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Immigration Blog


Posts in category: New Zealand Employment

Immigration Blog

Migrating is more than just filling in forms and submitting paperwork; its a complex process that will test even the most resilient of people. Understanding Australia & New Zealand at a grass-roots level is paramount to your immigration survival, and to give you a realistic view of both countries, its people and how we see the world, as well as updates about any current or imminent policy changes, subscribe to our regular blog posts by entering your details below.

Unemployment Close to Historic Low

Posted by Iain on Nov. 23, 2018, 4:33 p.m. in New Zealand Employment


During last year's election season when there was much talk from the politicians of toughening up on immigration to New Zealand and ‘cutting’ or ‘slashing’ numbers (depending on who was dispensing the hot air) there was one simple reason I suggested it was never going to happen.

Solid economic growth and job creation at almost unprecedented levels demanded no cut, in fact economics very much pointed to demand led increases in skilled migration levels. New Zealand needed every skilled migrant it could get its hands on.

Alas, economics and politics of course are often not comfortable bedfellows.

Fast forward 12 months and job vacancies are up 9.4% over this time last year across virtually every sector in the economy and every region. The economy continues to fire.

The unemployment rate is currently 3.9% which is among the lowest in the developed world.

Walking through Queenstown last week, it seemed every other retailer, restaurant, pub or action/adventure business had a ‘staff wanted’ sign in their window.

What is even more impressive than 3.9% unemployment is that labour market participation rates are at historic highs. By this I mean, we now have around 70% of all those that fall into working age, working. It hasn’t been higher in recent history. This means everyone who wants to work or can, is.

Even in the United States where much is being made of similarly low unemployment rates, labour market participation rates are only in the low 60%s and have been falling in recent years. This tends to suggest in the US there are many people who have given up on finding work and have simply dropped out of the labour market. The opposite is true in New Zealand.

This doesn’t mean that as a potential immigrant you can expect the precious job you need to gain residence offer over Skype and the employer will wait six months for your arrival.

The no visa/no job but no job no visa ‘chicken and egg ‘situation is still very real. I have noticed this year however that more and more employers appear willing to interview via Skype and to offer positions when they cannot fill them locally, which is increasing. Depressing numbers still won’t engage the migration process, however.

In particular I am seeing more willingness to engage with people not in the country in regards artisans/tradesmen and in particular electricians and mechanics but we are also seeing a lot of construction and engineering related occupations as well - quantity surveyors, construction project managers, carpenters and the like. Teachers continue to be in hot demand and I think over the next year short of any international economic shock we will see more occupations being added to this list.

The rest of our clients coming to NZ to find work are overwhelmingly getting them - it is still around 90% within three months of landing and almost everyone within six.

What continues to confound me is the government has not allowed the pass mark for skilled migrants to fall from the current 160 points. This, despite the fact that the government was around 9000 skilled resident visas short in the year ending June 2018 in terms of filling their own target.

What that clearly indicates is a political sensitivity given those that are currently governing are those that squealed loudest during the election process last year on cutting back immigration.

If they were to now even be seen to allowing more people to enter the country, when all they might do is fill their own quotas/targets, I have no doubt the media would tear them to shreds. If there is one thing the media does not like it is hypocritical politicians.

Overall however, the fact that net migration is falling, any objective assessment makes it clear the government would now be justified in easing that skilled migrant pass mark which would allow more people to qualify for the Job-search Work Visa without needing a job offer first. Right now only a tiny fraction of all skilled migrants can attain 160 points without the offer of skilled employment.

Net migration is falling because of the way a migrant is defined.

A migrant is not somebody coming to New Zealand to settle permanently with a Resident Visa, but rather someone who intends remaining in the country for at least 12 months.

You can therefore add virtually all international students and most work Visa holders to the list of those defined as being ‘immigrants’. Of course, to you and me someone on a temporary visa with no right to remain long-term is not likely to be viewed as an immigrant. Such is the world of statistics that they are. As the government has very successfully pulled the rug out from under the feet of tens of thousands of international students who were promised a pathway to residence of New Zealand if they spent lots of money to complete the first step of the residence journey, they are now leaving in their droves after not being able to secure appropriately skilled employment to get to 160 points. While that is very bad news for them it does give the government room to manoeuvre politically to open things up for the more highly skilled and experienced (our clients).

I cannot however see the government moving away from the current model whereby securing skilled employment will still be the guarantee of a resident Visa. As hard as that makes it on applicants I continue to support that approach as it means New Zealand is only granting residence to those who have demonstrated an ability to break into the labour market.

I often describe the process as being quite Darwinian insofar as the skilled migrant process is all about the survival of the fittest/most employable.

The migration landscape is changing once again and now that the hot air of the election has dissipated and the people that voted for those parties promising migration cuts can see that we don’t have the skills to fill the vacancies being created I can but hope the Government does the right thing and eases the entry points.

I am not however holding my breath.


Until next week

Tags: family visa

Too Many Jobs, Not Enough Workers

Posted by Iain on Nov. 3, 2017, 2:19 p.m. in New Zealand Employment

The latest employment numbers were released this week for New Zealand and they show that overall unemployment has fallen to 4.6% which is the lowest level in five years. This puts us well ahead of Australia, for example, by a full percentage point.

At the same time, statistics show that we now have the highest percentage of people of working age (18 to 65) in employment we have ever had. At over 70% it shows people of all ages getting jobs.

Economists are in general agreement that once unemployment hits 5% we effectively have full employment as the remaining people are largely unemployable or for whatever reason cannot get (be made to) to the places of this employment. You can create all the jobs you wish beyond 5% but at unemployment levels like we currently have employers must increasingly be prepared to recruit from offshore or scaling back their employment and growth plans. 

We are seeing more evidence of employers willing to engage those that are not in the country but the significant majority of our clients still need to be here to secure their skilled jobs for their resident visa applications. And still wrestle with this bizarre no job no work visa and no work visa no job conundrum. Why no Government is prepared to revisit this stupidity at a time of record low unemployment is beyond me.

We are meeting over the next two weeks with all the staff of NZ’s largest IT recruitment company, some of whom still demand that applicants have work visas before they will be recommended for interview. With an ever decreasing pool of local candidates their management, at least, have finally realised the importance of adding non-residents and non-work visa holders into the mix of candidates or a few of these recruiters will be looking for new day jobs. 

At a time of record job growth one wonders why the current Government campaigned on ‘cutting’ numbers of migrants. As I have repeatedly argued, it was politics over economics and they aren’t cutting skilled migrant residence numbers at all. They never had any intention of doing so, they just exploited the ignorant and uninformed who think we are giving more and more people the right to live here forever...which as I recently wrote about, we are not.

In the past year over 70,000 fulltime skilled jobs have been created and Kiwis can only fill a proportion of those and it seems more and more employers will be forced, kicking and screaming if needs be, to work with companies like us and clients like you. Or they are going to miss out.

The Government believes we will create another 150,000 in the next three years. 

Politically the Government has backed itself into a corner. Having promised to cut numbers, primarily via fewer international students and blocking lower skill level short term work visas they are about to confront an unfortunate reality.

On the one hand there were only 27,000 first time student visas issued over the past 12 months or so and that number has been falling since the previous government raised the bar last year on who gets student visas and the graduate work visas that followed. If the new lot are going to cut 20,000-30,000 visas and achieve this largely via curtailing the numbers of international students that pretty much signals the end of a $3 billion dollar a year industry and puts at risk 35,000 local jobs. 

At the same time the changes made by the previous Government to only allow the lower skilled access to 12 month work visas and no rights to bring their family with them, saw the agriculture, horticulture, viticulture, hospitality and tourism operators throw up their hands in horror. Who they asked is going to trim the grape vines, pick the kiwifruit, milk the cows, serve that latte or change the beds in all those five star hotels, because kiwis either won’t do this sort of work or there aren’t enough who can?

Interesting decisions lie ahead. Politics and economics are not always compatible bed fellows. The one saving grace for the government is that the Australian economy is showing some signs of improvement and if their labour market strengthens it will inevitably see the flow of people in our direction slow, or even reverse. That could take the pressure off ‘migrant’ numbers and the government will be able to take credit for…well, nothing….but they’ll no doubt claim it anyway.

Until next week...

Southern Man

Iain MacLeod

Variable Hours Employment Contracts

Posted by Iain on Sept. 15, 2017, 4:34 p.m. in New Zealand Employment

As always happens when any new immigration criteria are released, we find that they can often be interpreted in more than one way leading to both inconsistent outcomes (through immigration officers interpreting the same words in different ways) and unintended consequences.

Unfortunately INZ does not feel bound by the legal concept of ‘precedent’ where once an interpretation of a rule is established by, say the Appeal Authority (made up of lawyers, independent of the Department of Immigration), it must be followed by all from that day forth. 

In our long experience this gives immigration officers free license to make a decision even if it is at odds with other very similar cases previously processed by the officer sitting at the workstation next to them. It is a wonderful tool ('cop out' is a better description) for allowing inconsistent decision making when you are a civil servant. It can be infuriating as officers will often defend this approach of not treating ‘like’ cases the same by stating that a visa application needs to be assessed ‘on its merits’ as if there is no rule book and no precedent. 

Let me tell you that if you ever try to ague an application should be approved that doesn’t quite meet the officer’s interpretation of a particular rule and quote similar cases that resulted in different (positive) outcomes and you suggest it should be a matter of ‘each case on its merits’ they will, without any apparent appreciation of the irony, tell you they are bound by the rule book.

Basically they have it any which way they please and given the bizarre situation that exists inside INZ whereby no warranted immigration officer can order another what to do in terms of making a decision on a visa then who processes your application is often more important than the rule book – and that officer’s personal interpretation of a rule. I am not making that up – the Manager of a visa officer for example cannot tell them what decision to make on a visa application. Can you imagine being in a situation at work where the Manager has to say to a staff member ‘I’d do it this way myself and I think you are making a mistake, but you do what feels right to you based on your interpretation of the situation’. If nothing else your employer would likely be broke.

The latest example, upon which we are seeking an ironclad answer from INZ, is how immigration officers are going to treat the question of establishing what the hourly rate is for skilled migrant applicants who have secured a job offer and who are not paid by the hour but by annual salary (being the majority).

In the changes that came into force last week a job offer is only skilled if it pays at least $23.49 per hour – so everything eventually comes back to that number.  

At 40 hours per week and $23.49 per hour for 52 weeks a quick calculation probably suggests to you that if a migrant is expected to earn an annual minimum salary of $48,859.20 they are home free and can bank on 50 points. 

Not so fast! It could never be that straight forward.

If an employment agreement is entered into between migrant and employer which states the applicant will be employed for 40 hours per week only/maximum then the math is pretty simple. Take the annual gross salary and divide it by 52 weeks and divide that by 40 hours and you get the per dollar rate. If it is $23.49 or higher everything is good with the ‘points’ world.

What say, however, the employment contract says that ‘normal hours of work will be 40 but in some weeks a maximum of 45 will be worked’? 

Or even more commonly, ‘normal hours of work will be 40 per week but the employee is expected to work whatever additional hours of work that might reasonably be required from time to time’?

If the employment agreement states that ‘normal hours of work will be 40 per week but in some weeks up to 45 hours, the maths is still pretty easy – divide the salary by 52 and divide that number by 45. If the answer is $23.49 or more then the position offered meets the minimum income threshold. In my professional opinion.

What say the contract does not state any upper maximum of hours worked however – say, 40 hours per week plus whatever hours might, from time to time, be required?

There is no answer in the rule book and this will affect virtually all those in salaried positions because this is how the majority of employment agreements are written. These contracts have minimum hours of work but seldom if ever any maximum.

The immigration ‘rule book’ does state:

“If the employment agreement specifies payment other than by hour (including payment by salary) and the hours of work are variable, an immigration officer may request evidence of the range of hours to be worked to determine whether the variance in the hours worked would result in the per hour rate of pay being below the applicable remuneration threshold.” (italics mine)

Think about that for a few seconds. What will INZ do with a contract that is not for a set number of hours?

Will they demand a letter from the employer saying that it is not expected that the hours worked will ever be more than X’ - yet by implication could be? If that is what the employer produces, will the officer accept that ‘X’ is the maximum and then do the maths to establish an hourly rate?

Will INZ accept a letter from the employer that says ‘the average hours of work each week will be 45’? If that is what the employer produces, will the officer accept that ‘45’ hours worked and then do the maths to get to an hourly rate? An average of 45 hours means in some weeks the migrant may work more than that...

Depending on exactly what INZ expects by way of proof to establish the hourly rate, this new rule may lead to employers either having to build into the employment contract a maximum number of hours that might need to be worked in a variable hour contract (with implication it could cause the hourly rate to fall below $23.49) or be ready with a very carefully crafted letter (with mathematics) which makes a water tight argument that whatever hours and whatever salary the employee could work ends up, when calculated hourly to be at least $23.49.

A classic case of what seems to be a simple change in a criteria with the potential to blow apart many skilled migrant points claims.

Until next week...

Iain MacLeod

Southern Man

Letters from New Zealand

(Un)employment in New Zealand

Posted by danni on Feb. 12, 2016, 3:23 p.m. in New Zealand Employment

One thing that struck me as a migrant back in 2010 was the moment Iain (better known around these parts as the Southern Man…) told us during our initial assessment that it’s not a matter of if you find a job, but rather a matter of when you find a job in New Zealand. Based on historical unemployment data for New Zealand (and indeed our own experiences in the country) it is impossible to disagree with him; even as a sceptical South African and even though I came from a country with an average unemployment rate of around 25 percent.

Now having worked with IMMagine for some time, I can clearly see that the trend is that within 8-12 weeks of arriving in New Zealand (all things being equal i.e. you are qualified, well-spoken, experienced, eager, open, willing, available and in an area of skills shortage and so on), you will have found employment. It’s fairly telling of the economy of a country (and certainly the quality of our clients) that we are, with such confidence, able to put a timeframe on your likelihood of being employed as a new migrant within 3 months. It’s not just a theory – every migrant I know in New Zealand found work within an even shorter period of time. But there's more to it than simple job availability.

New Zealand’s MBIE (Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment) produces an annual publication called the Occupation Outlook which focuses on & evaluates job prospects in 60 key occupations within New Zealand. The report provides and brings together a range of relevant data on education, employment & unemployment forecasts and earning potential. This year’s edition suggests strong work prospects in construction, infrastructure and IT services in occupations such as but not limited to engineers, construction managers, ICT business & system analysts & quantity surveyors. (The largest rise in employment was within Auckland’s construction industry.)

As a result and according to this New Zealand Herald article discussing the report, Immigration NZ is “encouraging skilled people to come and work in the construction and infrastructure industry and the IT industry.” (We might need to hold them to that...)

According to the Occupation Outlook, occupations that present more of a challenge in terms of finding full time employment or earning potential are generally more specialised or require significantly more input in terms of education beforehand. This list includes occupations such as pilots, firefighters, air traffic controllers and film/theatre crew such as actors and directors.

Statistics New Zealand recently showed that we’ve hit our lowest rate of unemployment since March of 2009 and combined with the Occupation Outlook, a very clear picture of employment in New Zealand begins to emerge. In the fourth quarter of 2015, the New Zealand unemployment rate fell to 5.3 percent from 6.0 percent in the previous period which was well below the market forecast of 6.1 percent.

The number of unemployed went down by 10.9 percent while employment increased by 0.9 percent which means that there were 16,000 fewer people unemployed than in September 2015.

To give you some perspective, here’s an overview of a range of 10 countries’ most recent unemployment rates:

Qatar: 0.4%

Hong Kong: 3.3%

Switzerland: 3.5%

Japan: 3.6%

Iceland: 4.3%

New Zealand: 5.3%

Poland: 7.0%

Botswana: 17.5%

South Africa: 24.3%

Syria: 40%

Interestingly, the New Zealand unemployment rate for Pacific peoples dropped as well from 11.4 percent to 9.7 percent, the lowest rate since 2008, however, the employment rate for Maori fell 1.4 percent and labour force participation rate fell 2.8 percent, meaning that the number of Maori in the labour force has not kept up with growth of the working-age population.

This type of information is made readily available online and could definitely assist a potential migrant in giving a better, more comprehensive idea of employment, unemployment and our hot and changing industries. It’s clear to see just from this article that statistically, finding work in New Zealand should not be a problem. We have the jobs, we encourage and assist the right people to move here…so why, for a few migrants, is it more difficult?

Time and time again we’ve consulted with our clients on finding work in New Zealand and we say that so much of this process boils down to your attitude and willingness to assimilate and make the right impression. Not only that, but the groundwork involved on both of our parts to manage expectations is one of the most challenging parts of migration.

You can visit this link for a more detailed analysis – keep in mind though when looking into the option of migration that while statistics are useful, after stripping it all away, often missed is the grassroots, on-the-ground perspective which IMMagine is very good at understanding and providing.

-Danielle Balsaras on behalf of The Southern Man

Melting Pot

Posted by Paul on June 5, 2015, 5:01 p.m. in New Zealand Employment

The Southern Man is travelling through South Africa at present dealing with the masses looking to make the move to our (currently rather soggy) part of the world. It therefore falls upon me to take his place for this week’s blog post.

A client of mine mentioned something in passing to me today which has prompted this post and a whole lot of thinking about the labour market and working environments in New Zealand from the perspective of a migrant.

After all for the vast majority of ‘new’ New Zealanders, securing a job offer, whether before or after the Visa process is a pretty important step and whilst getting the job is one challenge, adapting to a different working environment with all its various idiosyncrasies is another.

This client had heard on the migrant grapevine that there was an element of workplace “bullying” that went on here in regards to how migrants are treated by their “New Zealand” colleagues. That made me think, not only about whether the statement was possibly true but, if it was true, how could it be when the bulk of New Zealand work places are similar to a miniature United Nations Forum. 

Whilst we here tend to focus quite heavily on how our clients can secure jobs and the various tools they need to employ to break in to the labour market, the ‘what happens after they get a job’ part of the equation is something I must admit, I haven’t thought of in great detail.

So think of it, I shall.

A good place to start would be this very business, which is what I would call typical of the small to medium sized enterprise operating in New Zealand; which incidentally forms the bulk of our economy – small to medium sized business.

Surrounding me are three South Africans (all of which have moved to New Zealand at varying times in recent history), a gentleman from the Philippines who was up until two years ago residing in Singapore. We have me, although born in New Zealand of Dutch descent and then the remainder hailing from New Zealand (although ultimately their lineage would stretch back to other countries).

In previous companies that I have worked for there have been British, Indian, Chinese, Japanese, Argentinian and a whole host of other nationalities lumped in together, stirred around and coexisting in a cultural melting pot quite happily. 

All of these different cultures, backgrounds and value add to a mix that, I believe, makes New Zealand a more productive place to work and for the new entrant (read migrant) potentially far more welcoming than other countries.  This is reinforced by New Zealand’s strong migrant history, having imported large sections of our workforce over time to support a) a growing economy and b) a slowing birth rate. 

I don’t dismiss the fact that there could be people out there that see migrants as a threat, principally because of the values they bring to the work place and the different levels of work ethic that they carry with them. Migrants on the whole have either suffered more to get here and thus value the opportunities they secure or simply want to contribute to this place that they now call home. 

Historical statistics reinforce that (yes we have and do track these things). In a long running study conducted over several years, 93% of migrants indicated they were quite happy with their decision to migrate here (we can’t please everyone I guess) with 60% of people confirming that the friendly and open nature of the people here contributed to that satisfaction. Other leading factors included being able to achieve their desired lifestyle and the fact we are so clean and green.

These statistics although slightly dated now (from 2010) come from a long running migrant survey conducted by Immigration New Zealand and Statistics New Zealand to monitor the outcomes of both the migration programme and the benefits that those migrants bring.

Whilst there may be isolated incidents of work place bullying, I wouldn’t go so far as to suggest this is an “us” versus “them” thing and I would prefer to see it as a case of one or maybe two bad apples that should be squashed and turned into juice. 

You would be hard pressed in a country like this to find a work place made up of just one nationality; it’s just not possible. We import a large portion of our skills and logically that creates both a diverse and rich labour market but also a much more tolerant working environment. The same applies to schools, hospitals, the Public Service and so on and so forth. We are just one big melting pot of cultures for the most part getting along quite nicely.

There are differences in the way working environments operate here, for example, the emphasis is on productivity but not the “whoever stays the longest is the most productive” type, but more the “how can we do more in less time” type. There is a focus on work-life balance. We are a more modest bunch, meaning the grizzly bear tactics that you might have to employ in other countries to get things done, don’t always work here. These adjustments, however, have less to do with whether or not you are going to singled out as a migrant by others but more to do with how we are as a people.

So to those of you heading this way to find work, I wouldn’t put much stock in comments relating to work place bullying, in fact I would encourage you to think in the opposite direction. You will have to adjust to various ways of doing things, and the peculiarities we have here in NZ, the pace may be a little slower, you may have to get used to different cultural attitudes (or the variety of them) but you can pretty much guarantee that you won’t be the only new kid (migrant) on the block either.

As for the writer, I enjoy the variety different cultures bring and it reminds me daily that the world is getting smaller and smaller. I don’t have to travel far to understand the different cultures sitting right next to me.

Enjoy the weekend, it is almost upon us (for some a little further away) and until next week, when the Southern Man returns.

Paul Janssen

New Zealand being used and abused?

Posted by Iain on May 8, 2015, 7:07 p.m. in New Zealand Employment

In New Zealand a small but vocal anti-immigration voice exists. The one party that supports less immigration, NZ First, traditionally polls around 5% in national elections but in the last one it got over 7%. On the one hand it looks tiny and you might reasonably conclude that around 93% of the population don’t see immigration as a die in the ditch election issue and vote for someone else on the really important, or at least more critical, issues.

This morning an article appeared in the New Zealand Herald which fuels this anti-migrant feeling but which when you ‘drill down’ might actually reveal something is going wrong with our immigration programme.

In quoting a recent report it suggested, provocatively I thought, that Chinese (as in People’s Republic) migrants tend to be quite transient and use New Zealand, get whatever they can out of it and as soon as they can secure a passport move somewhere else.

Apparently they either decide not to return or they want to come back and retire – nice place, nice people but a bit too quiet – certainly a nice place to park off during the golden years enjoying the public health system they barely contributed to, before slipping off this mortal coil – all at our expense.

It intimated we were being taken for a ride and our most racist politician suggested our immigration policies were both naive and being abused.

I have neither read the report nor place any stock in anything published in the NZ Herald.

I don’t however dismiss the reported survey findings, just the reasons.

I am sure there are a percentage of immigrants to any country, NZ included, where for all sorts of reasons things don’t work out.

Predicting outcomes for migrants is not an exact science. Settlement outcomes are complicated and many factors come into play that determine if someone is here for a long time because they feel safe, happy and fulfilled or they move on once they have secured that precious NZ passport (5 years after being granted a resident visa – so it is a long stay in purgatory if that’s what NZ is) or because it just turned out to be too hard. What makes one migrant successful and happy might not work for another.

What I do know is settlement outcomes go way beyond what skills are in demand. Or having family living here.

I have often spoken of the importance of English language and how critical that is in terms of assimilation at this point in New Zealand's history through finding employment and not becoming linguistically ‘ghettoised’.

I know that being culturally compatible is also important i.e. the less like me you are the more reliant you are on a possibly small ‘ethnic’ community to source employment through and to satisfy those non-financial human needs.

In my experience of all the settlement drivers English is the most important. And when I say English I mean fluent English. I mean sitting and having coffee with me and me have no trouble understanding you and you having no trouble understanding my mumbling, talk too quckly and garbled ‘Nu Zullin’ English.

Although for all skilled migrants there is a relatively high level of English demanded to secure a resident visa I am not sure how consistent INZ is with regards to ensuring applicants have a high degree of fluency to be approved. In doing so they are potentially misleading applicants who figure they are going to find meaningful employment and a contented life when they get here - when many are in fact destined for disappointment.

There is an element of chicken and egg to the whole English language need.

Given there are entire suburbs of Auckland, mine included, in which if you are a Chinese speaking migrant, or partner of a skilled migrant you can live and play happily without speaking English and relying on speaking Chinese all day. There are suburbs in Auckland where you could replace ’Chinese’ with Hindi and where Hindi would be all you need to speak.

On the one hand that growing number of Chinese/Hindi speaking people, businesses, temples, supermarkets and social groups enable migrants to survive if not thrive but the more people in that linguistic grouping the less important English becomes.

So on the other hand therefore perhaps it also hinders settlement outcomes because there isn’t sufficient critical mass of ‘like’ people  to allow them to use their specialised skills, so they take jobs that are at a lower level, they become disillusioned, they hang in there, they ‘do’ their five years, get the passport and head off to a city where they have a better chance, even with their limited English, because many countries have many more bigger  cities with far greater numbers within their linguistic group.

So New Zealand in many ways has a choice to make.

Let in more people with more modest English so that a critical mass is reached whereby migrant skills can find a home even if the migrants own English is not good enough for ‘mainstream’ employment. Let second languages become entrenched. Encourage them even. The wold is getting smaller, trade is opening up, we are exporters and so living in a multi lingual society is surely only a good thing?

Or we decide we are going to be largely mono-linguistic and ratchet up the level of English required to get in here and be honest about it. You want to live and thrive here, you simply must have a far greater level of English – for your own sake.

I’d prefer the former but the reality is between the offshore Immigration Agents, Immigration New Zealand not being honest in their expos or their online offerings, the ‘export Education Industry’ peddling degrees and diploma courses offshore to largely non fluent English speakers and other groups not being honest about the realities of assimilation and what drives good outcomes, I am afraid that there will continue to be some migrants disappointed, and moving on.

That obviously helps no one. Not them most importantly but not NZ either.

Migrants need to do their own research about how life really is here, not how they might wish it to be. Equally the Government and private sector along with the ethnic groups themselves all have a role to play in painting a realistic picture of life and opportunity here.


Until next week

Iain MacLeod

Southern Man

My Kingdom For a Job...

Posted by Paul on June 28, 2014, 12:35 a.m. in New Zealand Employment

This week’s Southern Man comes to you a little late (apologies). The Southern Man himself is in Europe; we had two of the team in Singapore earlier this week and now one in Malaysia (me). All the while the rest of the faithful crew were busily working away in Auckland, fighting the good fight on behalf of our clients. A truly global effort!

This week’s topic is one often visited in our blog and almost always discussed with our clients both at the initial consultation we have with them and then throughout much of the journey. In fact I have just had this conversation over 40 times in the last week, speaking to hopeful migrants in Singapore and I am about to do it 30 or 40 more times in Malaysia.

So a good time to perhaps share it with the rest of you.

Whether you need the job offer to qualify or have enough points to secure Residence without one, at some point, you will become a member of the ‘job search’ club. You will be standing at the bottom of what looks like an insurmountable wall, wondering how on earth to scale it; but scale it you must and scale it, the well prepared will.

Having worked in recruitment for a short stint, I can speak with some authority on the subject and having helped many a migrant to tackle the task there are few tips I can share. These aren’t ‘magic potions’ or ‘simple fixes’, these are strategies, tools and hints that in almost all cases require a considerable amount of effort to implement.

Firstly, forget any idea of this being easy, it isn’t. Yes there are a few lucky souls that manage to secure work relatively quickly and without too much effort, but for the majority it’s a hard slog. It requires patience, persistence and perseverance, the same you might expect to find in a long distance marathon runner. 

The people that succeed understand this. They prepare for the challenge and gear up suitably. Understanding that the road ahead is a difficult one is half the battle won. I have seen many would be migrants arrive with delusions of grandeur, expecting jobs to be raining from the sky – they aren’t. We prepare people for what will be a fairly gruelling task and coping with the mental battle goes a long way to winning the war.

Secondly, you can dismiss any hopes of securing jobs from your home country, unless you are uniquely skilled and qualified and in an occupation in critical demand (don’t be fooled by INZ’s ‘Skills Shortages List’). Almost all clients secure jobs by being in New Zealand. We are possibly a bit unique in that sense. New Zealand employers like to meet people face to face and securing a job offer is as much about your personality profile and attitude as it is your skills. This is why you need to be in New Zealand. It displays a level of commitment and readiness that you simply can’t achieve sitting in your home country.

A lot of New Zealand employers don’t really know what they need until they really need it, or in many cases until it's too late. This is why most of them won’t entertain offshore applications, because they have no idea of when you might be ready to start, and they wanted you yesterday.

Thirdly, use recruiters but don’t rely on them. I know this for a fact. A lot of recruiters overlook good quality migrants, because to them, a migrant is in the too hard basket. They present a delay in achieving their commission and as such get filed under ‘R’ for ‘Recycling’. The good ones, do deal with migrants and see the skills and expertise rather than the quick commission cheque, but they aren't in ready supply. So don’t expect all recruiters to be able to solve your job search woes.

Going directly to employers is the key, alongside direct networking, Linkedin, Facebook and industry events. Get out there and make yourself visible. Talk to people in the business, make phone calls (yes cold calls) and get your details spread far and wide. Don’t just sit in your hotel/motel room, friend’s house or Starbucks on free WiFi sending your CV via online portals. It won’t work. Yes online search engines such as and are useful and a good way to find jobs and employers but if you are sitting in NZ sending your CV out, you might as well be anywhere else in the world (refer to previous paragraph).

Finally, there are a few rules around ‘selling yourself’ that you need to bear in mind, after all this is essentially the key to it all – marketing yourself effectively to employers.

Some do’s:

  • Keep your CV simple, effective and relevant.
  • Tailor your CV and cover letter to the role you are applying for.
  • Build your LinkedIn profile and use this to network with people in the industry, but don’t ‘over connect’.
  • Research the companies you are applying to, find out who they are, what they do and their core business values and goals (you can usually find this all on their website).
  • Prepare yourself for the call/walk in, show you are serious and have done the research.
  • Be presentable, you can never ‘dress up’ at an interview if you are too casual; but you can dress down if your interviewers aren’t dressed as formally (remove the tie, jacket etc).

Some don’ts:

  • Don’t add a photo to your CV. Even if you fancy yourself as a GQ/Vogue model, leave it out.
  • Don’t overdo the task list in your CV’s. Keep it relatively short and focussed. Add in key achievements to show you not only can do the job but can do it well.
  • Don’t add in qualifications that you haven’t finished. This is a particularly strange trait for many countries. If you didn’t complete a degree, you don’t have a degree.
  • Don’t be over confident. Employers like confidence but not arrogance. Remember to talk about your skills and how you can accomplish the tasks required. You don’t have to talk about whether you met the queen or toured with Led Zeppelin.
  • Don’t put anything on your CV that you can’t explain. Nothing goes against you more than not being able to recall details from your CV accurately and clearly.

There are many other tips and tools that we utilise in the job search process but ultimately it comes down to hard work, patience and knocking on as many doors as you can. We can also guide you to 'career coaches' who are experts in this field and can give you a lot more guidance. For those that approach this process with a strategy in mind and a clear goal, they are overwhelmingly successful.

For anyone out there doing this, good luck and for those of you out there contemplating doing this, hopefully the above gives you a little bit of guidance along the way.

Until next week 

Paul Janssen – standing in for the Southern Man.

What skills shortages?

Posted by Iain on May 30, 2014, 3:24 p.m. in New Zealand Employment

Another ‘desperate skills shortage’ article appeared in the local press this week. It made me grumpy. According to the article:

‘New Zealand ranks seventh among the top 10 countries that are having problems finding highly skilled staff, thanks largely to the Christchurch rebuild and construction and infrastructure developments in Auckland, a survey shows.

The Manpower Group talent shortage survey 2014 shows an increasing skills shortage in New Zealand, with 59 per cent of local employers saying they're struggling to fill jobs.

The figure is up from 48 per cent in 2012 and 51 per cent last year.’

This provided further evidence, if any was needed, that migrants are often not being considered for roles and remain second in the queue to locals (if there is a queue) because there is no shortage of highly educated, skilled and fluent English speakers overseas who would come to New Zealand if employers stopped demanding they have work visas or resident visas first. In fact there is no shortage of serious, highly skilled, fluent English speakers available in New Zealand at any given point in time available to fill these roles. They are commonly rejected without even an interview.

As long as employers and recruiters (the major culprits) reject applicants who:

1. Have no work visa (when you cannot get a work visa without the job);

2. Have no resident visa (most people cannot get residence without the job); or

3. No New Zealand work experience (the ultimate in banal and lame excuses)

then the percentage that report they cannot fill vacancies will only grow as the New Zealand economy continues to expand. It will impact on growth and it will impact on productivity.

Immagine could supply them, at no cost (as our clients pay us) with a banquet of candidates already filtered for work visa eligibility, available (because they are in NZ), qualified, experienced and fluent in English. Given I don’t think we have ever had a work visa declined and we can get 90% of our clients working inside of four weeks of their being offered the job (the same notice period any local candidates would have to work) this situation continues to push me to the brink of insanity . That so many local employers refuse to employ migrants means many will miss out on incredibly talented and committed employees. 

I was sitting on a flight to Singapore a couple of weeks ago and got chatting to the guy beside me. He was a local NZ employer of 42 staff running a business importing/wholesaling electrical parts. Fairly successfully I suspect because he was off to the Maldives for two weeks R and R with his wife and he was sitting at the pointy end of the plane. He told me his biggest problem these days was finding skilled staff. I asked him what he was short of – his biggest issue was electrical engineers. I told him what I did and then asked him if he employs migrants. He said not if he can help it which extends to not filling vacancies at all – better empty it seems. He explained when asked quite openly that his biggest issue with migrants is whether they will fit into the culture of his business. And therein lies the rub.  

The less like me you look, the less like me you sound when you open your mouth, the less like me you are culturally, the less likely you are to get employment.

Employers often cut off their nose to spite their face when it comes to migrant applicants. If you have a critical vacancy and the ‘only’ reasonable applicant is a migrant, then what have you got to lose as an employer? Choose well from the migrant candidates – those with fluent English, good qualifications, who have crossed international labour market boundaries and who are here (proving they are both serious and available) I fail to see how the risks are too great. I have employed a few down the years.

I’ll provide you another example of how the local labour market works and this time it illustrates the way Recruiters think.

My client came to New Zealand 7 months ago. She was looking for work as a Technical Writer and needed a job to get the work visa and resident via. She applied for a position advertised online by a recruiter. She didn’t get to first base – an interview – because ‘she didn’t have a work visa’. Same client a few months later was emailed by someone she had met suggesting she talk to an employer about this sort of role who was looking. My client realised it was the same role she had been rejected for several months ago. She called the employer direct. She was interviewed, made a short list of three and was earlier this week offered the role. With that we will get her the work visa and the resident visa.

Interestingly the employer was also a migrant.

So not only did the Recruiter fail to do her job properly in failing to refer a top quality candidate by excluding my client, in the end she lost out on her 15% commission because the client got the job directly with the employer (which fills my heart with joy).

Migrants are always second in the queue behind locals. This is not unique to New Zealand but common to all labour markets. Perceptions of cultural fit, linguistic comparability, ‘hassle’ with dealing with the Immigration Department and self-interested recruiters who are often not interested in the best candidates but the most expedient.

Migrants on the other hand need to accept that just because they work overseas in a field or occupation that is in apparent demand in New Zealand guarantees them little. Those that:

1. Are in New Zealand will always be taken more seriously than those that are not;

2. Are able to remain long enough to secure employment will most likely succeed – and long enough usually means 3-4 months  – so capital comes into it as well;

3. Are culturally a good fit – and this is defined in many different ways but experience tells me those that have left their home country once already and settled in another tend to have a higher success rate (I think because they ‘get’ the process better and are mentally and financially better prepared for it);

4. Have a good personality – do not under estimate how important being ‘likeable’ is when it comes to getting jobs;

5. Network with local groups and organisations increase their chances – something like 40% of all migrants to NZ get jobs that are never advertised – so friends, family, networking etc can be important.

And I could add those that have a bit of good luck.

I caution everyone about getting excited about anything they read on the Immigration Department’s website and this extends to their so called ‘Long Term Skills Shortage List’ which misleads through implying those skills are in acute and ongoing demand. Well, maybe they are and maybe they aren’t. Just because some immigration bureaucrat says we are short of Civil Engineers doesn’t mean we are if you are from The Democratic Republic of the Congo or Russia.

Ultimately before anyone begins climbing this visa ‘mountain’ they must understand all these issues and then research the availability of the jobs they are looking for if residence is the ultimate goal.

I am sure New Zealand has acute and ongoing skills shortages in many areas including those quoted by the New Zealand Herald - engineers, skilled trades , IT, accounting and finance along with management and executive positions as the fourth most in demand.

But as, according to this survey,  only one in three employers is seriously willing to look offshore i.e. at migrants who might be right under their noses, then most vacancies will continue to go unfilled. There are not many (if indeed there are any) unemployed Engineers, IT, tradesmen, Managers or Accountants in New Zealand.

So skills shortages are real but often only apply if you are a New Zealander.

Employers who refuse to interview migrants or engage the visa process (easy if we are managing it) are going to suffer as a result with unfilled vacancies.

They should stop moaning about skills shortages and start thinking global.

Until next week

Iain MacLeod

Southern Man

Don't let a few facts get in the way

Posted by Iain on Feb. 14, 2014, 9:15 p.m. in New Zealand Employment

What interests me about writing this blog is how the topic of migration and immigration can set off the malcontents.

I find there are two types. That minority that live in New Zealand who have an opinion that migration is a bad thing and those would be Kiwis who have perhaps attended one of our seminars, possibly even had a consultation with us,  proceeded to attempt climbing the immigration mountain alone and on the cheap who have failed. Yes, it is true some simply can’t afford us but as we say if you cannot afford professional advice and assistance you should think hard before you attempt the move at all given our fees usually represent about 20-25% of the total real cost of relocating a family of four to New Zealand.

Both groups really bug me with their whining.

The first lot are oh so quick to spout their uninformed and ignorant garbage with few if any facts to back up their position – such as ‘skilled migrants steal jobs from skilled New Zealanders’. Just try telling that to one of my clients I was having coffee with this morning who is in New Zealand now looking for work in the Construction sector as a Project Manager! He has been told in a number of interviews (always by recruiters of course) that he needs ‘New Zealand work experience’. He is learning first hand what it means to be second in the queue behind the locals. Competing with locals for jobs? Hell no, hoping he applies for a position where skills shortages are real enough that there are no Kiwis ahead of him in the queue. He’ll get a job but it will take him a few weeks to do so.

Don’t try and tell me he is competing with locals or stealing their jobs.

And then there are those that want to live here and have gone it alone who love to chirp away on this site about how everything my colleagues and I tell people is rubbish – there are no skills shortages, there are no jobs and the jobs there are low paying, demeaning, etc.

I believe in market forces. If what my colleagues and I advised people did not work we would hardly have been able to continue to be in business for 25 years with a success rate better than 99% for our skilled migrant clients.

Our clients succeed overwhelmingly in building new lives for themselves and their families and I will make no apologies for not discouraging those I believe are linguistically compatible, culturally compatible, with appropriate personalities, who work in areas of demand and who can afford the process to take our advice and follow our lead.

Only yesterday I was catching up with a former client who we moved five years ago from South Africa. At first reluctant to take our advice he should be fine and take the plunge  (exchange rates moving against him, needing a job to gain entry, leaving a secure job, no guarantees on outcomes, affirmative action policies if forced to return to South Africa etc etc)  he told me yesterday how happy he now is that he took my very frank, honest and open advice. He was employable, they would enjoy most aspects of their new lives, they wouldn’t end up on the streets and more than that they wouldn’t, if our track record is anything to go by, end up back in South Africa.

We were right and he was still, several years later grateful that he placed his faith in me and my team.

But hey, don’t believe me  - I am a firm believer in immigration – new blood, new skills, new energies, new outlooks, new bridges to other cultures and economies - but I am part of the 'immigration industry', so called, so take some time and read a couple of interesting recent reports published in New Zealand on the impact of migrants on house prices and immigrants on the economy.,%20February%202011.pdf


Perhaps they are just making it up as well.


Until next week


Iain MacLeod

Southern Man – Letter from New Zealand

How do I get a job (when I can't get a work visa)?

Posted by Iain on Feb. 7, 2014, 9:01 p.m. in New Zealand Employment

Back home after three weeks on the road introducing my company, my city, my country and the realities of moving to New Zealand to around 1000 people.

I got out of Jakarta in one piece. Public holiday the day I left and the expected two hour crawl to the airport took 40 minutes. Gave me more time to check out those cool batik shirts in Duty Free. Love ‘em!!

More than 100 families took the opportunity to book individual consultations to meet with me in order to talk to me about their residence eligibility, their employability and what their life might be like if they make the decision to take on the immigration mountain. What was really encouraging was how many looked likely to qualify but usually subject to securing skilled employment in New Zealand first.

The most common question I get asked (after what we charge!) at these consultations is how to get a job when all the online advertisements demand work (or resident) visas or NZ citizenship first, yet you cannot get a work visa without first having the job. A classic catch-22 if ever there was one.

First and foremost it is important to recognise that migrants, in any labour market, will almost always be behind the locals in the job application queue. This tends to be because local employers will always prefer locals for reasons including perceived or real linguistic compatibility (ability to speak the dominant language well – in our case English), cultural compatibility (the more like the dominant culture you are the better you are likely to fit into that work team and environment), if you are a local (with PR or citizenship) no immigration official stands between that employer and the candidate starting work and on a more subtle level, personality.

This tends to result in a bias against migrants and they are almost always second in the queue when it comes to getting jobs unless they are highly specialised, skills shortages are really acute or they are perhaps very senior. Doesn’t mean that jobs cannot be had, it just means most of the time no one is tossing about jobs like confetti.

Every year we help between 100-150 families to move to New Zealand under the skilled Migrant Category. Around 90% require offers of skilled employment. Every year perhaps 3 or 4 don’t secure the jobs they need to get residency. Or put another way about 98% do.

It is clear we are doing something right in who we agree to represent as clients. We seem overwhelmingly able to pick migrant ‘winners’.

There is no easy way to get a job. Some sectors are showing real skills shortages and in particular Construction, IT and Engineering and naturally this makes it easier. These sectors account for about 50% of our client base but the rest are from many different sectors – and virtually everyone gets a job.

Migrants increase their chances of success in a number of ways:

1. prove they are serious about the move which means being prepared to be in New Zealand to show you mean business. Experience shows us that those that are here, usually having resigned their job and who are willing to stay as long as it takes, overwhelmingly secure employment;

2. Hang around – the fly in, stay two weeks and try and get an interview or two brigade, usually fail;

3. Speak fluent or at least very good English;

4. Research their employability before they come over (it should go without saying but certain occupations are in greater demand than others);

5. Appreciate there can be (note, not is) a subtle cultural bias against you which can be balanced somewhat by a face to face discussion with an employer/recruiter.

6. Get coaching on local interview protocols/processes. How you approach the interview can make a real difference – it is a subtle process yet one many people blow because they don’t understand the process (and yes, New Zealanders do have their own way of conducting interviews)

7. Ensure your CV is in a ‘form’ familiar to local employers –for example all you people who love to put photos of yourselves on your CV, unless you might grace the pages of Swimsuit Illustrated, best leave them off. And if you insist on including a photo of yourself, no ‘selfies’……Further, no one cares here what your race is, what your religion is, how many children you have or that you enjoy ‘travel, meeting people, JK Rowling novels or knitting tea cosies…’

8. Don’t rely on recruiters. Recruiters are paid commission and have monthly sales targets to meet. Migrants represent a risk to that next pay and they don’t work for migrants – they are paid by employers. A local is far more likely to be referred for a job as a result….self interest rules with Recruiters and you can hardly blame them.

We are observing the time it is taking clients to secure skilled employment has been falling over the last 18-24 months as the economy expands,  companies expand, advertised vacancies grow, the local labour pool gets shallower and business confidence, investment and hiring intentions grow. We are seeing many clients in the most in demand sectors finding work within 4-5 weeks of arrival and most of the rest getting work within 6-10 weeks. Virtually all, if they were honest with us about their backgrounds, then go on to secure work and resident visas.

No subject brings out the malcontents more in our ‘Comments’ section below than this one. Let’s be clear, every year there are probably several thousand wannabe skilled migrants who apply for jobs (usually online and not in New Zealand), who may have come to NZ, not overly prepared, not overly researched and not ready for the realities of the job search process or who have simply been misled by well intentioned friends or family living in New Zealand or yes, unlicensed or should not be licensed immigration advisers and fail. Even the most highly skilled migrant cannot be guaranteed success but what is clear in the case of our clients is that those that pay for good local advice and support seem to succeed. 

I always offer the analogy that migration is like climbing Mount Everest, logistically, emotionally and financially.  Those that engage professional and experienced advisers (mountain guides) are, it probably should go without saying, successful notwithstanding the challenges that face most migrant job seekers

Until next week

Iain MacLeod - Southern Man

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