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Responsible Immigration in New Zealand - TOP

On the back of National’s tinkering and the kneejerk reaction from Labour and New Zealand First, immigration looks set to be an election issue. It certainly is important, but we need to have a conversation based on the facts, rather than hysteria and xenophobia. Let’s review a few of the facts in light of the announcements in recent days.

Immigration can make us better off

To be clear: the evidence is that when done right, immigration can have a small but positive impact on the wellbeing of New Zealanders. At The Opportunities Party we think that should be the point of immigration – to maximise the benefits to New Zealanders.

Some people out there seem to disagree – they think that immigration should be about making everyone in the world better off. That would mean opening the borders and letting everyone in. This would drive down the wages of the local population, cram the infrastructure and lead to a massive backlash – bigger than we are seeing at the moment.  Such martyrdom is pure fantasy to anyone but the unfettered idealist.

In our view the humanitarian aspect of migration is reflected in our refugee quota, which TOP wants to double. When it comes to economic migration we should be trying to maximise the benefits for New Zealanders. After all if we are a rich, successful country we can afford to take in more refugees.

When it is done right

This the tricky bit. Immigration can make us all better off when done right. This means focusing on highly skilled migrants, the ones that create jobs and businesses. Lower skilled migrants compete with locals to keep wages low. It might mean you can have a cheaper coffee, but is that really worth the extra strain on our housing and infrastructure, thelower wages for our poorest workers and of course the direct taxpayer costs of more Working for Families? Why on earth would we want to subsidise businesses that only survive because of low cost labour? As we argued yesterday, restricting low skilled migration means that wages can rise at the bottom end, which will help those that are struggling now.

Of course there are some industries that will go out of business without cheap labour. In some cases (e.g. if they are exporters) we may choose to support those industries by letting in migrants – but on a temporary basis only.

Generally speaking the demand for moving to New Zealand is infinite – we are a desirable location. So why not try to get the most skilled migrants we can?

National’s tinkering won’t achieve what is needed

Does National’s policy ensure all migrants make New Zealanders better off? Not in the case of migrants that are getting exploited or coming in fraudulently. We’ve seen this problem in the student visa sector but it is elsewhere too, and needs stamping out. What about the investor category, don’t they bring money into New Zealand? Some of them are great, but others just park their money in the bank for a few years until they get their residency – then out it goes. Hardly beneficial.

The truth is that National’s latest reform won’t change much. In our view their immigration policy doesn’t meet the basic test of making Kiwis better off; it is still biased to providing cheap labour to employers. Meanwhile we still aren’t doing enough to attract the highly skilled labour that we need. More thought and nuance is needed to get the right immigration policy.

Responsible Immigration is NOT just about the numbers

Labour and New Zealand First’s response was equally weak. They focused on slashing immigration numbers. Now numbers are part of the issue, as sheer numbers put more pressure on housing and infrastructure. But a large part of the migrant numbers are Kiwis and Aussies we can’t control. And we need workers to build more houses and roads – why would Labour and NZ First restrict those migrants? Focussing on numbers is a one-dimensional, knee-jerk reaction and is based on shallow analysis. 

Responsible Immigration is about the quality of migrants

What is more important is not just quantity but the quality of migrants. Will the migrants really make a positive contribution to the country? If so, we should let them in and make sure we build the infrastructure to cope. We want New Zealand to be a successful, high skilled economy; we have to support the businesses that are creating skilled jobs with training and if necessary migrants. If low skilled, low pay businesses are struggling to get by, the market should put pressure on them to invest in lifting productivity so they can pay more or go out of business. That is how capitalism should work, ensuring that all benefit from prosperity.

There is just no future running businesses that rely on exploiting people in order to survive. We, the taxpayers pay for that – it’s a fool’s errand.

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    • bob atkinson
      commented 2017-07-07 16:57:46 +1200
      Robert: the future is never predictable. If I was a betting man I’d reckon you are right about the trucks but you could have mentioned:
      -making milk and other foodstuffs with yeast – the final nail in NZ’s rural economy?
      -high end estimates for global warming prove true – the north Island split into two islands but more important major movements of people – we may need to take a people from the low lying Pacific countries and who will take the 80 million Bengalis living just above sea level?
      -minor changes to our DNA effectively stopping aging – !!!
      -effective robots both stronger and more intelligent than you and I – artificial consciousness
      All these could happen in my lifetime (I use a goldcard) but what in fact does happen is likely to be even more surprising – except that I never anticipate Auckland Council sorting out our transport problems.

      The evidence that immigrants actually improve a countries economy is very dubious for NZ – obviously a temporary surge as the new immigrants need things but NZ has had 70 years of high immigration and very little economic improvement – we have gone from maybe joint 1st to about 30th in the OECD.

      A working democracy needs trust – all the inhabitants must have respect for one another and their government. Conclusion we need fewer immigrants; select the ones we take with more care and aim for only modest population growth (with a decline being quite acceptable). This would be the most robust solution for whatever the future throws at us.

      And TOP seems to have the best policies to achieve it.
    • robert carter
      commented 2017-07-07 16:02:48 +1200
      Within a few years self driving trucks will be on NZ roads. This means we are likely to have a surplus of truck drivers. We also have printable houses, with implications for the need of labour in the building industry. So immigration policy needs to take account of likely changes in technology.
      One of the great things about NZ is our democracy, but this is due to our population size. Our ministers are accessible and our government is responsive irrespective of the political arty in power. This is true of some other low population countries, but it is not true of say the UK or the USA where an increasing proportion of the population does not believe that their political system is working.
      We export food for about 40 million people. If we increase our population by say 3 million will we be better off exporting food for 37 million. (Keeping present assumptions of productivity constant). The increasing proportion of our urban population is already leading to a rural/urban divide. This has already led to a ban on West Coast forestry, and people objecting to the killing of possums. Yet the goods and services produced in Auckland could in many cases be cheaper purchased from Singapore or Sydney..
    • bob atkinson
      commented 2017-04-28 17:21:44 +1200
      Para 1 “immigration can have a small but positive impact on the well being of New Zealanders” – True
      Para 2 “This the tricky bit. Immigration can make us all better off when done right.” True
      Para 3 “National’s tinkering won’t achieve what is needed….Not in the case of migrants that are getting exploited or coming in fraudulently.” True
      Para 4 “Responsible Immigration is NOT just about the numbers” True
      Para 5 “Responsible Immigration is about the quality of migrants” well as you say yourself you can’t control Kiwis and Aussies and I’d add their partners and children. Otherwise true.
    • Janet Hyde
      commented 2017-04-23 11:36:09 +1200
      My thought is that National’s $49,000 wage level change to immigration policy will just mean the slow reduction of the average wage simply because potential immigrants who maybe applying for a job currently paying above average wage will accept the average wage just to get into New Zealand.
      Not a good policy at all.
    • Kate Tyson
      followed this page 2017-04-22 10:43:27 +1200
    • Steve Cox
      commented 2017-04-22 10:30:02 +1200
      Of course we (as in the government) could create quite a few jobs by beefing up the departments responsible for enforcing our laws and regulations.
      When GST was first introduced IRD visited most, if not all, businesses to check they were processing their GST correctly.
      Why not have labour inspectors visit every business employing migrant skilled workers every year to check they are compliant.
      And ensure our laws do not permit any of the costs of obtaining migrant skilled workers being passed on by the employer to the worker as a “loan”.
    • Geoff Lye
      commented 2017-04-21 16:34:43 +1200
      Agree 100% if bosses wont lift wages to a living wage minimum they need to be forced to . By importing immigrants it is letting unscrupulous bosses off the hook because they dont want to train kiwis and pay a living wage so they make excuses.
    • Oliver Krollmann
      followed this page 2017-04-21 16:00:03 +1200