally want to be based on the annual quotas/targets/ceilings and give the businesses of both NZ and Australia the skilled workers so many are screaming out for. 

Until next week...

Iain MacLeod, Southern Man

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When is a cut not a cut?

Posted by Iain on April 28, 2017, 3 p.m. in Immigration

It took about a week after the Government announced its changes to Skilled Migrant policy and announced a review of temporary work visa policy for the message to finally get through to the mainstream media that things might not be quite as they at first appeared.

Why the Government did what it did and who it was really targeting was, in my view, actually quite different to the press statements. 

I get an ironic chuckle the way a 24 hour, first-to-report-the-story news cycle meant that the way the Government ‘sold’ these changes was swallowed hook, line and sinker by the media and of course in this online and connected world of ours, on social media platforms around the world. Chat groups and forums are still full of jibber jabber about doors closing, migrants being unwelcome and more.

‘New Zealanders First’ was a tidy headline and in keeping with recent developments in the USA (Trump, walls, immigration), Brexit (‘too many bloody foreigners and Britain isn’t British any more’), Marine Le Pen’s right wing rise in France (‘immigrants won’t become French and they want to make us become Muslims!'), Australia’s ‘Australians First’ announcements last week set a nice scene. 

We are in an election year and the two smaller but main opposition parties are calling for cuts to migration levels. One always did and is rewarded every four years with 8-10% of the popular vote. The other, always strongly supported by migrants, should simply be ashamed of itself. They are polling in the low 20% and are of course a desperate five months out to lift their support (but anyone who is ‘anti’ immigration will likely vote for the other ‘anti’ immigration party).

Naturally, neither are being specific about which categories of immigration they’d cut or in what numbers.

There is no doubt there is real pressure being brought to bear on the Government to ‘do something’ about infrastructure pressure in Auckland; clogged freeways and rampant house price inflation caused by the fact that...it’s a great place to live!

The economy is performing strongly, job growth is strong for the skilled, fewer Kiwis are packing their bags for overseas, more Kiwis are coming home and more Australians are joining them (there is a downside to every boom I guess!), pleasant climate, great public education and healthcare; the list goes on. Every year tens of thousands of wannabe kiwis want to join us.

How true is it that the changes announced last week represent some seismic shift and tightening...or indeed, any tightening at all?

The answer is pretty clear – the Government never announced any cuts to skilled migrant numbers.

Late last year the Government announced a modest, margin of error ‘cut’ to our overall residence programme which covers all migrants coming to NZ under all categories; not just the skilled. The two year residence programme was cut from 90,000 plus or minus 10%, to 80,000 - 85,000 plus or minus 10%. Do the math. The number of visas issued over the period may well be exactly the same.

The number of places available for skilled migrants has within that remained exactly the same – 27,000 plus or minus 10%. As it has for the best part of a decade. That did not change last week. An important fact that seems to have been missed by pretty much everyone in the media.

So if the numbers of skilled, investor and family migrants is going to be pretty much the same next year as it is this year then what is actually going on?

Again, I’d suggest it’s pretty simple. There are more people chasing those 27,000 skilled migrant places than ever before. Demand exceeds supply and that requires fine tuning from time to time to control the inflow. 

Over the past two years the numbers of international students treading the promised pathway to residence has been climbing. These youngsters were increasingly jostling with older and more experienced skilled migrants.

We simply don’t have room for them all (apparently).

I explain the Government’s dilemma like this. 

If there was only one resident visa left of that annual 27,000 to give away and there were two applicants on 160 points, which one is better for NZ if one was a 23 year old international student, recently graduated from Auckland University, no work experience but managed somehow to secure a job offer in Christchurch as a Retail Manager paying $38,000 a year? Or is it the 35 year old Software Developer with a degree in IT, ten years’ experience and a job paying $120,000? 

The answer is pretty obvious. The Software Developer. Trouble is the Government promised and marketed a study to work to residence pathway to international students. Creating in the process a $3 billion dollar a year industry employing 35,000 New Zealanders. As of last year something like 127,000 were in the country. Half leave at the end of their study. The other half want to stay. There are only 27,000 places for all skilled migrants available. Again, do the math...

So, what did the Government do last week?

They announced that those under the age of 30 will get fewer points for their age, all their work experience will need to be skilled to attract points and unless the job offer in NZ pays $48,800, the job would not be deemed skilled and there is no pathway to residence.

Who does that impact? The older software developer looking to come here or the young international graduate entering the labour market?

The country will still get 27,000 skilled migrants but there will be a slight shift that favours those over the age of 30.

No cut to numbers though. Just a change in the ‘mix’.

Pretty obvious really and if you were a political spin doctor you’d be sitting back this week adding another wee drop of whisky to your glass and admiring your handy work. 

You’d be thinking – it’s election year and immigration is a hot topic globally. Brexit started something; Government is getting it in the neck over not investing enough in infrastructure;   Aucklanders are getting grumpy over their traffic woes; sky high house prices are an issue...

One piece missing – immigration. Migrants drive cars. Migrants stay in houses. Migrants are different to us. 

So – announce a tightening to migration and let it be (mis)interpreted as a cut to get one headline out in front of the people – ‘New Zealanders First’!

I have to say I actually admire their gall.

Having created the problem of encouraging all those students to come here, they have been quietly pushing the knife into them for the past six months which, for the most part, the students never even felt (pass mark raised to 160 in October to ‘flush’ the pool of these youngsters). Most of these students think the cuts are to other immigrants and not the stinging in their own back. 

What we saw last week was part two of what, to me, is a very obvious and well-crafted plan to extricate the Government from the indefensible position over international students and the promises they made them with as little fallout as possible.

We do have population pressures and particularly in Auckland but what great problems to have? We are a ‘victim’ of a strong economy for which the government deserves some credit; interest in settling here has gone through the roof, Kiwis don’t feel like leaving, more are coming home and we only have room for so many new migrants and the government is right to be choosy.

Trouble for me is no NZ Government ever seems to have any sort of end plan when it comes to immigration; we have no population policy (and immigration is a poor substitute), we have all these students coming seeking residence, we have around 70,000 young Holiday Working Visa holders having a great time - many of whom are seeking residence and we only have 27,000 skilled resident visas to give away. 

What I cannot for the life of me work out is why the Government has not put the lid on these tens of thousands of young Holiday Work Visa holders.

At least the international students are spending big money to be here, are part of multi-billion dollar export industry and many are studying courses we cannot fill with our own young people.

At the same time the export education industry is going to be under severe threat if they don’t switch their focus to more ‘high value’ areas like Engineering, ICT, Medicine, Health and Architecture where entry level salaries will be above the newly announced minimum of $48,800, because thousands of students will go to other countries if the barriers to long term residence are lower.

In the meantime, if  there was going to be anyone ‘cut’ from the pathway to skilled migration the Government should be focussing on putting limits to Holiday Working Visa numbers.

That would be a ‘cut’. But last week was a fine tuning, dealing with the international student ‘problem’ and anything but a cut to skilled migrant numbers. 

Until next week...

Iain MacLeod

Southern Man


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