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Labour Shortages Vs Skills Shortages

Posted by Iain on June 17, 2016, 3:44 p.m. in Jobs in New Zealand

There have been some very interesting employment vacancy figures released this week that further illustrate the relative strength of the labour market in New Zealand.

According to the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment for May 2016:

  • Online vacancies increased by 2.4 per cent over all during the month.
  • Vacancies increased in all industry groups. The main contributors were hospitality and tourism (up 1.9 per cent) and education and training (up 1.7 per cent).
  • Vacancies increased in all occupation groups. The largest increases were for machinery drivers and operators (up 3.6 per cent), labourers (up 3.4 per cent), and technicians and trades (up 3.1 per cent).
  • Vacancies increased in all ten regions. The Bay of Plenty region saw the strongest growth (up 3.0 per cent). This on top of news that tourism has led to the country earning more money than it is spending, i.e. a trade surplus. That explains the ongoing growth in tourism and hospitality related jobs being created.

What is interesting from an immigration perspective is the disconnect between New Zealand’s labour market needs/labour shortages and ‘skilled’ migrant criteria for residence.

Simply having a job and filling a hole in the labour market is no guaranteed pathway to long term residence.

We are, for example, seriously short of Heavy Truck Drivers and it is possible to get a work visa to be one but not possible to qualify for residence under the skilled migrant ‘points system’ because Truck Drivers are not deemed to be skilled (yet ‘Dog Groomers’, inexplicably, are).

The dairy industry in Southland would collapse if it weren’t for hundreds of Filipino farm workers propping up the farms; yet they also do not qualify for residence because the (critical?) roles they fill are not skilled, despite paying taxes, being hard working and having long-term employment prospects. What they are filling are ‘labour’ shortages. No connection between that and a resident visa.

New Zealand has all sorts of low or semi-skilled occupational shortages and the roles are mostly filled by international students, many of whom have limited work rights of up to 20 hours per week and fulltime during academic holiday time, or are one of the tens of thousands of young Holiday Working Visa holders.

There are some policy (and political) tensions arising in relation to this.

On the one hand you cannot blame the transport companies, café owners, farmers or fruit growers for giving these jobs to ‘foreigners’ when there are no locals available or willing to do the work, but where are the locals?

We have in New Zealand an unemployment rate of 5.3%. As I explain at my seminars these people are largely young, unskilled or low skilled. I suspect also unmotivated.

The obvious question to ask is why are they not filling these roles?

It is a relatively complex situation but in my view the single largest contributor is an unwillingness to tell the unemployed who have low skills to get off their backsides and travel to areas where this work exists. It may not be close to home or family but the alternative is we, as tax payers, fund this choice so many are making.

There is little to no reason (beyond politics) for not giving these - particularly young and healthy people - a choice. Go where the work is or the tax payer will stop depositing an unemployment cheque in your bank account every week.

Too often we hear the whining of these people about the costs of going to some other part of the country for ‘low wages’.

Well, if it is okay for all those young Germans, Spanish, British, Singaporean, Malaysian, Brazilians and tens of thousands of other youngsters to do these jobs while travelling around the country, why do we expect any less of our own?

My own youngest son is now studying at the University of Otago in Dunedin. He trained as a Barista and worked all through last summer north of Auckland in a café to garner experience to bolster his employability once he got down to the South Island. He cannot find a job yet the cafes are full of Holiday Working Visa holders doing jobs he could be doing to support himself (and save me from footing the bill).

New Zealanders are starting to ask the question – should tens of thousands of young foreigners get these jobs ahead of young New Zealanders if the New Zealanders want them? Should Holiday Working Visa policy be a substitute for forcing the young and unemployed of New Zealand to get off their backsides and take up these jobs?

Given we require all those applying for ‘typical’ work visas on their pathway to a resident visa to prove they are not taking a job away from a New Zealander, are Holiday Working Visas a convenient excuse for employers locally to not be bothered trying to fill the vacancies with our own young job seekers?

I am all for young people coming into the country and having that local working experience while they travel around enjoying everything this wonderful country has to offer. We are all enriched by it culturally, if not economically, and these young people build bridges to the rest of the world. Some will use the Holiday Working Visa as a stepping stone to filling skilled roles and go on to secure residence. I often help skilled migrants return to New Zealand ten or more years after they spent a happy year on one of those Holiday Working Visas and we would never have been able to get the benefit of their skills had they not enjoyed their earlier trip.

I have some concerns however that successive Governments have lacked the political will to start forcing the more indolent among the local population to take up these jobs first.

Our own should be forced into these jobs or offered them before we offer them to foreigners. If they don’t want them don’t apply or lack the attitude and willingness to learn then by all means offer them to the travelling hordes of youngsters from overseas.

By not doing this, current policy opens the door to the politics of migrant bashing and we are not immune from a (tiny) minority of politicians who will exploit it. With an election next year those voices will get louder sure as the sun will rise on the morrow.

As I wrote last week immigration policy settings are under increasing pressure and the question has to be asked if it is delivering in the overall context of New Zealand’s social, cultural and economic developmental aims.

There is, at the very least, room for improvement.

Until next week...

Iain MacLeod, Southern Man

Tags:

Skilled Migrant Point Changes

Posted by Iain on July 31, 2015, 5:58 p.m. in Jobs in New Zealand

The New Zealand Government announced a few days ago that it was increasing the bonus points that can be claimed for a skilled and relevant job offer outside of Auckland from 10 to 30 points. The internet is abuzz!

Not sure why. I suggest everyone stay calm. Much ado about very little.

Government announced they were doing it in order to encourage more migrants to settle outside of Auckland. This was clearly a response to the overheated Auckland property market and rising disaffection by Aucklanders that migrants are contributing to an overheated property market.

As usual when the press get hold of a very modest tweak in an existing policy they get confused on the consequence, don’t seem to bother asking an expert and the misinformation spreads like wildfire.

My inbox is full of enquiries from people asking me if they ‘must’ now get a job outside of Auckland and if this means it is easier to get into the country? One even telling me he read that if you have a job ‘offer’ outside of Auckland you don’t even have to live there but it is now easier to get in if you say you are ‘planning’ on settling outside of Auckland but you don’t actually have to live there.

Oh a dollar for every false rumour!

Sorry folks but this change is modest and if you get a job outside of Auckland you must take it up.

In fact not only must you take up the job you must work outside of Auckland for 12 months. Those with jobs in Auckland ‘only’ have to stay employed for three months for their resident visa to become unconditional.

So how effective will it be? Does it really change anything?

No is the short answer. This is a case of politics trying to trump labour market reality.

The pass mark for those with a job is 100 and so far I am not seeing anything that suggests that pass mark will increase. This policy will only make any significant difference if it does.

This is because a 30, 37, 41, 45 and 54 year old (and everyone in between) will still qualify for residence with a skilled job in Auckland if they have between 8 and 10 years of relevant and related work experience (all other things being equal). Even a 54 year old will still be able to get a job in Auckland, work for a while and accrue the points necessary to get to 100 point passmark.

The only people we have identified that will benefit from this policy would be a 55 year old with no qualifications and at least ten years of work experience related to the job offer he or she gets outside of Auckland. When you hit 56 you cannot apply no matter how many points you might claim or where your job is.

So the winners here? Unqualified 55 year olds. Absolutely neutral for everyone else.

I am in South Africa and have over the past week consulted with 44 families who are looking to gain entry under the skilled migrant category. Only one would benefit from this policy change. One. That individual will now qualify with a job outside of Auckland because he is 55.

More than that it is all very well rewarding people to head out to the regions to spread the skilled migrant love and their skills sets but the reason about 70% of migrants already get jobs in Auckland is largely because that’s where the jobs are. Not all of course and we have clients spread all around New Zealand but around 70% in Auckland.

So might the Government increase the pass mark for those with jobs to 100 or even 120?

They could and that would force greater numbers to look outside of Auckland. Is this on the table? Not as far as I am aware.

I would hope that behind closed doors Government will have been warned against it.

Given Auckland is the engine room of the economy and has the critical economic and cultural mass for many migrant communities (which feeds through into good settlement outcomes) a higher pass mark would prevent many otherwise excellent skilled migrants from coming. 

So the Government has found a nice way of appearing to be doing something without in reality doing anything at all. They did get the headlines they needed however...

Good politics is all folks. So stay calm. You won’t be moving to the sticks – unless you want to.

Our photo competition is going along great guns and we are getting some fantastic photos coming in. I would like to see a whole lot more from those who live in New Zealand and illustrating what it is about every day life in New Zealand that they love.

I am thinking about photos of your house and street (no burglar bars or security walls you South Africans), your children climbing a tree (you Singaporeans), morning coffee at a sidewalk café (you French), walking along the street with your baby in a stroller without a protector, children riding their bikes, your office colleagues, and so on.

I am loving what we are getting but let’s see some of the real life stuff that you love about this wonderful country of ours. If you have missed the competition we are giving away a weekend in Queenstown at the five star Azur Hotel plus $1500 spending money. For further details if you have missed it click here to submit your photo entry - you can enter as many times as you like for more chances to win.

Until next week

Iain MacLeod

 

 

Southern Man


Through the looking glass

Posted by Iain on Feb. 27, 2015, 1:30 p.m. in Jobs in New Zealand

“If I had a world of my own, everything would be nonsense. Nothing would be what it is, because everything would be what it isn't. And contrary wise, what is, it wouldn't be. And what it wouldn't be, it would. You see?” 

 

So said the great Lewis Carroll.  He could have been talking about Immigration Officers at Auckland Airport.

I am unashamedly a fan of Mr Carroll not only because of his beautiful way with words but because he too must have worked with bureaucrats. It would seem he knew a thing or two about working as an Immigration Adviser and having immigration bureaucrats determining peoples’ futures.

I have said it many times – when it comes to meeting visa criteria it pays to assume nothing and to suspend logic – nothing is what it might at first seem and things are often viewed by state functionaries to be what they are not.

When you understand that everything becomes crystal clear.

I want to  share a recent story which could be something straight out of Alice in Wonderland. To appreciate it you need a little LSD. Not the mind altering drug but the weirdly titled internal memo issued to all immigration officers a few years ago with the title of ‘Look, See and Decide’.

In April 2012 INZ issued a memo to its entire staff to try and help them when dealing with wannabe-migrants on LSD trips.

The intent was to explain how to treat an applicant for a visa who is standing at the border, or is applying for a Visitor Visa to travel to New Zealand, with the intention to explore the possibilities of settling here. They are arguably not a true ‘tourist’ but equally they are not a resident either. They don't have a job so cannot get a work visa but they cannot get the work visa without the job. And employers demand by and large face to face interviews. Which means being here, standing at the border or applying for a visitor visa to come over.

The memo made clear that it is perfectly lawful to visit here with the intention of checking the place out for potential future work or to decide if it’s the kind of place you might wish to live. It explained (quite simply we thought) to the officials in our overseas posts, at our border and in our local immigration branches that it is perfectly acceptable to visit New Zealand because you think you might wish to settle here so long as the primary purpose of your visit is vacation and the secondary purpose is looking, seeing and deciding. If you wish to look for work, attend interviews, check out schools for your children, and get a feel for cost of living and so on – these are all legitimate and lawful as a 'tourist'. 

It was made very clear – there is no reason to deny entry or a visa to travel here if people have told the truth and officials are satisfied they have the incentives and means to leave NZ if their job search is unsuccessful or they decide that New Zealand is not for them (spot the irony?)

Trouble with these memos is they disappear down rabbit holes.

In November last year a client of ours arrived in the country having flown over ‘visa free’ (South African passport). He has skills in Information Technology which is, as the press keep reminding us and Government websites record (including Immigration New Zealand’s), in ‘acute and ongoing demand’. Given virtually all employers and recruiters had been telling him for a few months before his trip that if he wanted an interview he at least had to prove he was serious and come over, he did. With our full support.

He was stopped at passport control at Auckland Airport and asked about the purpose of his visit.

He told the truth. LSD. He spent the next two hours being questioned and his belongings being searched. He even claims that INZ knew that he had been making posts on forums, chat groups and Facebook about his plans (now that is scary and more George Orwell than Lewis Carroll…).

Eventually they allowed him in but on a Limited Visa – this means he could stay but if he found a job he could not change his status, thus forcing him to leave and apply for a work visa offshore.

Within 5 weeks he had found a job.

He returned to South Africa and we filed his Work Visa shortly thereafter. As soon as INZ were satisfied he wasn’t taking a job from a New Zealander it was approved. They wrote of how 'pleased' they were to grant it. He arrived back in NZ in mid-January (no prolemns at the border) to take up the position on his newly minted work visa.

While all that was going on we filed his Expression of Interest in Residence as with his job offer he had enough ‘points’ to be approved.

He was invited to apply for residence in mid-January following gushes of congratulations from the same Immigration Officials that all but wanted to throw him out of the country weeks earlier and who had been anything but welcoming. Being the organised souls we are we had all the paperwork ready to file. This we did about three weeks ago.

This morning we received another bubbly and up beat email from his Resident Visa case officer proudly declaring that he was close to recommending an approval and that should come through in a few weeks.

This is wonderful news.

One can but wonder therefore why the same Department felt it necessary to make him feel so intimidated and unwelcome at the airport three months ago.

Why he was taken into a room with one way glass and made to feel like a criminal.

Why officials paraded evidence that he was taking part in online forums and chat groups before he came over in which apparently he spoke openly about his intentions of coming to New Zealand (the same intentions he made no attempt to hide from the first question he was asked at the airport).

Why they ignored their own internal ‘LSD’ memo advice.

Why they gave him a Limited Visa which would force him at great expense, once he secured employment, to fly back to South Africa even though their own shortage lists showed his skills were in acute demand.

It is all quite mad.

Thankfully we are overwhelmingly able help clients to negotiate their way through the rabbit holes filled to their brim with contradictions and inconsistencies that is the immigration visa process.

Until next week

 

Iain MacLeod - Southern Man

Tags:

Chicken & Egg

Posted by Iain on Nov. 7, 2014, 3:25 p.m. in Jobs in New Zealand

I have written many times about the “chicken and egg” situation that exists for migrants trying to enter the labour market before they have a Resident Visa. That is that the employers generally demand Work Visas before they will offer jobs but the Immigration Department cannot (on the whole) give a Work Visa without that job.

It is the reason why many migrants fail in their quest to get New Zealand Residence (I hasten to add not our clients as we seem to do a pretty good job at identifying those who have all the appropriate attributes to secure employment).

I had an interesting experience this week which is worth sharing and might help employers who are willing to engage in the immigration process but who don’t want floods of applications from people not in New Zealand.

A client had applied for a job whilst in New Zealand through www.seek.co.nz.

He received a computer generated rejection on the basis that he did not have a Work Visa (it was one of the questions asked).

He then followed up with a phone call to the company and asked if they would be interested in talking to him or reviewing his CV. They suggested they would and he seemed like a very interesting and qualified candidate.

He then rang me to see if I could call the employer and explain how the immigration process worked given they were somewhat reluctant, he felt, to engage with the visa process.

I called the employer and quickly learned that contrary to the perception they might not be willing to engage the immigration process (a perception they created by their online advertising), they already employed ten migrants on various forms of temporary Work Visas.

I then called the client back, who has now had a conversation with the employer to be, which I hope leads not only to an interview, but a job offer and I will secure him the Work Visa within two or three weeks.

What would have been a more sensible approach from the company when advertising online, was to have three questions that they ask and which may trigger an automated response. These would be:

  • Are you a New Zealand Resident Visa holder or citizen of New Zealand or Australia? Yes/No
  • Do you hold a Work Visa that allows you to take up this job? Yes/No
  • Are you in New Zealand but do not have a Work Visa? Yes/No

In this instance, had the employer done that they would have avoided getting thousands of applications from applicants who are not in New Zealand, not available for quick and easy interview and who might not be seriously committed to the process of migration, but they would have identified my client who is here, serious and available.

It continues to amaze me in this connected world how employers and recruiters still only deal in their minds with two types of potential “foreign” candidates – those who have Permanent Residency and those that do not.

There is clearly a simple way for them to further refine their criteria which both protects them from a deluge of overseas applicants but which provides them with access to potential employees who can get Work Visas who are in New Zealand.

Food for thought for all you employers out there facing increasing skills shortages.

Until next week

IMMagine New Zealand - Southern Man


Unemployment Falling Fast

Posted by Iain on Aug. 8, 2014, 8:16 p.m. in Jobs in New Zealand

Reflecting an economy in expansion mode latest unemployment statistics must make very pleasant reading for a Government one month out from national elections.

The unemployment rate has fallen to its lowest level in 5 years and at 5.6% New Zealand now has the 9th lowest unemployment rate in the developed world. By comparison our Australian neighbours were surprised this week by a jump in their unemployment rate to 6.4%.

When unemployment hits 5% in New Zealand skills shortages generally become acute and extend beyond the highly skilled to the semi and unskilled.

Over 85,000 new fulltime jobs have been created across all sectors of the economy over the past year.

Hiring intentions continue to run at historically high levels. Skilled vacancies are 17% higher than a year ago and employers continue to report difficulties in filling those vacancies.

With net migration running at close to 40,000 people over the past year many of these vacancies are being filled by highly skilled and fluent English speaking migrants. Including you might be surprised to learn the 25,000 Australian citizens who migrate to New Zealand every year under our open border policy for citizens of one another’s countries. 

As a consequence of this flow of Australians joining us, New Zealanders returning home from a contracting labour market in Australia and few New Zealanders heading across the Tasman, many migrants from other countries may continue to struggle to find the skilled jobs they need to secure their residence.

When asked how they intend to meet the growing skills shortages employers indicated:

  • 39% increased salaries to attract local applicants
  • 35% trained less qualified candidates
  • 26% brought in contractors; and
  • 23% recruited overseas

It is insightful how few consider migrants as part of the solution but explains why low unemployment does not always lead to securing employment more quickly.

In  greatest demand were tradespeople, forestry, manufacturing, construction, IT and Telecommunications.

What always interests me is how few employers seek to recruit migrants as part of their mix but chase an every decreasing pool of local applicants.

I appreciate that employers prefer migrants to be in New Zealand, preferably with work visas (which you cannot get without the job), fluency in English, culturally compatible, a personality they identify with and obviously some demand for their skills set.

Only 51% of employers survey4ed believed that the staff they have possess all of the skills they need to adequately carry out their jobs.

Looking on the bright side, although the bias toward local applicants continues we are heartened by the number of employers and recruiters (even!!) who are now more willing than they have been in recent years to entertain migrant applicants.

One might imagine that the Government might begin to increase the numbers of migrants they let in without job offers but it is my view that they will not. Recent experience suggests that as the Government has demanded more skilled migrants find jobs first, they have. This will reinforce the governments view that with a tightening local labour market migrants should (in theory) be able to secure jobs more easily. And the politicians can defend their jobs first for New Zealanders mantra (as they should).

Our message remains one of caution optimism for our clients urging you to carefully research the frequency of jobs that you might be able to fill, accept that you’ll need to be in New Zealand for 2-4 months to secure employment, to persevere, remain positive and accept that you need to apply for many jobs to secure a small number of interviews, an even smaller number of short lists but ultimately it is very rare for our clients not to secure the employment they require to secure their residence visas.

Until next week

Iain MacLeod - Southern Man


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