Labour's Immigration Policy - TOP

Labour have reignited the immigration debate with their new policy, which is broadly similar to ours. The most interesting aspect of the debate has been the response of the National Government. None of their justifications for the current situation seem to stack up, so the question is what is the real reason behind their policy? The only explanation we can think of is that they are trying to build a low wage economy. 

As Labour’s immigration plans get dissected it makes sense to return to the basic points of the immigration debate. Remember we aren’t talking about refugees here, we are talking about economic migrants. And we aren’t talking about any particular race or ethnicity. The point is that New Zealand has a limited capacity to absorb migrants and effectively an unlimited supply of people wishing to live here, so we have to think carefully about who we want.

The Facts

Let’s revisit some of the key facts that formed The Opportunities Party’s (TOP) policy on this issue. We know that immigration can make a small but positive contribution to the well being of local New Zealanders if handled right. The issue is, what does “handled right’ mean. In general it means relieving skills shortages that cannot be satisfied locally, providing investment or opening new markets. In other words a bit of immigration is good, particularly if it is highly skilled.

On the other hand if you have too much or the wrong kind of immigration you can see pressure on infrastructure, and wages suppressed at the bottom end. That seems close to the the current situation. In the long run this could lead to a backlash against immigration like we have seen in the United States and United Kingdom, and none of us what to see that.

On that basis Labour’s policy seems to have struck the right general note. In addition to their changes to the student visas, TOP would like to see a cap on the working visa reciprocal arrangements with each country so they can’t send more to us than we do to them. Working holiday visas are a major source of the migrant growth, and are generally working in low skilled industries. TOP would also be far more aggressive than any other party on attracting the key skills we need such as developers.

National’s game of distraction and fear

To their credit National dealt with the dairy downturn by increasing immigration. At the time this kept our economy going, but they never closed the tap and now we are seeing the consequences of that loose immigration policy.

National’s response to the Labour policy is to distract people and play to our fears. The distraction is claiming the big immigration numbers are due to Kiwis not leaving. Sure, on balance Kiwis are not leaving like they used to, but this situation isn’t unprecedented; we saw this in the early 80’s and early 90’s. Meanwhile foreign arrivals are at a record high as the graph below shows. Sorry National but you can’t complain that you have been caught by surprise on this one.


The other appeal from National is to our fear; that if we reduce immigration we will kill growth. It is true that migration got us through a tough spot in 2013, but this sort of population growth is not a sustainable growth strategy long term – at least not without a much bigger investment in infrastructure, particularly denser inner city housing and public transport in Auckland. And we certainly don’t want to grow a foreign student sector if it is based on low level training and the promise of a back door to residency.

What is really going on here?

At the centre of the issue seems to be National’s "Think Big” approach to building the foreign education industry. Those numbers have come off over last year as they crack down on the scams, but there is still a long way to go to sort out that industry. Meanwhile, working holiday visas numbers are still climbing fast. These visa holders are flooding low skilled occupations (like waiting staff), locking out Kiwis from these jobs and stopping wages rising.

There has been a predictable response from these industries to Labour’s planned changes, and there would be more yelps if we cracked down on working holiday visa holders. They claim that they couldn’t fill their jobs and businesses would close. There is an alternative; pay people more. More Kiwis will enter the labour market, and those businesses that can pay more will attract people wanting to work, while others will close. That is is how the free market should work, pushing up wages at the bottom end.

In defending current settings, National’s strategy seems to be to build a low wage economy. Under their policies it seems that employment is rising fast and yet there is no wage pressure. This is great for employers of low skilled labour but is it good for workers and our society? That is the question we all need to ask ourselves.

Showing 40 reactions

  • John Hurley
    commented 2017-06-24 11:43:00 +1200
  • John Hurley
    commented 2017-06-22 20:52:29 +1200
    By the spring of 2016, one top Clinton adviser explained to me, the campaign’s own polling showed that white voters without a college degree despised Clinton … [Clinton] never fully met her most important political challenge: the need to both celebrate multiculturalism and also cushion the backlash against the celebration … Nonetheless, neither Clinton nor her campaign manager, Robby Mook, had any apparent interest in that appeal. They considered Trump’s disreputable [pro-American] character the issue that would carry the election
  • bob Atkinson
    commented 2017-06-22 13:03:11 +1200
    I wish I believed this was the only case of exploitation related to our current immigration rules.Note the pay rate!

    “One of the bosses of the chain, Joti Jain, skipped the country ahead of an appeal against her detention, and is banned from returning. Jain was sentenced to 11 months home detention, 220 hours of community work and ordered to pay $58,000 in reparations in 2015 after admitting a raft of immigration and exploitation charges relating to workers at Masala restaurants in Mission Bay, Takapuna and Bucklands Beach in Auckland.
    Workers had been paid as little as $3 an hour.
    Jain, who served her home detention at her $2.75m home in Remuera, had appealed Immigration New Zealand’s decision to deport her. A hearing before the Immigration and Protection Tribunal was to have been heard in March, but Immigration NZ confirmed she left New Zealand before that date.”
  • Brian Blackie
    commented 2017-06-22 12:14:28 +1200
    Thanks, John. That was a insightful article by Kerry McDonald. The MSM is not completely lost…
    I don’t think we’re that far away from young people giving up on urban living for a less lucrative but better quality life in the regions. Sure they’ll struggle initially with “there’s nothing to do” but it’s so expensive to go out in the city now I’m surprised any young people can do it. As long as you’re on the internet, you can in theory still work for a corporate and I can only see this increasing once the pioneering individuals show the way.
    I stumbled across a very good article (can’t find it now) on early immigration into the USA and apparently councils in the regions built infrastructure to attract new residents, i.e. they built it in advance of people coming. Imagine that here!?!? Also, generally, building brand new infrastructure is significantly cheaper than trying to expand what is there.
    We desperately need some forward thinking folk in government because this whole model we’ve got going at the moment is damn ugly and certainly not sustainable.
  • John Hurley
    commented 2017-06-22 10:41:54 +1200
    Kerry McDonald addresses the regions here
    This is a view the media have managed to sideline (TVNZ RNZ) .
  • bob Atkinson
    commented 2017-06-21 15:36:43 +1200
    Of course you do not need to bring care givers from 3rd world countries to your 1st world country (NZ or Japan) because you can always move the elderly to the 3rd world. If you don’t have a family living near by why stay put? I’ve already told my wife that if I go totally gaga then to send me to PNG and find a couple of full time nurses to look after me. I might not live as long because medical resources are not good and malaria is rife but at least every day is hot and the sea is the temperature of warm milk and as blue as you normally only see in adverts.
    I had a neighbour in PNG originally from Bradford England but with NZ citizenship who married a Filipino lady and he retired to a village in the Philippines.
    And if our economy continues to sink compared to the rest of the OECD then maybe NZ will start building retirement villages for all those elderly Chinese without a child to support them – it could be a great export earner.

    Tobias: Thanks for the info. I’ve never been to Japan but my bet is they will struggle on without immigration. Am I right in thinking the Japanese seem to age better than us pakeha and aren’t they more community minded – in other words one elderly person more likely to look after another? All to do with social cohesion and sense of common identity. It sounds similar to villages in PNG were all the young people used to go off and work on a plantation for a few years leaving a village of the elderly.

    And I totally agree with you about the importance of funding for settlement support – the more I read about the subject the more obvious it is (unless you are an academic dedicated to the multi-cultural concept recommending areas dedicated to ethnic colonies – all too easy with modern internet access).
  • Tobias Tohill
    commented 2017-06-21 14:31:25 +1200
    Re: Demographics and Japan

    “94.8 million immigrants would be needed between 2005 and 2050, an average of 2.1 million per year during that period.”

    Japanese immigration levels currently sit at around 1 million people. Not per year, in total. So there are about 1 million non Japanese citizens in the country, some of who are second or third generation Japan-born foreigners.
    Unless a foreigner gains citizenship, they remain a foreigner on permanent residence indefinitely, have limited rights and privileges, and do not gain residence status for any children they have born to them while in Japan.

    There is widespread racial discrimination in Japan against Korean, Chinese and most other races, particularly in white-collar employment.

    “As of the second half of 2015, with an increasingly elderly Japanese population and lack of manpower in key sectors such as construction, IT services and health care, Japanese politicians are again debating the need to expand temporary foreign labour pools, through the use of short-term trainee programs.” – Wikipedia

    In the past, Japan has brought 200,000 people of Japanese descent from South America to Japan as low skilled factory workers. They did not assimilate and were later paid around $3000 per person to repatriate.

    “Polls in the past have shown that most Japanese people oppose an expansion of immigration. However, a recent 2015 poll by the Asahi Shimbun found that fewer people (34%) oppose an expansion of immigration to maintain Japan’s economic status in the face of a shrinking and rapidly aging workforce, while many (51%) people support increased immigration. Many people expect immigrants to assimilate. Nearly half of those who responded to a 2016 poll said that immigrants should respect Japanese culture and obey Japanese customs, while about one quarter said that Japanese people should embrace diversity.”
    - Wikipedia.

    I lived there for five years, so I have some idea of what I am talking about regarding immigration to Japan. They are facing a tax cliff of epic proportions. As for labour needs, Japan is looking to robotics to provide the helpers needed to “wipe their chins”.

    The Australian Productivity Commission is an interesting report and I think has some validity.

    As to manufactured consent, that is true to some degree. I think there is a strong argument to better protect our workforce from the global pool of cheap labour, as many countries in Europe do.
  • Tobias Tohill
    commented 2017-06-21 14:12:21 +1200
    Hi Christopher,
    Thanks for sharing that. Yes, Nelson has a real shortage of rental accommodation. I think there is a lack of rentals all over the country from what I can tell. I think part of this is due to the current property cycle, with investors selling up rentals to first home buyers now that the market is peaking, and some speculators still leaving houses empty as they look for short-term gains. The high number of Kiwis returning to NZ from abroad is making an impact too, along with high numbers of student and work visa holders and visitors coming in.

    Christopher Cookson: Unfortunately, while migration is booming, the government actually cut significant funding from settlement support. Some might argue against spending government money on settlement support, but if positive social outcomes are desirable in addition to economic ones, then this should be taken into consideration.

    I think that is a really good point. Spending money on helping migrants settle results in greater workplace participation as well as increased social cohesion. Those free English courses for NZ residents who are partners of Kiwi citizens had really good social and economic outcomes.

    Bob: Is it worth considering why New Zealanders are having less than 2 children per adult?

    Yes, this is across the entire OECD and seems to be connected to increased literary rates among women and greater workforce participation by women. There is a lot of data on these correlations. As women become more literate and can access meaningful and well-paid work, they become less likely to have children, or have less children, or have them much later in life. In the last 10 years fertility rates have increased as there has been a period of economic downturn – less opportunities for women in the workforce, so more births and women starting families younger.

    However, your points about incentives to have children are very valid. I also think the Swiss vocational system is excellent and we should seek to replicate it here. It’s a much smarter way to education a young workforce and give them flexibility in an increasingly changeable labour market.
  • bob Atkinson
    commented 2017-06-21 14:00:17 +1200
    Christopher: Primates, elephants and whales have grandparents. Some only have grandmothers with no grandfathers. They are needed as a conduit of knowledge. Which is a worry since I’m both a grandparent and someone who realises the internet knows so much more than I. Maybe the purpose of grandparents is child-minding while both parents are working? And whatever is available on the internet you need an elderly person to see through the politicians deceitful nonsense.
  • Christopher Cookson
    commented 2017-06-21 12:57:28 +1200
    Bob, interesting analysis. No matter what we do with technology, humans, particularly women, are more fertile at a younger age, but given the way society is currently structured, this is when they’re least likely to be able to afford children. I think fertility is relevant even though it’s not immigration, as government should have a population policy which covers both. In purely economic terms, both provide for labour, one through instant import, one by forward planning.
    My parents were able to buy a home and have three kids, mostly off a single income. Both were university educated, which in today’s world would mean a big student load for each of them, and they’d both need to be working throughout school years to afford a home.
    A low wage economy increases the difficulty for prospective parents to afford children. Some have them anyway, but the outcomes often aren’t great for children born into poverty.
    Some right-wing commentators suggest that people shouldn’t have children unless they can afford them, but under the current economic environment that would lower the fertility rate even further, eventually leading to a nation where migrants make up the majority of the population.
    Given that democracy is supposed to represent the people of the nation, if New Zealanders want to have children, and given that they also represent a future labour force that can provide for the economic well being of the country, government should look at how to provide an environment so that New Zealanders who want to have sufficient children to maintain the population can afford to do so, and ensure that they mature into worthwhile members of society. Where there’s a shortfall, immigration should be used to maintain a stable society.
    As a parent of a young child, I see my most important role in life as a parent. Most discussion around population tends to revolve around economics, but economics, though very useful, is an artificial construct, whereas social behaviour is hard wired into humans, literally part of our DNA.
    One of the best ways of ensuring elderly are looked after is providing for strong inter-generational bonds. Families don’t always get along, but when they do, they relieve a huge burden on the state in terms of care costs. Grandparents frequently provide free child care, while their own offspring can often help them maintain independence as their own physical capabilities diminish. Technological innovations such as mobility scooters and hip replacements mean although people are living to older ages, they may still be able to remain active and participate in society.
    I wish I could remember where I read it so I could cite it, but apparently when humans started living long enough for grandparents to be around, it caused a revolution in human society as it increased passing on of knowledge, while freeing up parents for other tasks.
    This is incidentally why I have mixed feelings over TOPs plan to halve superannuation and put the money into early childhood education. Clearly the idea of elderly people who are already well off spending super on personal overseas trips at the expense of others who are in need is undesirable, however inter-generational co-operation is something to be encouraged, and it would be interesting to compare the costs of people acting completely independently and paying for all services, eg child care, elder care, rather than supporting each other.
    I don’t accept the assumption that the state necessarily knows best. It should be there to provide direction and stop anyone falling through the cracks, but should also encourage people to provide their own solutions when they can.
    I’d be much happier with halving super if elderly who assist with their grandchildren are recognised as equally valuable as paid child care (which costs the government a considerable amount), and qualify to receive payments if they can demonstrate they’re providing a service.
    For-profit elder care can also be very expensive, so even elderly with assets can quickly exhaust them, then the state has to pick up the bill anyway, so I’d also argue there should be recognition for families who look after their own. While having everything outsourced to the private or public sector might look good for GDP figures, I’d argue that economics is derived from human social behaviour, not the other way around.
  • John Hurley
    commented 2017-06-21 11:59:51 +1200
    Tobias, I am uneasy about proactive regional development. As I mentioned Fiordland had one New Zealand’s first settlements during the sealing boom. In other words price (the market) provides the necessary incentives. Looking at this topic in the current political environment it looks like an attempt to smooth out problems caused by immigration (make way for more). In other words, I perceive it as looking after immigration, not New Zealanders. The ideas emanate from the Shamubeel Eaqub, Paul Spoonley side of the immigration debate.
    You bring up aging demographics as a reason for migration. On Nigel Latta’s The Hard Stuff, Latta asks Paul Spoonley: “why do we have to have 1% immigration”. Spoonley replies: "aging, I always ask: “who is going to wipe your chin”. Similarily Spoonley also claims this is the reason Germany is accepting so many migrants from Syria, Bangladesh etc

    A UN Report (2001) discusses this here Australian Productivity Commission has this to say:
    “It is also a fallacy that higher immigration counteracts population ageing. Beyond an annual immigration level of around 100 000 people, the demographic benefits have been shown to diminish greatly, with migrants impacting much more on the size of the population than on its age structure. The main reason is that migrants age too! We would need to bring in increasingly more of them to ‘backfill’ the age structure over time. Indeed, the Commission calculated that to preserve the current age profile of the population, the immigration-to-population ratio would need to rise to three percent (triple its peak of 2008-9). This would make Australia a population ‘super-power’ of 100+ million people by mid-century!”
    I feel we are victims of a manufactured consent: ideologically delivered “truthiness”. I can only happen with a compliant media.
  • bob Atkinson
    commented 2017-06-20 18:37:01 +1200
    John Hurley: Interesting source, thanks.
    Looking at their figures for mid-2015 total immigrants are NZ = 1million, Japan=2million and UK=8million. Since then we have accelerated. Can we deduce Japan has not followed those scenarios.
  • John Hurley
    commented 2017-06-20 18:05:44 +1200
    This is from a study the UN did on the effect of migration on population population decline, population ageing and support ratios (worker to young and elderly)
    53(f) Scenario V
    Scenario V does not allow the potential support ratio to decrease below the value of 3.0. In order to
    achieve this, no immigrants would be needed until 2005, and 94.8 million immigrants would be needed
    between 2005 and 2050, an average of 2.1 million per year during that period. By 2050, out of a total
    population of 229 million, 124 million, or 54 per cent, would be post-1995 immigrants or their
    (g) Scenario VI
    This scenario keeps the ratio of the working-age population to the retired-age population at its 1995
    level of 4.8. In order to keep this level of potential support ratio, the country would need 553 million
    immigrants during 1995 through 2050, or an average of 10 million immigrants per year. Under this
    scenario, the population of Japan is projected to be 818 million in 2050, and 87 per cent of them would be
    the post-1995 immigrants and their descendants.
  • bob Atkinson
    commented 2017-06-20 12:55:10 +1200
    Is it worth considering why New Zealanders are having less than 2 children per adult? Actually we are higher than most European countries but I suspect that is related to our having a much higher immigration rate than other countries and particularly immigrants from 3rd world countries where the culture tends to be children as the social security for your old age.

    Disincentives are half the population going to Uni and therefore earning nothing and building student debt. The other half is 1 in 4 unemployed and most of the remainder very low paid compared to previous generations. Then there is planned parenthood meaning familiarity with contraception – I reckon half of all children born when I was young were accidents. Then there are all the distractions available from social media (any young voter reading this blog is diminishing their time available to find and bond with a mate) and other opportunities to enjoy life that simply were not available in the past (OE for example). Then a couple today means two in employment not one. Add housing costs and loss of income during maternity and pre-school years and the cost of pre-school care and the disincentives sure out weigh the modest WFF incentives.

    Probably humanity hasn’t changed much; maybe not for a couple of million years; given the opportunities young adults would pair off, start families and rear children. As a self-interested gold-carded pensioner I would prefer to see more NZ babies because someone will have to be available to work and support me when I’m in my nineties. The social contract begins to break down when it comes to heavy immigrantion. See the back page of today’s Herald for a really nice guy resident of NZ for 20 years or two thirds of his life and yet he identifies with Kurdish groups and his children want to go back to help Kurds when the civil war finishes. Actually very reasonable – I’d be the same. But are immigrants who think of themselves as belonging to a minority likely to vote for higher taxes? Well they don’t in the USA and so old age in America can be nasty if you haven’t been lucky enough to have been wealthy and a saver.

    To achieve a balanced birth rate: major tax incentives and cheap housing and little student debt. So increase income tax, re-introduce universal generous child benefit, build plenty of state housing and reserve it for two parent families (maybe with a fixed period of residence of say 15 years), reduce university and other full time tertiary education and drastically increase vocational training as per Switzerland, both parents if living with their children to get generous tax rebates.

    Apologies for getting that off my chest it is only remotely connected to TOP immigration policy but it may be nearer the TOP tax proposals.
  • Christopher Cookson
    commented 2017-06-20 10:55:55 +1200
    Tobias, your assessment is pretty good. BTW, hello from over the hill in Marlborough.
    One of the issues affecting regional relocation is housing.
    About four years ago I had a major client who had been virtually monopolising my time go out of business.
    I figured it might be time to make a change from being self employed/contracting, and successfully applied for a job in Thames. It was near enough to Auckland not to be Auckland, and also close to wilderness areas in the Coromandel.
    One of the issues I struck was complete lack of suitable family rental accommodation.
    The same problem applies now in Blenheim, although luckily I have stable accommodation. I’m not sure, but I understand the market in Nelson could be quite tight too?
    I think I read locally that part of the problem is that while plenty of new houses are being built a lot of them are actually being taken up by the influx of tradies who are building them, so there’s little net gain.
    While house prices might not be at Auckland levels, they’re still climbing rapidly, and we have a lower regional median income.
    Unfortunately Marlborough has a high demand for relatively low paid, labour intensive work.
    This puts high pressure on housing stock, relative to the amount economic activity.
    In contrast, someone like Oliver, who had to prove himself before he could migrate to NZ, and receive a good income, would represent much better cost/benefit.
    As you rightly point out, NZ fertility is below replacement level, so the immigration tap doesn’t need to be turned off, but it does need to be managed to provide a net benefit to New Zealanders and migrants who are accepted.
    Social cohesion is very much a two way thing, where New Zealanders need to be engaged as much as migrants. I’ve been involved in the past on the board of a local organisation aimed at providing settlement support. Actively encouraging New Zealanders and migrants to engage with each other is more likely to provide positive outcomes all around than just leaving people to their own devices. Unfortunately, while migration is booming, the government actually cut significant funding from settlement support.
    Some might argue against spending government money on settlement support, but if positive social outcomes are desirable in addition to economic ones, then this should be taken into consideration.
  • Tobias Tohill
    commented 2017-06-20 10:44:39 +1200
    Hi John,

    You said: “The first regional enterprise was sealing in Fiordland and that was profit driven.”

    Not sure that I follow you. By that argument, all business activities are regional and profit driven, so what? We should not have any? How is that statement relevant?

    You said: “It folded as the seals ran out and Labour couldn’t have done anything about that.”
    Yes, you are absolutely right, as Labour only formed in 1940 and the sealing economy ended by the mid-1800s. Still not sure if you are making any sense though.

    You said: “As for an aging population I predict that the old people will snuff it and the young ones will still know how to bonk – without any need to bring in holy foreigners?”

    Well, old people dying is a truism. So it younger people having children. My point is that the population of elderly people and others who cannot work (children, ill, other dependents) is moving towards a ratio of 1:1 with those who can work to support them. This is unsustainable economically. A healthy ratio is 1:4 – four able-bodied people working to every one elderly person.
    Even with a workforce working longer and retiring later, our low birth rate will lead us to tax collapse without an immigration programme.
    If you want a real example of this, look at Japan which is rapidly heading towards a tax cliff at the moment. They’ve had to include their taxes by 25% twice in the last 10 years.

    Still think all immigration is a bad idea John?

    As for “holy foreigners”, again I am not sure what you mean, but I guess perhaps you meant “wholly foreigners”??

    As to this comment:

    “get off the grass with all that talk about sending people to the regions.”

    Well, all I can say is that other countries implement it successfully, so we should have a look at doing the same, as we don’t want more migrants in Auckland right now, but we clearly do need more skilled (and unskilled) workers in some regions, such as Southland, Tasman, Waikato, Canterbury…

    Have a look at this excerpt from -

    Alberta Immigrant Nominee Program
    The Alberta Immigrant Nominee Program (AINP) is an economic immigration program operated by the Government of Alberta with the Government of Canada’s department of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC). It supports Alberta’s economic growth by attracting and retaining work-ready people to the province.

    How does it work?

    Individuals nominated by the Government of Alberta, together with their spouse/common-law partner and dependent children, can apply for permanent residence through IRCC as a provincial nominee. IRCC makes final decisions on all permanent resident applications.

    The AINP offers options for both skilled and semi-skilled workers. You may be able to apply on your own, or with your employer. Review the streams and categories below and choose the best option for you. Also review who is not eligible.

    Appreciate any considered response you may offer that actually makes sense.
  • John Hurley
    commented 2017-06-20 00:22:54 +1200
    get off the grass with all that talk about sending people to the regions. The first regional enterprise was sealing in Fiordland and that was profit driven. It folded as the seals ran out and Labour couldn’t have done anything about that.
    As for an aging population I predict that the old people will snuff it and the young ones will still know how to bonk – without any need to bring in holy foreigners?
  • Tobias Tohill
    commented 2017-06-19 23:21:56 +1200
    Hi all,
    In response:
    Christopher Cookson: “I know this is getting a little off-topic in terms of international migration, however internal migration and regional vitality is also something that’s worth discussing.”

    I think it is an integral part of the discussion.

    Labour has received good feedback from regional employers on its intentions to move to a more regionally-based immigration system. There are successful programmes in Canada and in part of Australia that pair up state / federal authorities and employers to sponsor migrants where skills and labour shortages are pronounced.

    This is definitely needed in New Zealand now too, where we have a demographic hollowing out of the provincial centres and growth pressure in the gateway cities. New Zealand has just shifted to 1.8 births per woman, which is below replacement value. We are still above the OECD average, but this demographic change and the retirement of baby boomers will have a significant effect in regions. Where I come from, Nelson, will change over the next five years to 65 – 80 year olds making up more than 35% of the regional population, the single largest grouping. Younger migrants are needed, whether from overseas or from further North in New Zealand.

    There is already a shift South. See details here from Statistics NZ:
    Kiwis are moving Southwards. But it would make more sense if migrants could also be brought into the regions directly more, where there is more opportunity for community integration and inclusion. The current ‘30 bonus points for moving outside Auckland’ is having an effect, but more is needed.

    In Auckland and the Waikato, there are significant numbers coming. The numbers can easily led people to tribal tendancies to form racial communities of their own, segregating themselves into nationalities / cultures of origin in their own suburbs.

    To some extent this is inevitable, and in time such groups are usually absorbed into the larger culture, as the migrants contribute to the broader culture and change it. But if the pace and volume stretch the social fabric too far, some very detrimental outcomes can result in terms of social cohesion and self-identity. At present none of the cost/benefit analyses of immigration include social cohesion in their measures.

    Bob, I will take your comments as being another way of trying to describe concerns about social cohesion and the aim to have an inclusive culture.

    In response to your comment:
    “The aspirations really matter. So in the UK Muslims from India produce children who are well above average at school and university and they get better than average jobs meanwhile almost identical Muslims from Pakistan are causing most of the social problems and are doing badly at school.”

    I must say that it is more likely the backgrounds of the people coming is the issue in your example. I doubt their aspirations are really that different. Irish immigrants to USA in the 1870s and English immigrants to the USA during the same period were not different in their aspirations – both groups wanted the best for their children. But the peasant Irish farmers arrived with low literacy, few skills relevant to their new environment, and problems with alcohol. It is little wonder that it too a generation or two before those Irish became police, lawyers, business owners and politicians, while the English migrants were more likely to be well-established within a few years or arrival (depending on their class).

    To get back to internal migration, the problem of skill shortages is exacerbated by;
    1) No support for unemployed skilled New Zealanders to relocate for permanent, full-time work. To move a family costs a minimum of $4000. Families out of work and living on the benefit cannot access any money to relocate for work. A bonding system should be offered to make this possible.
    2) Limited provision of remote working. If just a dozen government department buildings were decentralised from Wellington to regional centres, e.g. Napier, Palmerston North, Timaru, Whangarei, Nelson, Blenheim, Invercargill, Gisborne, Greymouth, Westport and Rotorua, these could –
    a) stimulate regional economies by have a middle-class of well-paid employees in the region
    b) stimulate support services and cluster business around that department
    c) increase resilience of government services and capability should there be a major earthquake in Wellington
    d) reduce running costs from rent for government departments
    e) push bureaucrats and Cabinet Ministers to spend greater periods in various regions over their careers, leading to greater interest in NZs provinces and their economic and cultural development
    Remote working now makes such a ‘decentralise’ approach to governance and management possible and practicable.

    Oliver: Welcome! Nice to see you on here, contributing to the discussion in your adopted community and offering your insights. New Zealand needs immigrants who are bright, keen to join our society and have IELTS 8!
    Many bright young people have left our population over the last 30 years and settled abroad. Quite a number are returning now, but we still need a sound migration programme to maintain our demographic tax base, fill vacancies in skill shortages and help bring us a bit closer to the world so far across the seas. As such, you are an important ‘new’ addition to New Zealand society Oliver.


  • bob Atkinson
    commented 2017-06-19 17:58:47 +1200
    Last year I met a woman whose husband was an expert in IT backup and he worked from home. The family was deciding which country they want to live in with their young children – when I spoke to her she said it was a choice between Bali and Fiji. Now I worry that he may have been contracted to British Airways.

    This comment is not clearly related to a political party’s policy. But it does show how the world is changing. And the fact that so many IT people are interested in TOP does not surprise me. Something to do with a skeptical approach to life.
  • Oliver Krollmann
    commented 2017-06-19 15:25:25 +1200
    I’m completely with Christopher. I too have worked in IT for more than 25 years, most of the time self-employed or as a contractor, but here in NZ also as an employee. There is almost no need anymore to be physically on site or in a particular office to do IT work, and my own productivity and my PDP reviews were never better than during the time when I was working for my last employer from home for most of the time, and their Whangarei regional office once or twice a week. But despite me being the living proof that it worked, my manager’s manager and the ones above him didn’t warm up to the idea to extend that workplace model to more of my colleagues, or decentralise by having IT staff working from or close to their other regional offices.
    It’s another one of these dilemmas, where stubbornly sticking to old-fashioned behaviours and workplace models thwarts what modern technology provides us with.
    And yes, I came to NZ (in 2009) as a skilled migrant and initially filled a position that had been advertised for quite some time without success, so I was able to make a positive contribution to NZ, as TOP would like it to be. Back then I even had to prove my English language skills (IELTS band 8), to be granted a work permit.
  • Christopher Cookson
    commented 2017-06-19 14:27:59 +1200
    Hi Tobias, it’s interesting to hear what you say about IT.
    I’ve worked as a self-employed/contractor in IT for about 20 years, and a couple of years ago had a long term client replace me, and possibly another contractor, with someone from overseas, almost certainly on a much lower hourly rate. I wondered how it was possible for them to do so, but you’ve explained quite well.
    Something that irritates me regarding IT, is despite over a billion dollar investment in UFB, the expectation is still that IT workers live in Auckland, Wellington or Christchurch, in spite of the fact that this causes pressure on housing and infrastructure.
    Given my personality, I simply can’t cope with large crowds of people and concrete jungle for long periods of time. For my sanity and productivity, I need green space and the ability to ‘go bush’ sometimes.
    The argument that all IT work needs to be done on site is clearly refuted by the fact that plenty of regional businesses are moving to contracting larger firms in the main centres for a variety of IT services.
    This is a double edged sword for someone like me. Financially and psychologically I can’t afford to move to one of the main centres, and at the same time there seems to be a trend that is reducing regional opportunities as local firms contract to the main centres.
    I know this is getting a little off-topic in terms of international migration, however internal migration and regional vitality is also something that’s worth discussing.
  • bob Atkinson
    commented 2017-06-19 08:49:05 +1200
    Hi Tobias: it is clear you know more about the immigration rules than I do. Lets hope TOP and various other politicians are reading your comments. On the radio rather than discuss Andrew Little’s policy they tended to shut it down with the racist accusation.

    BTW the best programmer I’ve met in NZ (from a rather small sample) was from Kerema South India.

    Trevor Phillips the ex-UK Race Relations commissioner recommends reading ‘The British Dream’. I do too but not because we have anything remotely like the problems they have in the UK but because of the way things happened in the UK was caused by a lack of a rational informed debate.
    We are beginning to see schools reaching the 40% immigrant figure that triggers white flight and the ethnic precincts can deteriorate into segregation. It is a matter of numbers and aspirations. It is not the total number but the number living/working/worshiping together that matters.
    The reason we are doing fairly well is the broad mix of immigrants – my local shops represent maybe 20 different ethnicities; if they all were say Bengali as they were when I lived in Spitalfields London then there is a problem. It is very clear that the technological marvel of the internet that lets me communicate in this blog also allows a family to live as if they were in their country of origin and therefore tending to reinforce traditional values (nb no internet = no terrorism?). Now UK Pakistani Kasmiris are considered to have old-fashioned values when they go back looking for a preferably uneducated girl for an arranged marriage.
    The aspirations really matter. So in the UK Muslims from India produce children who are well above average at school and university and they get better than average jobs meanwhile almost identical Muslims from Pakistan are causing most of the social problems and are doing badly at school.
    And at the bottom of the heap are the lower class white boys. If we continue with low skilled immigration the same will happen here: we will breed a class of permanent beneficiaries.
    Anyway read it yourself.
  • Tobias Tohill
    commented 2017-06-18 22:15:57 +1200
    Hey Bob,

    Thanks for sharing that you worked in IT.

    It is rather shocking, when you really understand how the system works. I guess you can see why I think there should be control of who can seek to employ a migrant, as it is up to employers to decide who should be able to get a work visa. At present, there is not even a minimum English language requirement on work visa applicants – if an employer is happy for a migrant to take the job, then it is their prerogative as to whether the worker should be able to speak English at all!

    See the link here: to the list of Long-Term Skill Shortage List. Pages 11-12 show all the positions considered to be in ‘chronic demand’. Any migrant offered a job in one of these roles on this list can have a work visa in 4-6 weeks, with no Labour Market Test required.

    Bob said: “In the British Dream they say care-workers were predominately immigrants in the UK until they changed the rules making it harder to come in; it didn’t lead to disaster but it did lead to UK citizens doing the job.”

    In reply: Yes, quite. It will be interesting to see what will happen here of the next 2-3 years as care givers are paid $21- $28 / hour, rather than the current $15.75 – $18 / hr, due to the Court of Appeal decision about underpayment of wages for ’women’s work’ and the subsequent settlement agreement to increase wages. My bet is that the industry will fill up with NZ workers and there will no longer be a shortage of aged care workers, until other industries catch up with similar pay awards. What I think will be most interesting will be to see how many men move into the industry, now that the wages are better than other ‘low-skilled’ jobs.

    Nice to make your acquaintance Bob.

    Kind regards,

  • bob Atkinson
    commented 2017-06-18 16:06:58 +1200
    Tobias: “as IT professionals are all on the Long-Term Skill Shortage List”. I’m a retired IT programmer with exceptionally wide experience and I am shocked. An obvious way to cheat the system. ‘IT professional’ is similar to ‘engineer’ they both cover a wide spectrum of abilities. Some new IT graduates are positively dangerous; some programmers will never learn to program and on the other hand I’ve met two or three really exceptional brains. One programmer can usually judge another fairly well after a few weeks but the only reliable guide is an above average salary held for at least a couple of years.
  • bob Atkinson
    commented 2017-06-18 15:49:47 +1200
    1. Working Holiday Visa: True. Needs more control but that is not hard to do just adjust the quotas. [Personal experience that my son on a French passport was rejected when he failed to apply in time when he did his OE about 17 years ago; we just need tighter quotas].

    2. When granted residency they are recorded in the ‘business/skilled’ category [60% of total immigrants]. It would be better if that category had sub-categories.
    Your paragraph about the key issue being incentive to work is right on. In the British Dream they say care-workers were predominately immigrants in the UK until they changed the rules making it harder to come in; it didn’t lead to disaster but it did lead to UK citizens doing the job.

    High speed processing – thanks for the info – it took me a couple of months in 2003 but generally things have changed for the bureaucratic worse so I was guessing by judging the same organisation processing mere TOURIST visas for Papua New Guineans where two months is common! I have family and friends who have had to cancel air tickets because of the snail like processing. On the other hand we recently had a first passport processed in 23 hours (not days) proving things can be done promptly in NZ but that is not MBIE.

    Last point – I accept your correction – I don’t think our opinions are very different.
  • Tobias Tohill
    commented 2017-06-18 15:10:03 +1200
    Bob Atkinson

    Thanks for your reply.

    In response:

    Bob: “You propose 10 weeks advertising before a job can be offered to a migrant. One problem is it creates two groups of worker. At present when you are resident you have virtually all the rights of a NZ born Kiwi. If you have a business opportunity you need to react fast – eg a cafe on a route suddenly used by tourists after an earthquake – taking on lots of working holiday staff is OK because they will never qualify for residency – making shelf-stacking a ‘skilled’ job for applicants for residency is not OK.”

    So just to clarify;

    1. Working Holiday Visas are an issue because they are a replacement labour force that push down wages for production, horticultural and other low-skilled work. For some countries, we have no cap on the number of Working Holiday Visas that can be issued and this needs to be addressed.

    2. You can’t make a job that is Skill Level 4 or 5 (low-skilled) into a ‘skilled job’. The employer must either;

    a) Show that no New Zealanders can be found – the position must be listed with Work and Income for 4 weeks and a Skills Match Report is required. This means if any unemployed poeple are put forward for the job and can be trained or are suitable, then the position cannot be offered to migrants, or

    b) Have Accreditation or an AIP to hire for low-skilled position. This kind of situation applies to large employers usually, e.g. freezing works etc.

    But the key issue here is the incentives to work are too low. The wages are minimum wage and those who are unemployed will gain little, if anything, from moving into an unskilled position. The unemployment benefit is rebated at 70c in a dollar, which means the gain from working is too little to make working worthwhile. Also, employers need incentives to take on unemployed Kiwis who have been out of work for 9 months or more e.g. government pays their wages for first year in lieu of employer and pays employer $4000 training fee of the staff member remains in the job for 9 months minimum. Worker gets transition unemployment benefit for first 6 months to help with costs of getting clothes, car working etc. to move into work. If they ditch the job and return to being unemployed, then benefit at 50% rate for 6 months. Or something along these lines.

    Bob: "At the other end of the market maybe Xero need a skilled database engineer with a specific IT language (or a consultant surgeon is desperately needed) – it might take years to train one or at present months to offer a job to a foreigner and get them through the Dept of Immigration bureaucracy. We need high speed processing in such a case a sensibly high salary is the only proof of ability that is needed (say $150,000). "

    Actually, we already have high-speed processing. It typically takes 4-6 weeks to get a work visa approved from application. For a high skilled migrant where there is an urgent need, prioritised processing can make it 2-3 weeks. For any employer with Accreditation, such as Xero has, then it would be 2-3 weeks and no Labour Market Test (advertising) is required.
    In any case, as IT professionals are all on the Long-Term Skill Shortage List, no Labour Market Test is needed for anyone applying for work in this industry.

    You might be interested to know that for most highly-skilled migrants, residence can be granted within 2-3 months of being offered the position of employment. I know some IT professionals who gain residence within a few weeks while still off-shore.

    Bob: “Unfortunately our current system is skewed towards importing cheap workers and is biased against the people who would really add value to NZ.”

    No, that’s no true. It is strongly weighted to favouring skilled workers. The issue is that the cheap works are where the skill shortages lie, for the reasons I give above.
  • bob Atkinson
    commented 2017-06-18 13:48:57 +1200
    John: Interesting but not entirely relevant. Note in the UK the largest minority is now “mixed”. It doesn’t matter much where immigrants come from so long as they join the NZ ‘family’. Which is what to a limited sense I’ve done myself – suddenly Rugby is far more interesting than soccer and Ed Hillary as interesting as Shackleton.
    I’ve just finished reading “The British Dream” and I’m fascinated by how small unintended differences in intake make dramatic changes to society – both successes and failures. Now I’m obsessed by the mistakes NZ is making – too much virtue signalling and not enough realism sums it up. TOP is willing to discuss immigration from the solid foundation of what is best for NZ..
  • John Hurley
    commented 2017-06-18 11:32:55 +1200
    The ‘era of the whites’, as Anthony Browne (2000) put it in his provocative examination of “The Colour of the Future”, is passing even for cities such as Oslo. Browne (2000) goes on to observe:
    In its World Population Profile 1998, the US Census Bureau predicts that by the second decade of this century all the net gain in the world population will be in developing countries.
    … The global center of gravity is changing. In 1900 Europe had a quarter of the world’s population and three times that of Africa. By 2050, Europe is predicted to have just 7 percent of the world population, and a third that of Africa. The ageing and declining populations of predominantly white nations have prompted forecasts of — and calls for — more immigration from the young and growing populations of developing nations to make up the shortfall. …
    One demographer, who does not want to be named for fear of being called racist, says: ‘It’s a matter of pure arithmetic that, if nothing else happens, non-Europeans will become a majority and whites a minority in the UK. That would probably be the first time an indigenous population has voluntarily become a minority in its
    historic homeland’. ….
    So there is another argument and it is based on the progressive view that people and place are fungible.
    What do all the pundits think? Chinese netzins have a pejorative term for the white- left: “baizou” . They see them through an alternate ethnic lens as “the other” who think they are morally superior to the degree that they are ““have no sense of real problems in the real world”; they are hypocritical humanitarians who advocate for peace and equality only to “satisfy their own feeling of moral superiority”; they are “obsessed with political correctness” to the extent that they “tolerate backwards Islamic values for the sake of multiculturalism”; they believe in the welfare state that “benefits only the idle and the free riders”; they are the “ignorant and arrogant westerners” who “pity the rest of the world and think they are saviours”.  
    Previous generations had testicles. The present generation have grown up in luxury?
  • bob Atkinson
    commented 2017-06-18 11:13:05 +1200
    Tobias. Many good ideas. Absolutely anything that defeats the worst of the exploitation of potential residents must be applauded. The weak argument that many go home is ducking a moral issue. Better regulations along the lines you propose with a much stronger labour inspectorate is essential.

    Judging by contributions to many blogs and just general conversation NZ is perceived to be bringing in many low skilled immigrants and they are being resented for taking the starter level jobs and for keeping wages low. If the TOP policy is implemented then every time we met a new ‘visible immigrant’ the average Kiwi would think ‘must be bright and must be doing a good job to get in’ whereas now if an immigrant has poor English we assume ‘you are here because you rorted a weak system’.

    For the sake of building a community where we trust one another something has to change and do so soon.

    You propose 10 weeks advertising before a job can be offered to a migrant. One problem is it creates two groups of worker. At present when you are resident you have virtually all the rights of a NZ born Kiwi. If you have a business opportunity you need to react fast – eg a cafe on a route suddenly used by tourists after an earthquake – taking on lots of working holiday staff is OK because they will never qualify for residency – making shelf-stacking a ‘skilled’ job for applicants for residency is not OK.
    At the other end of the market maybe Xero need a skilled database engineer with a specific IT language (or a consultant surgeon is desperately needed) – it might take years to train one or at present months to offer a job to a foreigner and get them through the Dept of Immigration bureaucracy. We need high speed processing in such a case a sensibly high salary is the only proof of ability that is needed (say $150,000).

    Unfortunately our current system is skewed towards importing cheap workers and is biased against the people who would really add value to NZ.
  • Tobias Tohill
    commented 2017-06-18 10:22:57 +1200
    I thoroughly agree. The focus needs to be on the employers.

    Employers should have to advertising positions for longer than the current requirement, 3-4 weeks, to at least 10 weeks before offering work to a migrant. The employer should also have to show evidence of training Kiwi staff and taking on unemployed Kiwis before they can employ a migrant.
    To maintain integrity in the system, there needs to be a registration and licensing system for employers who take on migrants.We have this already for larger employers who are Accredited or employ through an AIP system. This should be extended to all employers who are hiring a migrant for any permanent position.

    Also, migrants should have to be paid at least 1.2x the median hourly rate for that industry.

    Under such a system, employers will only seek to employ migrants if -
    a) they offer a real increase in value to their business in terms of skills, experience and training and are worth the compliance costs and wages involved e.g. can train staff, increase productivity
    b) there is a real shortage of labour
    This will also better protect the migrants who are coming from being poorly used / exploited by employers.

    With greater control of who can hire a migrant, there should be;
    1) a ban on all migrants, who have gained residence as a skilled migrant (not entrepreneur) then opened a business, from employing any more migrants in their first 5 years in business
    2) an vastly increase Labour Inspectorate to protect migrants and inspect abuses of the system by employers.

    Employing a migrant is not a right, and should no longer be treated as such.

    As to the $49,000 / year requirement, it is
    - blunt and heavy-handed
    - will have a considerable effect in deterring low-skilled labour from coming to NZ
    - is likely to result in a higher number of overstayers
    - is likely to lead to a lot of migrants ‘buying’ their salary and then paying it back under the table
    - requires a vastly increased Labour Inspectorate in order to be effectively actioned.