Will immigration rules hit or miss rest homes?

The Aged Care Association has warned that the tougher immigration rules announced earlier this week could have a big impact on rest home employment, but the bump in pay rates could eventually put some of those workers over the threshold so may be exempt.

RNZ: Resthomes would be hit by new visa rules

The government has proposed that foreign workers earning less than $49,000 only be allowed to stay in New Zealand for three years, before going through a 12-month stand-down period. They would then need to reapply.

Aged Care Association chief executive Simon Wallace said migrants make up 30 percent of the sector’s 20,000 workers.

But with an ageing population, the number of workers needed was expected to grow by 10,000 in the next decade, and migrants would be relied on to fill those roles.

“The 600 resthomes across the country do their best to employ New Zealanders, as caregivers or nurses, but there just isn’t that pool of New Zealanders available, so we employ migrants,” he said.

“These changes that the government’s announced will have a significant impact on our ability to recruit labour into our sector at a time when we’ve got an ageing demographic, and we’re going to need more caregivers to look after those older people who are increasing in number.”

He said it was disappointing the government proposed the changes a day after it agreed to pay women caregivers more money.

“[The changes] don’t reflect the value of our migrants and what they do for the sector.”

The increase in rest home worker pay rates will put some over the threshold $49,000 threshold, but many may remain below it.

From the Government announcement:

“For the 20,000 workers currently on the minimum wage of $15.75 per hour, it means on July 1 they will move to at least $19 per hour, a 21 per cent pay rise.”

A care and support worker on the minimum wage with three years’ experience and no qualifications will receive a 27 per cent increase in their hourly wage rate moving from $15.75 to $20 per hour from July 1. That rate would progressively increase to $23 by July 2021 and would rise further if they attain a higher qualification.

“For these 55,000 workers this funding boost will see wages increase to between $19 to $27 per hour over five years.”

Annual incomes at those rates if working 40 hours per week:

  • 15.75 x 40 = 32,760
  • 19.00 x 40 = 39520
  • 23.00 x 40 = 47,280
  • 27.00 x 40 = 56,160

A pay rate of 23.60 per hour ($49,088 annual income) would be necessary to reach the threshold.

This may impact on many lower skilled immigrant rest home workers, especially in the short term.

But will substantially increased pay rates attract more of the New Zealand work force to work in health care? Possibly, and it may also encourage part time workers to increase their hours.

One reason suggested for unemployed people not being attracted to some types of work is the low pay rates.

Paying rest home workers a decent wage may boost families out of poverty, lower the unemployment rate, and reduce immigration pressures as well.

Decent pay rates may make rest home care work more of a viable career rather than being a last resort job to eke out a subsistence income.

One possible unintended pressure – higher rest home wage rates may attract ex-Kiwis back to New Zealand. This will keep net immigration numbers up and there’s nothing the Government can do to stop citizens coming home.

Labour would slash immigration

Andrew Little says that Labour would slash immigration, to the consternation of some on the left. It seems to be an attempt to compete with NZ First for some votes further to the right.

NZ Herald: Andrew Little: Labour will stop ‘tens of thousands’ of immigrants from coming to NZ

Labour leader Andrew Little has vowed to slash immigration by “tens of thousands” of new arrivals but won’t be more specific about exact numbers.

Speaking to Focus after the Government announced a tightening of immigration rules, Little said Labour would go much further in order to give the country a “breather”.

“The commitment I am making is we have to be serious about it, we have to cut immigration. It has got to be in the order of tens of thousands,” Little said.

“And it has got to be immigration that meets the genuine shortage of skills that we’ve got, not just the open slather policy we’ve got right now.”

Asked by how much would Labour cut immigration, Little said he did not have an exact number and flexibility was needed from year to year in order to match the right migrants with skill shortages.

Another sort of policy announcement without any specifics.

He criticised Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse for not being able to estimate how many people the package of changes announced on Wednesday would keep out of New Zealand.

But he wouldn’t give numbers himself.

This election is shaping up as being a contest of the vaguest policies – trying to sound like something but largely meaningless.

Immigration tweaks too much, too little, too late

Minister of Immigration announced some tweaks to immigration rules today, with predictable complaints, especially from Opposition politicians (and especially especially Winston Peters), that the changes were too little and too late, but some employers said they went to far and would make things difficult for them.

Criteria for immigration  should generally be regular minor adjustments, but that doesn’t suit opposing MPs, nor does it suit in election years.

No matter how much or how little was changed on immigration it would have little immediate effect and would only partially address problems like housing and transport in Auckland.

There are rarely any quick fixes for governments.

The official announcement: Changes to better manage immigration

Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse today announced a package of changes designed to better manage immigration and improve the long-term labour market contribution of temporary and permanent migration.

“The Government is committed to ensuring inward migration best supports the economy and the labour market,” Mr Woodhouse says.

“It’s important that our immigration settings are attracting the right people, with the right skills, to help fill genuine skill shortages and contribute to our growing economy.

“That is why we are making a number of changes to our permanent and temporary immigration settings aimed at managing the number and improving the quality of migrants coming to New Zealand.”

Changes to permanent immigration settings include introducing two remuneration thresholds for applicants applying for residence under the Skilled Migrant Category (SMC), which will complement the current qualifications and occupation framework.

“One remuneration threshold will be set at the New Zealand median income of $48,859 a year for jobs that are currently considered skilled. The other threshold will be set at 1.5 times the New Zealand median income of $73,299 a year for jobs that are not currently considered skilled but are well paid,” Mr Woodhouse says.

“The SMC points table, under which individuals claim points towards their residence application, will also be realigned to put more emphasis on characteristics associated with better outcomes for migrants.

“Collectively these changes will improve the skill composition of the SMC and ensure we are attracting migrants who bring the most economic benefits to New Zealand.”

The Government is also proposing a number of changes to temporary migration settings to manage the number and settlement expectations of new migrants coming to New Zealand on Essential Skills work visas.

The changes include:

  • The introduction of remuneration bands to determine the skill level of an Essential Skills visa holder, which would align with the remuneration thresholds being introduced for Skilled Migrant Category applicants
  • The introduction of a maximum duration of three years for lower-skilled and lower-paid Essential Skills visa holders, after which a minimum stand down period will apply before they are eligible for another lower-skilled temporary work visa.
  • Aligning the ability of Essential Skills visa holders to bring their children and partners to New Zealand with the new skill levels.
  • Exploring which occupations have a seasonal nature and ensuring that the length of the visa aligns with peak labour demand.

“I want to make it clear that where there are genuine labour or skills shortages, employers will be able to continue to use migrant labour to fill those jobs,” Mr Woodhouse says.

“However, the Government has a Kiwis first approach to immigration and these changes are designed to strike the right balance between reinforcing the temporary nature of Essential Skills work visas and encouraging employers to take on more Kiwis and invest in the training to upskill them.

“We have always said that we constantly review our immigration policies to ensure they are fit for purpose and today’s announcement is another example of this Government’s responsible, pragmatic approach to managing immigration.”

Public consultation on the changes to temporary migration settings closes on 21 May, with implementation planned for later this year.

For more information visit:



Stuff: Explainer: What do the Government’s immigration changes mean?

The Standard will be slamming the changes, Whale Oil will be slamming Woodhouse (it’s been obvious for years Slater hasn’t liked him), and Kiwiblog will probably have qualified support.

I think that it is mostly election year window dressing and smashing.

Brexit impact on New Zealand

While the United Kingdom exit from the European Union poses major challenges for the UK and for the rest of Europe, it should mainly offer opportunities for New Zealand.

We are trying to do a trade deal with the UK as soon as that is possible (they will be a tad busy at the moment), and also want to make progress on a trade deal with the EU.

Serena Kelly at Stuff looks at Brexit: the past, present and future impact on New Zealand

The past is of interest but it doesn’t matter much now. What we can do now and our future prospects are more important.

So what does Brexit mean for New Zealand and how has New Zealand reacted to developments?


Trade is the most vital interest for New Zealand’s foreign policy. Official statistics show that for the year ending June 2016, the EU was New Zealand’s third largest trading partner (and rising), and the UK our fifth largest export market. Out of our total trade with the EU, UK trade makes up 20 per cent.

The EU’s importance to New Zealand was showcased a few weeks ago when Prime Minister Bill English made his first official trip to Europe. In what was possibly a first for his National party, English visited Brussels before the UK.

During his Brussels visit, the possibility of fast-tracking the EU-NZ FTA was promoted on both sides – in order to signal to the world the importance of trade liberalisation in the face of a global trend towards so-called populism.

Indeed, Trade Minister Todd McLay has indicated that the EU-NZ FTA is likely to be finalised before an UK-NZ FTA. This is understandable – Britain still has at least two years to negotiate its exit from the EU and has yet to be accepted as a member in the World Trade Organisation.

No improved immigration access

Immediately after the referendum, there was hope that New Zealanders would benefit from relaxed immigration laws directed at New Zealanders. Unsurprisingly – given the consensus that Brexit was a vote against unfettered immigration – Prime Minister May recently told Prime Minister English that there would be no change.

Patience may be required.

Theresa May’s letter last month means there is suddenly a probable timetable for Brexit– around 18 months. May’s letter only hints at the phenomenal amount of time and manpower required to extract the United Kingdom from the European Union and to come to an agreement about the future relationship between the EU and UK. This means very limited resources for relationships with third countries such as New Zealand.

New Zealand may be a minor player and a low priority – but the UK could benefit from our extensive experience with doing trade negotiations, compared to their almost complete lack since they have been in the EU.

Getting in early would be a big deal for New Zealand. As far as size of trade goes it would be a small deal for the UK, but they could gain a lot more in other trade if they manage to do something quickly with us.

Swedish PM on terrorism and immigration

Following the truck attack in Sweden on Friday Prime Minister Stefan Löfven has spoken on terrorism and immigration, covered separately in contrasting reports.

Rakhmat Akilov, a failed asylum seeker from Uzbekistan, is currently in custody on suspicion of carrying out the attack.

UK Express: ‘Terrorism will NEVER defeat Sweden’ PM Stefan Löfven vows after Stockholm lorry attack

Speaking to SVT on Sunday evening, the Swedish PM said terrorism will never defeat the Nordic country and it will remain united in the face of such atrocities.

The declaration came after Mr Löfven was asked: “The Swedish people have shown solidarity and conciliation after this attack but the terrorists want to increase fear, to create division in society. How do you view this risk?”

To which he responded: “I believe today’s [gathering] was a clear message from Stockholm and Sweden that we intend to keep our open, warm and inclusive society.

“That was the message. Terrorism will never defeat Sweden.”

Speaking at a Social Democrat party conference this weekend, a visibly moved Mr Löfven also expressed his pride in Sweden for its response to the attack.

He said: “I am proud to have you as fellow countrymen. You can take this pride [in your actions] with you for the rest of your lives.

“Friends, this is our fundamental challenge, as social democrats and as Swedes, during this conference and this decade. We are here to respond to this uncertainty.”

The Swedish PM added the work to combat terrorism must continue across party lines: “We will now invite the other parties that passed the national strategy against terrorism so that this work can be continued.

“We must prevent, obstruct and defend against terrorism with all the resources at our disposal. We will chase these killers with all the strength of our democracy.”

But Fox News focuses more on the immigration angle in Stockholm terror: Sweden will ‘never go back’ to mass immigration, PM reacts

Sweden will “never go back to the days of mass immigration” after it emerged the Stockholm attacker was a failed asylum seeker, the Swedish prime minister has said.

Stefan Löfven spoke out against the recent mass influx of immigrants coming in to Sweden during the 2015 migrant crisis.

The Swedish Prime Minister said: “Sweden will never go back to the [mass migration] we had in autumn 2015, never. Everyone who has been denied a permit should return home.

“This makes me feel enormously frustrated. If you have been denied a visa you are supposed to leave the country.”

He added: “Terrorists want us to be afraid, want us to change our behaviour, want us to not live our lives normally, but that is what we’re going to do. Terrorists can never defeat Sweden, never.”

But terrorists can have a significant impact. Like cause a change of approach to immigration.

Sweden, a country of 10 million people, took in 244,000 asylum seekers in 2014 and 2015 – the highest per capita number in Europe.

There are more than 3,000 migrants reportedly living unlawfully in Stockholm alone and an estimated 12,000 migrants awaiting deportation from the country.

That’s a lot of asylum seekers and deportations to try to handle – the majority of whom don’t resort to terrorism. It can be difficult identifying and dealing with the risks.

Labour promises immigration cuts, sort of

Labour say they would definitely cut immigration, but are still working on their policy so can’t say what they actually propose.

NZ Herald: Labour Party promises to cut immigration

Labour is promising to cut immigration in a bid to curb Auckland’s rampant growth and creaking infrastructure.

Labour’s election campaign manager and Te Atatu MP, Phil Twyford, said the party was still working on the policy, which was not about slashing immigration but would probably have a number on it to find a better balance.

He said Labour was still working on the policy and it was too soon to say what cap Labour might put on immigration.

“The current levels of immigration without proper investment in infrastructure is totally irresponsible,” Twyford said.

This seems little more than Government bad, vague suggestions of doing something different, which has pretty much been how Labour has campaigned so far in election year.

Deputy Labour leader and Mt Albert MP Jacinda Ardern said no-one could deny the role immigration has played for New Zealand’s economy and diversity, but it was time for a discussion about whether Auckland could offer the “kiwi life” to new migrants.

“I want people who choose to make Auckland their home to have their best shot to live in an affordable home, move across the city with ease and swim in a healthy environment,” Ardern said.

That’s even more vague. All Ardern has done is tie Labour’s kiwi dream slogan to the three issues that every candidate has dutifully repeated.

Twyford seem to have just poked some campaign palaver to media, there is no recent press release on this.

Twyford is Labour’s Auckland campaign manager. Neither him nor Ardern are the Labour spokesperson for immigration. That is Ian Lees-Galloway, who last put out a press release on immigration in February:

National still has no plan on immigration

Today’s release of latest immigration statistics is further proof the Government has absolutely no plan for immigration and its impact on New Zealand, says Labour’s Immigration spokesperson Iain Lees-Galloway.

It’s ironic blasting National for having “no plan on immigration” when Twyford has just said that “Labour was still working on the policy and it was too soon to say”.

“It’s clear Bill English has no plan for immigration and National can’t cope with the impacts on housing prices, infrastructure and the labour force. A major reason why so many migrants flock to Auckland is because the Government has no plan for regional economic development.

“Labour will create opportunities in the regions that will be attractive to high skilled migrants…

Twyford wants to cut numbers, Ardern wants “kiwi life” to be hunky dory, and Lees-Galloway wants immigrants to go to the regions.

Labour wants to “probably have a number on it to find a better balance”, sometime, maybe.

And Andrew little puts such an importance on addressing immigration didn’t mention it at all in his Speech at State of the Nation 2017.



Trump’s new immigration order

President Trump has signed a new executive order that restricts immigration from six countries. The first attempt was plagued by court rulings against it.

They believe it is a lawful order “just like the first executive order”, still trying to defend a deficient document.

Fox News: Trump signs new immigration order, narrows scope of travel ban

President Trump on Monday signed a revised executive order suspending the refugee program and entry to the U.S. for travelers from several mostly Muslim countries, curtailing what was a broadly worded directive in a bid to withstand court scrutiny.

More than two dozen lawsuits were filed in response to the original travel ban. One suit filed in Washington state succeeded in having the order suspended by arguing that it violated constitutional protections against religious discrimination.

As before, the order will suspend refugee entries for 120 days. But it no longer will suspend Syrian refugee admissions indefinitely.

The new order also will ban travelers from six countries who did not obtain a visa before Jan. 27 from entering the United States for 90 days. The directive no longer includes Iraq, as the original order did, but covers travelers from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

Iraq, a key U.S. ally in the fight against ISIS, was removed from the travel ban list after Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said he spoke with the Iraqi government about its vetting process and felt that the screening system was thorough enough to stand on its own.

Trump had claimed that there had been no vetting previously, hence the claimed need for his orders. See Politifact Wrong: Donald Trump says there’s ‘no system to vet’ refugees.

The order also makes clear that green card holders are not affected.

There was confusion about green card holders after the first order was signed.

The Trump administration also plans to cap the number of refugees it accepts to 50,000 a year – down sharply from the 110,000 accepted by the Obama administration.

According to the new executive order, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security will have 20 days to perform a “global, country-by-country review of the identity and security information that each country provides to the U.S. government to support U.S. visa and other immigration benefit determinations.”

Couldn’t they have done that review anyway?

The new order also details categories of people eligible to enter the United States for business or medical travel purposes.

Will that affect business travel from New Zealand?

Little on immigration, jobs and drugs

Andrew Little has just been interviewed on RNZ. While critical of Bill English’s comments about drugs causing employment problems – “It all starts to look like an excuse for the government not to do anything about our young unemployed” – he is not against drug testing nor against immigration.

Little actually adds anecdotal evidence of employers needing to know if potential employees are drug safe.

Little slams the Government but in part doesn’t disagree with aspects.

These aren’t simple issues.

Record high immigration/returning Kiwis

The number of people coming to New Zealand hit a new high in January, although this was mainly due to returning New Zealanders rather than new immigrants.

RNZ: Migrant numbers hit new record high as NZers return

Official figures show more than 71,300 people settled here in the year to January, beating the previous annual record set a month earlier by 700.

The January month also set a new high of 6460 – the fifth successive month net migration has exceeded 6000.

Migrant arrivals hit an all-time high of 128,300 in the January 2017 year, with about a third of the total being on work visas, while returning New Zealanders also figured prominently.

“The strength of our labour market and general economic outlook are key influences,” Westpac Bank senior economist Satish Ranchhod said.

That’s a good sign for our economy, but it is likely to put even more pressure on housing.

Not everything is on the rise.

More stringent student visa requirements in the wake of abuse of English language requirements and fraudulent applications have made a dent in numbers, falling 13 percent to 24,300 for the year.

But that was made up for by returning Kiwis.

“About a fifth of all migrant arrivals were from Australia,” Statistics New Zealand population statistics senior manager Peter Dolan said.

“Almost two-thirds of the migrant arrivals from Australia were New Zealand citizens.”

The Government can’t control the number of New Zealanders who want to return, but they have tried to reduce the number of new immigrants.

Last year, the government moved to reduce the number of new migrants, including raising the points needed in the skilled migrant category to 160 from 140, and more than halving the number of people allowed entry under the family category to 2000.

And tourist numbers also continue to rise.

The number of visitor arrivals rose to 381,100 in January and 3.54 million for the year, both record highs.

“The strong increase in visitor arrivals in January 2017 coincided with the Chinese New Year,” Mr Dolan said.

“Over 54,000 visitors from China arrived in New Zealand in January 2017.”

Half of the annual increase in tourist arrivals came from Australia, China and the United States.

And this is putting pressure on infrastructure in tourist areas as well as on tourist attractions.


English repeats employment drug problems

Last year before he was Prime Minister Bill English caused a stir when he suggested that some Kiwis were‘Pretty damned hopeless’ – English when it came to trying to get work.  This came up in Question Time in Parliament in April 2016.

Iain Lees-Galloway: Does he stand by the statements made to a meeting of Federated Farmers that there is “a cohort of Kiwis who now can’t get a licence because they can’t read and write properly and don’t look to be employable—you know, basically, young males” and that a lot of Kiwis available for work are, in his words, “pretty damned hopeless”?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: Yes, and I welcomed the presence of the member who strode to the front of the Federated Farmers meeting and sat there showing complete attention to everything I said, for about 20 minutes.

Iain Lees-Galloway: Does he stand by his statement that one of the reasons why immigration is “a bit more permissive” is that, in his words, Kiwis are “pretty damned hopeless”?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: I think the member is mixing a couple of different statements there. I referred to the common—[Interruption] Well, the Government is at the sharp edge of this every day, and I referred to the common response from New Zealand employers that many of the people on our Ministry of Social Development list will not show up to the jobs they are offered and will not stay in the jobs that they are offered. If the member has not heard that from dozens of New Zealand employers, he is out of touch.

In a media conference yesterday English said he had anecdotal evidence of similar things, including drug use being a common impediment to gaining employment. This was in response to questions about record immigration numbers.

RNZ: Employers still struggling to hire NZers due to drug use – PM

The government is still hearing from employers who are struggling to find enough New Zealanders to fill job vacancies, in many cases because they would not pass a drug test, Prime Minister Bill English says.

Mr English was talking about the latest migration figures, which show a record run of people coming to New Zealand to live or visit in the year to January.

Last year the prime minister at the time, John Key, said he continually heard from employers frustrated with New Zealanders’ work ethic and drug problems.

Mr English said he heard the same thing about two to three times a week.

“One of the hurdles these days is just passing the drug test … Under workplace safety, you can’t have people on your premises under the influence of drugs and a lot of our younger people can’t pass that test.”

His comments were based on anecdotal evidence, he said.

“People telling me they open for applications, they get people turning up and it’s hard to get someone to be able to pass the test – it’s just one example.

“So look if you get around the stories, you’ll hear lots of stories – some good, some not so good – about Kiwis’ willingness and ability to do the jobs that are available.”

Mr English said the government could not do much to address this particular problem.

“Particularly if these are younger people who are in every other respect capable of finding a job.”

He said the government tended to concentrate on keeping the most at-risk young people on track.

“Getting qualifications, getting them to the start line for employment – drug issues are a bit broader than that … it’s quite a challenge when it comes to employment, more so than it used to be because it used to be quite acceptable to employ someone who was a regular drug user but now under workplace safety [rules] you just can’t do it.”

Mr English said exceptions should not be made for people who were on drugs but who would otherwise be fit for the job, as that could not only put them at risk, but also their colleagues.

This is only a part of the problems getting Kiwi workers but it will no doubt get the most attention.