Challenges ahead the New Government

Many developed nations face a common challenge: a shortage of workers across all skill levels in their workforce. Sustaining economic growth requires a consistent influx of skilled and dependable workers. Restricting migration could lead to economic contraction, hindering governments' ability to fund essential services such as healthcare, education, and social support.

Even traditionally closed-off governments now recognize the necessity of migration. However, striking the right balance is crucial. Excessive migration strains infrastructure and housing, while also fostering exploitation, as observed in New Zealand's recent experiences with the accredited employer work visa.

There are two extreme approaches on how to manage migration. Both extremes however produce ironically the same counter-intuitive results: a lack of economic growth and innovation. Governments must navigate between the extremes of overly stringent control and of lax oversight. There is a point where a Government has to trust that its country‚Äôs employers and the migrants will workcollectively in good faith to achieve optimal results. Too much trust regrettably opens the door to abuse and too little trust stifles innovation and exponentially increases costs. Ever present is the temptation for the Government to regulate and audit those employers and migrants who are visible and clearly performing legally and in good faith. Searching out those employers and migrants who abuse the immigration system is somewhat difficult because they do not advertise what they are doing. In addition even when found to be abusing the immigration system finding the evidence to remove them from the country or take legal action
is difficult.

In New Zealand we have examples of both a tightly run and lightly run immigration policies. There was the temptation with the previous Government to use the immigration settings to achieve other policy goals. For an immigration system to work proficiently and fairly for all it needs to be focused on achieving the optimum immigration outcome. What needs to be avoided is trying to drive other outcomes such as forcing employers to employ New Zealanders by setting higher minimum wage levels for migrants than for New Zealanders.

The unintended consequence of doing this is not the employment of more New Zealanders but increased costs of production passed onto consumers. Forcing employers to pay more for skilled and reliable migrants, when the government is not supporting increasing the skills and reliability of New Zealanders does nothing for our economy or New Zealanders. Turning the fortunes and skills of New Zealanders around is a partnership between government, employers and potential employers. Penalising employers
through immigration settings does nothing to further this partnership.

Addressing New Zealand's skill shortages requires a collaborative effort between government, employers, and potential workers. Penalising employers only hampers this partnership. The new government has an opportunity working with employers to recalibrate immigration policies and related policies, focusing on fostering both economic growth and the development of local skills and reliability.

Mike Chapman,
Chair New Zealand Ethical Employers Inc