It's just a thought...
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Posted by Iain on Aug. 14, 2020, 3:32 p.m. in Coronavirus
I guess it couldn’t last, as much as we all had planned and hoped it would.
After 102 days of no community transmission 30 (and counting) cases of the coronavirus have been identified, all linked to one family. All those positively tested have been moved into mandatory quarantine. That’s new. Clearly the government feels that it only takes one person not following isolation rules to set this virus off again. So anyone that is found to be positive is being bundled off into mandatory quarantine.
Consequently, Auckland is in level 3 lockdown for the next 12 days which basically means everyone must work from home (unless they can’t), restaurants and bars are closed apart from for takeaways, etc. No one can enter orleave Auckland - but that seems all a bit random as well with roadblocks in operation but a system of trust determining whether the police let you in or out.
Although the situation is fast moving the Minister of Health has said there’s no plan to go to full level 4 lockdown as we endured for 51 days earlier in the year. Cold comfort for the thousands of businesses that now cannot trade.
The rest of the country is at level 2 which basically means they must keep away from one another as best they can but get on with life. Luckily I am not in Auckland and where we are things continue to be pretty normal. A visit this morning to the local grocery store, pharmacy and butcher saw no restrictions (and interestingly no one asked me to use my Covid QR Code tracing app on my phone having entered their shop).
Now we will see how well the Government’s systems have been prepared for what many of us increasingly felt was an inevitability. If breakouts had taken place in Vietnam, Hong Kong and Australia when all of those countries had initially brought things under control, why did we think we could keep this thing out of our communities?
Now we will see whether ‘elimination’ rather than ‘suppression’ works and if eliminating the virus when it pops up every few weeks or months might bring the country to its economic knees.
If we go for elimination what will it take? And when the virus pops up again will we be yo-yoing in and out of lockdowns until (and if) there is an effective vaccine?
I have to say it is pretty depressing when so many other countries have said living with the virus is the way to go. If the border could be made 100% secure and the systems were in place to ensure the virus stays at the border I am all in. But this seems to be proof it’s all but impossible.
Clearly and probably predictably the virus seems to have entered the community through some failure of the quarantine or border processes.
Disbelief and incredulity from health professionals are two words being heard across New Zealand the past 24 hours after it was revealed only around one-third of all front line border staff (immigration, customs, biosecurity, airline ground staff, baggage handlers, etc) have ever been tested for the virus. Ever.
It seems hardly believable. A scramble today to get them tested.
We were equally surprised last week when it was revealed that the bus drivers taking people arriving at the airport to isolation hotels were only being tested every three weeks.
I know I sound like a stuck record but if you want a job done properly don’t give it to a bureaucrat. Harsh? Well, when you have a Government that backs the civil servants over the private sector (including for the most part public private partnerships) the responsibility lies with them to do the job properly. The people of this country gave up a hell of a lot for those 102 days of relative freedom and if as seems likely it turns out there was a failure in the Government’s systems they need to be held to account. With an election around a month away, perhaps they will be.
I accept unequivocally that this virus is a slippery customer but this Government, virtually alone among global governments, decided to pursue an elimination and eradication strategy when others sought to suppress it as best as possible and are learning to live with it. Will New Zealand now pay an even higher economic price for it?
I hope the government was right and the sceptics like me are proven wrong.
In terms of how this impacts on visa processing more chaos inside INZ. With Auckland being the centre of all skilled migrant and other residence visa application processing you’d have thought the comms people and senior managers would have had a plan in place to deal with outbreaks in any given city with INZ branches in it.
It took almost two full working days for the first communications to be released from Wellington. It claimed that INZ in Auckland was still at work, yet we had received numerous out of office auto replies from case officers telling us the office was closed. I first raised the ‘what happens now?’ question with the ranking national manager on Wednesday morning given we were already being told that the biggest office in Auckland was closed yet according to the Government at level 3 only those who could work from home, had to. We know from the first lockdown INZ has limited to zero capacity to work remotely as it lacks the IT systems that allow it, so why were we getting messages INZ was closed?
The comms people either don’t know what INZ in Auckland was telling its customers or INZ Auckland wasn’t listening to head office.
INZ did not work through the last lockdown level 3 period.
A shambles as usual.
We can but hope INZ stays at work and keeps dealing with that backlog of cases.
For those of you following recent blogs the Skilled Migrant Category non-priority queue which represents around 90% of all cases sitting in the system, still has the most recent case to be allocated for processing receipted by INZ on 21 December 2018. Despite the claim both priority and non-priority queues are moving this for the most part is a lie. Overwhelmingly it is the priority queue (and the priorities that exist within that priority queue) that continue to take precedence.
However, we continue to get credible reports that small numbers of non-priority cases are being assigned to officers, processed and approved. A $25.50 per hour chef for example who went public on Facebook. INZ refused to answer questions why such a case was given priority for privacy reasons even though the guy put his name to his post. A 27 year old British national had her case allocated and processed when it met none of the priority criteria. I imagine that is quite simply because as she was British she was tagged with a ‘lower risk’ profile. A training case or just one that helped the kpis got to jump the queue while more deserving cases languish because they are perceived as being ‘harder’.
As I have written about recently we have been advised by the ranking national manager that a good number of those allocated that are non-priority are being allocated simply for the sake of expediency - for training (they have a lot of officers who have no idea what they are doing so need less complex cases to cut their teeth on) and for ‘improved efficiency’ (meaning they have kpis to meet).
The consequences of course are that far more deserving and urgent cases are being left in the pile and with every lockdown the risk some of those people losing their job increases.
Finally and no less importantly, 25 September is D-Day for tens of thousands of people in the country on visitor visas. They are now being advised to apply for a new visa (if they believe that they qualify) or to make plans to leave the country. We have at least one client trying to make a plan to return to South Africa if she cannot find a job but she has been told by multiple airlines it is impossible to book flights all the way through. Given getting ‘home’ involves multiple stops and often two or three airlines, it might be possible to book particular legs (which are prone to last minute cancellations and changes) but it is almost impossible to guarantee flights all the way home.
I assume the government will grant such people visa extensions as ‘exceptions’ if they present credible evidence they cannot get home. If they don’t it raises an interesting legal question - if the Government is the reason someone becomes unlawful can the same Government penalise the migrant for being unlawful?
As always more questions than answers.
Until next week
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
Posted by Iain on Nov. 14, 2014, 4:04 p.m. in New Zealand Lifestyle
New Zealand has once again been ranked in the top three most prosperous countries in the world for 2014.
Topping the annual list this year is Norway followed by Switzerland in second place.
For what it is worth Australia came in seventh so a tidy little double for the Immagine Immigration countries of destination……
The least prosperous country this year was the Central African Republic. The United States came in 10th.
The 2014 Legatum Prosperity Index ranks 140 countries on their health and well being and so assesses factors including education, safety and security, health, economy, entrepreneurship, governance, personal freedom and social capital.
New Zealand ranked first for personal freedom, second for social capital and governance, seventh for education, tenth for safety and security, 15th for economy, 18th for entrepreneurship and 20th for health.
Not a bad effort when you are ranking 140 countries.
Translating this into the sort of lives we lead here I can explain it as reflecting our being a capitalist, socialist democracy which in other words means you have to play your part in paying your way pay but if you cannot, as my neighbour we will not leave you behind.
That philosophy runs very deep in the DNA of virtually every New Zealander and probably explains why Australia ranks in the top ten as well given their similar (if not louder) worldview and the Scandinavian countries also rank so high.
In new Zealand this mix of free market capitalism with a dose of redistribution of wealth all happens within bounds that the vast majority of New Zealanders are comfortable with.
There is a constant tension (relaxed and good natured if it needs to be said) between the philosophies of those that want untrammelled free markets and no regulation and those that want more centralised planning and Government involvement in our lives.
When it comes to heath, education and pensions for example we are all firmly in the camp of socialising risk i.e. spreading across all taxpayers, the cost of caring and educating all.
It does solve all problems however.
If you look at youth unemployment statistics in New Zealand they can be very high and 18-24 years olds runs as high as 20% in some parts of New Zealand.
Yet only this week the Tourism sector was bemoaning the fact that they cannot get enough young people into changing beds in hotels, bar work, café waiting and the like – there is a labour shortage. They were calling on the government to allow greater numbers of under 31 year olds here on open holiday working visas (meaning they can do whatever they wish without their employers having to prove they cannot find a local to fill the vacancy). Government responded that there are currently 62,000 young people from all over the world filling these sorts of jobs when the annual target was for only 50,000 to be here.
What this demonstrates is that the alternatives to what is often lower paid work in New Zealand are simply too attractive to many young New Zealanders.
It is hard to fathom how in a country which has strong economic growth, 1600 people a week coming off welfare, over 100,000 jobs created in the past 3 years, strong growth in tourist numbers that there is not a bit more ‘stick’ with regards unemployed young people. At this point in time for example the state agencies that are tasked with assisting young people into work do not say – well you can either go to, say Queenstown or Auckland and find work or you can lose your unemployment payments. They are generally allowed to stay living where they are with no incentive built in to getting off their chuffs and working. We do have cars, trains, buses and planes here I often reflect…
In what was an extraordinary first when the NZ government recently offered up to 1000 long term unemployed a one off payment of NZ$3000 (about US$2500) to go to Christchurch where unemployment hovers around 3% and find a job they filled the places. But seriously? We have to pay people who are being paid to do nothing to get off their backsides move to a city to find work?
It is just as well we are a prosperous first world economy and a nation of very tolerant tax payers. If we weren’t things here could get quite ugly quite quickly for a lot of people, particularly the young, who may well have squandered one of the worlds best education systems but who have a mentality of the world owing them a living.
Overall we get the balance pretty much right as is reflected in this survey and once again reinforces the view of many migrants and locals alike that this really is a very special little country. Possibly the best kept secret in the world.
Speaking of which the final seminars for the year in South Africa are underway and I will be travelling to Hong Kong and Singapore in about ten days. If you know anyone that might wish to attend they can click here for details.
Until next week
Iain MacLeod - Southern Man
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 www.seek.co.nz and www.trademe.co.nz 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.
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.
Posted by Iain on March 14, 2014, 4:10 p.m. in Living
It’s time for my home town, Auckland, to grow up.
Debate has begun raging across the isthmus that is home to the fast growing city of Auckland over whether to grow out or up. The Auckland Council’s proposed Unitary Plan released for discussion several months ago, among other things, plans for rezoning many suburban areas allowing medium density housing and apartments.
Including my own in Mount Eden, a suburb that was settled and built during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Leafy streets and old Victorian villas line these pretty neighbourhoods. And some see their preservation as critical to the character of the city.
I am not sure I agree. Cities change. Cities grow. Who is to say that pressed steel ceilings, bay windows and dark, gloomy often cold in winter and hot in summer Victorian houses represent the peak of urban architecture? Yes they speak of our ancestry and our forebears, but the truth is they are in many ways an architectural oddity and are out of place in a South Pacific setting. Designed by British Architects for a British climate (which Auckland demonstrably is not) they are certainly pretty but having lived in two they are terribly impractical and not suited for the sub tropical climate of Auckland.
Over recent years we have seen, particularly on the fringe of downtown Auckland but also in other more traditionally suburban areas, the rise of apartment blocks. Now the suggestion is to expand the footprint of increased urban density into suburbs like my own and in particular, along major (public) transport arteries. As might have been expected, the n.i.m.b.ys (not in my back yard) are out in force seeking to ‘preserve’ both historical architectural styles and a lifestyle many view as sacrosanct.
Where I live in Mount Eden our end of the street, which lies close to a major arterial transport route, has been designated for change from single dwelling units on land parcels of at least 350 – 800 square meters to low rise (4-6 floor) mixed use apartments/commercial.
My neighbours are up in arms and my letterbox is being stuffed full of prepared submissions ready for my signature to forward on to the Auckland Council demanding my street not be touched. All around me I am being exhorted by local groups to sign petitions and demand that our street not be ‘destroyed’ by this proposed intensification.
People are outraged. I am excited.
I want to tell the Auckland Council I am well on board with the changes. They will be good for the suburb. Good for our part of the city. Good for a greener Auckland through more efficient and regular public transport services with potentially (if we do it right) less use for single occupant cars.
And yes it will see many streets altered visually and part of me believes that bowling a beautiful old house like our own is a form of cultural vandalism but who says something better, warmer, drier and lighter cannot replace it? Architecture does not stand still.
The thing is we have a choice in Auckland – keep growing the city out (it is already among the largest cities by area in the world – 94 kilometres from its northern tip to southern) over highly productive farm lands and forests or do what all modern cities before us have tended to do – build vertically. As Auckland has grown in recent years public transport is certainly better than it was (buses and trains are now frequent but need greater densities of people that a larger scale brings) but there are all sorts of other benefits to what is in fact very modest intensification that seem to be being missed by the naysayers.
For starters more people living within, say ten minutes easy bus ride from downtown Auckland, is going to bring more vibrancy through concentrating people, shops and other urban amenities in a smaller area. Who does not love the idea of more places to eat, more places to socialise with frequent public transport? I believe it might, as proposed, make communities closer not tear them apart. We are not talking about anything more than 4-5 stories in most parts of the city. People want our train services to be more regular and convenient and not cost the rate payer in subsidies. That will only happen with greater population densities along the feeder routes and station hubs.
No one is talking Hong Kong or Singapore with shoeboxes and people living cheek by jowl high in the sky. We are talking north Manhattan with three to four storied apartment buildings. We are talking a vertical village here, not Gotham.
We are blessed with a lot of green space in Auckland and no one is talking about changing this. Except to expand them.
With an ageing population there is a demand shift already taking place where those of my generation are increasingly looking forward to the day we can move into a reasonable sized apartment of perhaps 120-150 square metres, free up some capital from our houses and land and spend less time maintaining the house and spending more time travelling and enjoying the city, rest of New Zealand and the world. Lock and leave. Those of us who bought into the more central suburbs when we were younger can easily buy an upmarket apartment for NZ$450,000 - $800,000 in the same area, thus freeing up at least as much cash from the sale of our existing freestanding properties owing to the high value of the land upon which our houses stand.
The time surely arrives in most big cities when a portion of single dwellings need to be replaced by apartment living – it not only makes sense in terms of making our city more efficient, vibrant and exciting, it is what a growing percentage of the population is demanding. In Auckland we will have within the next year more than 20,000 apartments and around 3000 are coming on stream each year. There is clearly growing demand. Many migrants would prefer low rise apartment living (bigger than the shoeboxes many live in now high in the sky in Singapore, Hong Kong and Jakarta) to a freestanding house (although it has to be said many of my clients are in love with the thought of a back lawn and garden) and New Zealanders returning home after living overseas are also sold on the concept.
As with all such transitions this will create tensions in neighbourhoods but that is part and parcel of urban living anywhere. I have little doubt, however, that for decades to come there will still be plenty of freestanding houses with a patch of grass and gardens for those that want them. We will preserve, and indeed increase, green spaces for the citizenry to walk the dog and play with the kids. But equally there will be more people living more closely together and that will bring its own rewards and challenges.
I, for one, won’t be signing any petitions to try and prevent it in my neighbourhood
I welcome it.
Until next week
Iain MacLeod - Southern Man
Posted by Iain on March 5, 2014, 3:22 p.m. in Living
Now I am not sure if being named the world’s most expensive city to live in is any reason for Singaporeans to celebrate, but it may be a mantle they’d prefer not to have.
The announcement this week from the Economist Intelligence Unit that Singapore has now leap frogged Osaka, Tokyo, Moscow, New York, London and Sydney as the world’s (alleged) most expensive place to live in is, I suspect, not a whole lot to be proud of and perhaps explains in part the continued popularity of our seminars here in the city state.
Of course it might also be quite misleading.
I certainly don’t find it excessively expensive as a place to visit but then I guess I am not trying to buy a shoebox apartment in the sky, educate my children or get sick and need hospitalisation either……and this information is designed specifically to give companies an idea of what it will cost their Executives and other ex-pats to live in the 140 odd cities surveyed.
The survey doesn’t reflect what it costs the average person to live in Singapore, New York, Sydney or Auckland for that matter. Locals I imagine have a different spending profile to ex-patsand Executives and don’t usually shop in luxury stores, send their kids to international schools and often they live in cheap(ish) public housing, buy their clothes at H & M or Takashimaya, educate the majority of their children at local schools and they use public transport to boot. The ex-pats tend to have cars. Cars in Singapore are the most expensive in the world and international schools don’t come cheap.
It is possible then, as with all these sorts of surveys, a case of lies, damned lies and statistics. Or be very clear who the target audience is. Given you can still eat well for $10 at a local hawker centre on the one hand yet pay a small fortune for a meal at a five star restaurant, where a (modest) beer along Orchard Road can set you back $18 yet you can buy the same one for $4.50 if you head off the main tourist routes, where high end clothes are eye popping in price yet you can get reasonable kit at many local stores, I suspect many Singaporeans would rightly conclude it might be really expensive for ex-pats and high flying execs but for them it isn’t.
Which segways nicely into this week’s planned ‘Letters from New Zealand’ topic. I was stunned to read a report in the New Zealand Herald last week that suggested a family of four only needs to earn a little over $18 an hour or roughly NZ$38,000 a year in order to live. The article did not make clear whether it was before or after tax. I got the feeling it was before tax. That translates into roughly $600 a week to provide shelter, food, transport, clothes and so on for four people. It is a little over $700 a week if it did not include tax.
When we are asked by potential clients what a family of four needs to live a dignified life in Auckland out in the suburbs in a three bedroom house we tell them in our opinion the true figure lies between $4000 and $5000 a month or roughly $60,000 a year. That’s almost double what this survey suggests.
So which is right?
I have over the past week been researching as many different statistical sources as I can and my conclusion is that a family of four may be able to live in small town New Zealand for $600 a week principally because the cost of housing (mortgages or rent) is significantly lower than in the major cities like Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch. Anywhere else I simply don’t believe a family of four could do much more than survive on such a meagre amount without state support and supplements (which are freely tossed about).
People who rent property in New Zealand tend to spend about 20% of their income on shelter, around 25% on food, around 11% on transport, 12% on restaurants and eating out(!), utilities 10% and roughly 25% on everything else.
Of course one factor that does push down the cost of living in New Zealand is the fact that my forebears (wisely in my view) decided to socialise risk – education in order to provide an equal opportunity for all, health through massive economies of scale and of course social security/pensions and the like. So whereas in countries like Singapore taxes are lower than New Zealand the cost of living ends up at least as high if not higher for most families as they are largely on their own in terms of the things New Zealand tax payers take for granted – education, health and social security.
If you consider then that most people have those costs largely covered by their taxes perhaps $38,000 a year does cover everything else.
But I still doubt it.
I should also add that our clients tend not to be average – they tend to be more educated, more skilled and have greater savings than many New Zealanders so perhaps our estimate of what they need to continue enjoying that upper middle socio-economic existence is accurate for them and simply reflects the fact they live in more expensive areas, eat at more expensive restaurants, prefer iPhone 5S to the cheaper Nokia and they make sure their kids all have the latest gadgets. That certainly applies to some but not all.
I have analysed what it might cost a single person who arrives in Auckland, say, to find employment in order to progress their skilled migrant aspirations. The number I came up with? Around $2000 a month being $1000 a month for shorter term and modest accommodation, around $500 a month on food (if they cook) and around $500 on cellphone, transport (public) and other expenses. Add a partner and you probably add about $500 a month. Add two children and you’d add a further $1000.
So once these people have secured employment if they were to rent a two bedroom apartment in downtown Auckland or on the city fringe they possible can live on that $600-$700 a week but there won’t be a lot of luxuries.
My experience tells me that once people are in well paying jobs they start to add those luxuries and pushing up those expenses to the $4000-$5000 a month.
So while I would not dismiss the report in last week’s newspaper I’d hope that people appreciate that in New Zealand, just as in most countries, there are wide disparities in the incomes people need to live, what they would describe as a ‘comfortable’ and dignified existence. There is a big difference in how we choose to spend our income, where we want to live, whether we use public or private transport, public or private schools, public or private health providers, wear LV jandals or Haviannas and so on. Generalisations can be difficult.
My advice is to base your planning on the $4000 - $5000 a month for a family of four for migrants especially given most of you will end up (or have ended up) in Auckland where property values are somewhat over the top and therefore cost of living is higher. While you will earn more in Auckland (the average salary is $75,000 a year against $53,000 across the whole country) you will also spend more.
Speaking of expensive cities I am in Hong Kong for the next few days giving our first seminar there on Saturday 8 March. I am quite excited to be returning there after an absence of 15 years. If you know anyone that might wish to attend they’ll need to register on our website without delay.
Until next week.
Posted by Iain on Jan. 17, 2014, 11:43 a.m. in New Zealand Economy
Happy New Year to all our regular Southern Man Letters from New Zealand readers.
The team is back in the office, tanned and relaxed (that lasted about two days!) and looking forward to an extra busy year. For us it is going to be a year of firsts – we are now dipping our toes in the Hong Kong and Indonesian markets. Across the Tasman Sea our Australian colleagues are heading to Botswana, Greece and Turkey to test the migrant waters there.
And what of New Zealand in 2014? How are the tea leaves looking?
If you can believe the various surveyors and economic forecasters we are in for a very good year and several beyond this. A few key points in recently released surveys show:
Short of any major external shocks things are looking overwhelmingly positive. No one is talking about an overheating economy or boom times but there is a real and broad based momentum that has been building across all sectors and all regions.
This, I suspect, will embolden the New Zealand Government to continue with high skilled migrant pass marks and forcing a majority (note, not all….) of would be migrants to come and find jobs in order to have certainty of residency approval.
Those employers unwilling to recruit form the ranks of those offshore or who refuse to travel overseas to interview and recruit are within the next few months going to be staring into a very shallow pool of local talent. This will have an upward movement on incomes (we are already seeing it in construction and IT in particular).
While no one who reads this who thinks they may make a move this year should take getting work for granted, there is no doubt that 2014 for the vast majority of you will be a year of greater employment opportunities. Through 2013 we saw average times for most clients to find jobs here get down to a few weeks rather than a few months as it was through 2011-2012. If you are fluent in English, skilled, do your research on demand in the labour market for your skills set and are willing to get on a plane and get here, chances are you’ll find work within 4-6 weeks.
As we reported in December the Government has closed the Long Term Business Visa or self-employed pathway to residence while they think about a new ‘improved’ visa class for Entrepreneurs which they hope to launch in April. We have been offered an outline of the new criteria which we have agreed will remain confidential but what we can say without breaking those confidences is that the new criteria is less a pathway for the self-employed to demonstrate financial self-sufficiency to a move to focus on greater job creation and export related businesses as priority for approval. For the first time the amount of funds invested comes with a minimum and the more invested the higher the chances of success. In essence what we will gain is effectively a new sub-class of Investor – lower investment thresholds than those who apply to many looking to secure residence under the Investor Categories but a much higher threshold than historically in place for the self-employed. As always there will be winners and there will be losers.
Skilled Migrant Category also underwent its standard three year review during 2013 and I expect we may see changes this year. My own view is the changes will be minor (why change a formula that appears to be working?). My only two suggestions to Government were that we should be more prescriptive in regard to English language as the Australians are (better your English the higher your points) and I would also be re-instating points for those with capital they can transfer to New Zealand. Although it is proven that those with more money find it easier to settle I cannot see the Government taking me up on this suggestion; they might on the English language however. We shall see.
My colleague Paul will also be in South Africa in early February kicking for our first round of seminars there.
It is going to be a big, exciting and nerve wracking year for some of you as you pack up and join us here in New Zealand. For some 2013 was the moving year and 2014 will become the year of return to some sort of normality. For others 2014 will be the year of the ‘big decision’ to migrate or not. Wherever you are on that spectrum the Immagine team and I wish you every happiness and success for the year.
Until next week
Southern Man – Letter from New Zealand
Posted by Paul on Dec. 13, 2013, 1:29 p.m. in New Zealand Economy
It’s about this time of year that people start ‘winding down’ and thinking about the holiday season ahead. It’s also a good time to take stock of the year that was and what potentially lies ahead in 2014.
For many people (including a lot of our clients) next year might just be the year that they pack their bags, saddle up and mosey on over to the land of the long white cloud. For the vast majority of them, finding a job is going to be at the top of the ‘to do’ list, so let’s have a look at what happened in 2013 and what’s in store for when they arrive.
2013 was an interesting year for New Zealand.
We held our regular national census, which was postponed from 2011 due to the Canterbury earthquakes. It revealed that in the last 87 years our population has tripled and since 1981 the median age of New Zealander's increased by 10 years (we are getting older).
The census revealed that if New Zealand was a village of 100 people, 70 of them would have been born in New Zealand, 24 would have been born overseas and 6 people apparently weren’t sure where they were born. To put that in context a quarter of our population wasn’t born here which represents a significant reliance on migrants for our economic growth.
Twice as many of our 100 strong village population would be working as skilled professionals rather than labourers and the second highest occupational group was managerial staff.
The proportion of our village community that considered themselves as coming from an Asian background almost doubled since 2001.
Overall the census data shows that New Zealand in 2013 continues to become more diverse in terms of our population mix and that ultimately migrants continue to make a significant contribution. Our population is growing, but ever so slightly, meaning that we continue to avoid the ‘rat race syndrome’ that consumes many developed countries. You can read the full report here: NZ Census
We also celebrated our second equal lowest Easter road toll on record, a fall in crime rates in most parts of the country, Wellington was hit by the worst storm since 1968 and a large portion of our country switched to digital television. Not to mention passing the same sex marriage bill in August and legally allowing same-sex couples to tie the knot.
From an economic standpoint, it has taken several years for New Zealand to recover from the global financial crisis and to see growth levels return to semi-normal. 2013 saw a continuation of a trend largely started in the latter half of 2011. GDP rates continue to grow conservatively (0.2% up in the June 2013 quarter), unemployment has fallen from the 7.3 high in mid-2012 to its current levels of 6.2. This puts us somewhere around 60 out of 200 countries in any of the numerous country by country comparisons. The best result comes from Monaco with apparently 0% and the worst being Zimbabwe with 95%.
Auckland housing prices continue to rise although the Government has introduced lending restrictions on the banking sector and committed to opening up additional areas of land for development, in an attempt to cool things down. Whether this will have much impact has yet to be seen.
Overall 2013 was a positive year for New Zealand and particularly in terms of being able to ‘one up’ the Aussies in terms of our economic stability. For the first time in as long as anyone can remember New Zealand has outshone Australia in terms of overall economic growth by roughly 0.5%.
So what does 2014 hold?
All the crystal ball gazers out there predict that the economy is set to grow strongly in 2014 with the Christchurch rebuild continuing to be a leading contributor to employment growth and direct investment. Increased household spending fuelled by increased optimism in the employment sector and robust house price increases will continue and unemployment rates are set to follow their slow trend downwards. In fact in October 2013 the ANZ announced that job adverts had increased by 4.5%, following a 1.3% rise in September. The jobs are there people – you just have to find them.
There are some caveats to all this prosperity however. Increased consumer spending obviously leads to increasing debt and if there was one positive thing the GFC did it was to get us all thinking more seriously about keeping our credit cards shackled up. As confidence returns to the market, people are starting to ‘splash the cash’ and retailers are already anticipating a bumper Christmas spend.
The Reserve Bank is tipped to increase the official cash rate in 2014 (most likely the first quarter) as pressure continues to mount over a very strong New Zealand dollar.
Overall for anyone looking to make the move next year, head over to New Zealand and either seek out that all important job offer to secure Residence or come with a Visa in hand, 2014 is set to be a pretty good year. Despite the fact that the vast majority of our clients continued to secure jobs even in the midst of the GFC, the signs for a strengthening New Zealand economy are all there.
We still have to tread cautiously of course, and there is always an element of trepidation when it comes to any forecast, particularly in recent times, however so far the polls and forecasts from previous years haven’t been too far off the mark.
Deciding on the best time to make the move is a tricky business and it comes down (usually) to your own personal commitments, children and schooling and obviously finances. However for those that have committed to the process and are bound for New Zealand in 2014 things definitely look positive.
Our offices will be closing down next Friday on 20 December and then opening again on 13 January, giving the team a well-deserved break after a very busy year. 2014 also signals an even busier year for our New Zealand and Australian offices with seminars scheduled or our usual locations (South Africa, Singapore and Malaysia) as well as new seminars being presented for Australia in Botswana, Greece, Turkey and Israel and for New Zealand in Indonesia and Hong Kong.
If you are chewing over your Christmas Turkey or Ham and thinking that you might want to be doing that in New Zealand next year, why not register for one of our seminars. Click on the links at the end of the blog for details.
We will be wrapping up our Southern Man newsletters for 2013 next week with one final instalment.
Until then try and survive the last few days of the silly season.
Posted by Iain on Sept. 6, 2013, 3:30 p.m. in Immigration
Last week we brought you Melanie's story and I promised you, if we could drag it out of him, her husband’s Dewald’s story on their move and how he felt about it.
I thought, after Mel shared with us her reasons for wanting to come here, her fears, motivations and experiences it would be good to hear from Dewald.
I confess I could have a field day analysing the two descriptions of this couple’s experience of the move.
If I have learned anything in a quarter century of helping migrants it is:
Tongue out of cheek, I accept the Visser family is a little different in that Mel has been happy since day 1. But in that respect I have to say she is a bit of a rarity. Women generally get ‘homesick’ to a greater extent. Give men pay TV Sport channels, a good job, three square meals a day and a bit of ‘how’s your father?’ and they could happily live on an iceberg in an igloo floating around the frozen wastes of the Arctic. Women need a bit more…..
While there is no one size fits all I can say that there are real and identifiable patterns that cross cultural, ethnic and religious boundaries – common to all migrants from one place to another and how they receive and experience the move. It all comes down to XX chromosomes that drive one and the X and Y that drive the other.
So on the Women are from Venus and Men are from Mars theme, let’s get Dewald’s side of the story.
“I think my wife Melanie was fairly accurate in describing how I felt about immigration initially.
Since I can remember meeting Mel, she always spoke about NZ being her dream destination. Not long after we got married (and just after her best friend applied for residency in Australia), Mel started to harp on about moving to NZ ourselves. I was not at all interested. I was a typical patriotic South African male believing in my home country and vowing to remain there no matter what ever happened.
It is true that after our family, and co-incidentally a good mate of mine at work was affected by horrifically violent crime, my mind set started to change. I remember asking myself all the time ‘what if that was my wife?’.
After meeting with Paul Janssen from Immagine and finding out that our chances of getting into NZ were good based on our experience, we decided to visit NZ to check the country out and see if we could fit in. There was a real part of me hoping we would have a terrible time so that I could get the idea out of both of our heads, but that did not happen.
We were blown away by what we saw. I caught up with many of my mates and after hearing about the life they were living, I knew we could easily fit into this life style.
Once we got back to South Africa, we shifted all our thinking and energy into relocating.
This entire process is a mind game. Not only are you fighting the opinions of people around, but you are also fighting your own mind all the time. I kept on asking myself ‘are we doing the right thing?’ but I just needed to work through that and focus on the end result.
There was a brief period where we decided that my wife would come over first as she was in IT and the IT market is very active here, but I was not comfortable in sending my wife over to a new country all on her own. It just did not feel right.
In January 2013 I notified my employer that I was going to be resigning and coming to NZ to look for work. They were very kind in offering me a 3-month sabbatical period where I could come back if things did not work out, but I turned that kind offer down. I knew if I had a back door open, I would not be 100% committed to finding work in NZ.
I applied for several positions via the internet before leaving South Africa, but had no luck there. One of my mates sent me the contact details of a recruitment agent whom I called and he actually arranged a Skype interview with a company before I left. The interview went very well and to be honest with you, I thought I was going to land in Auckland and sign my offer of employment. Unfortunately, this was not the case. I met with the company 3 times before they told me the position has not been approved as yet.
This was a HUGE shock. I felt that I had wasted a whole week on something that did not materialise. I immediately started applying for every job I could find and managed to meet another agent who was extremely co-operative and actively started looking for opportunities for me.
I cannot tell you how humbling this experience is. At my previous employer in South Africa I was widely regarded for standard of work and I had built up a very good relationship with very senior executives. Now suddenly from being this hot-shot project manager to being nothing in a foreign country - I felt like a really small fish in a really big ocean.
For the first three weeks I almost dreaded speaking to my wife because I did not have any good news to tell her. I knew she put everything into this move, and I could not bear disappointing her.
The hardest thing like I mentioned before is fighting the demons in your own head. After receiving a few responses from job applications stating that I do not qualify, broke my confidence quite badly. Fortunately I did have my wife picking me up (even though it was from thousands of miles away) and good mates to give me a kick up my ass when I needed it.
I relentlessly applied for every job I thought I could do, and then one day got a call from a company asking me to meet with them.
The interview went remarkably well and when leaving their offices I went straight to a car dealership to look for a car cause I knew the job was mine.
I got my offer of employment and took it straight to Paul. Between him and my wife, they had sorted all the necessary paper work out and I got my visa within 2 weeks.
There are so many things I want to say but don’t quite know how to. This process is the hardest thing I, as well as my wife and I have ever embarked on.
The first three weeks were hell. Being told that I did not meet the requirements of a few positions, having to rely on public transport to get around, walking around with a GPS and map book to find my way – all of it was so humbling.
However, when I got my job offer – I felt I could concur the world.
The advice I want to share with anyone considering this process is:
1. Once you decide to immigrate, don’t let anyone talk you out of it. Cut all negative forces out. There are many people who don’t want to see you move on.
2. Believe in yourself. No matter how many no’s you get, just keep pushing on.
3. Use Immagine to assist you in this process. (Ed note: No money changed hands in the prompting of that piece of advice – Iain)
The process of immigrating is stressful enough. You don’t need the additional stress and hassle of applying for visas and talking to immigration services yourself.
It is such a surreal feeling knowing we have our residency and have achieved our goal.
NZ is a magnificent place. Not once have I been treated as an outsider or felt like I did not belong here. NZ has embraced us and given us the opportunity to live here”.
Don’t forget I am back in KL next weekend giving a seminar and the following Saturday in Singapore. Check out the details on our website.
Until next week
Iain MacLeod – Southern Man
Posted by Iain on July 5, 2013, 2:57 p.m. in Living
I was ploughing my way through another 12 hour working day yesterday in Durban feeling pretty tired after a week of relentless consultations. At the same time I was thoroughly enjoying myself meeting some really nice people, exploring the possibilities and options of them to joining us in New Zealand and sharing the possibilities of the life we can offer, when one client blurted out, ‘Iain, I just have to ask you – I have been told by someone that New Zealand is boring. Now I don’t know if it is true but someone recently told me that’.
The smile evaporated from my face. My mood darkened instantly. The dark clouds gathered. I twitched. I held my breath. I counted to five. If there is one question that really bugs me, anywhere in the world, it is that one. It is up there with New Zealand is ‘backward’ – whatever that means…..
There are a few things that irk me in terms of perceptions of my country. That boring one when it occasionally comes up however tops the list.
I thought of a number of sarcastic replies starting with ‘This is Durban for God sake, it’s hardly the epi-centre of global excitement. What is there to do here when you are not being chased by people looking to relieve you of your cellphone, vehicle, possessions or even life?’
However being the consummate diplomat I am (cough cough) I did politely ask if the provider of this most wonderful of insights into my country had ever actually been to New Zealand. As usual the answer was “No”. I thought the easiest response then was to describe my normal day. And leave it to the potential client to decide how different it was to hers. It went something like this.
I wake up. I shower. I shave. I eat my wife’s homemade and very tasty toasted muesli with yoghurt. I make a coffee. At around 7.45am I start clearing the scores of emails that have arrived overnight from far flung parts of (and apparently far more exciting) parts of our planet. By 8.30am I have got through most of them. I climb in to the car. I turn on the radio or plug in the i-phone and listen to music. Ten minutes or so later I am parking the car near the office. I arrive at my desk having made a latte on the way past the coffee machine. There I sit over the next 7 hours or so and sweat blood as I battle the forces of immigration evil on behalf of my clients. I sometimes go out around the middle of the day for a bite at one of the many Japanese, Chinese, Thai, Indian, Turkish or French eateries, salad bars or bakeries or I grab a smoothie and head back to my desk.
Around 4.30 or 5.00pm I have usually had enough. I head to the gym. Or I head to the local market to get some food to prepare a dinner. I head home. Greet my family if they are there. I either cook or they cook. I put my feet up. Catch up on the BBC or Sport on the box that I recorded and stored for later. We clean up the kitchen, we load the dishwasher, we catch a bit more TV if no one has dropped in to have a coffee and a catch up. I usually check a few more emails. I take to my bed. I sleep.
Consider how different that is from your day?
When my now 17 and 19 year old sons were younger I’d be out coaching or helping out administering the local cricket club a couple of nights week (then they grew up and discovered liquor, girls, bands and night clubs….).. A couple of nights a week we go and grab a meal at one of the many local and incredibly cheap ethnic eateries of which here are about 50 within 5 minutes’ walk of our Mount Eden home. We usually do this with friends.
On weekends when the boys were younger summer Saturdays were taken up with cricket. Some winters (thankfully few) would be spent on the sides of football fields.
These days on the weekend we usually eat brunch somewhere either down at the waterfront or along Ponsonby Road if we are in town. Inevitably over the weekend we catch up with family or friends. We meet at bars, cafes or restaurants or their place. Dinner parties and Barbeques are common.
That is if we are not at the beach house fishing, playing golf, wandering around local farmer markets, tending to the garden, mowing the lawns, planting native trees and sleeping ‘rough’ in the ‘safari lodge’ tent I brought from Africa last year. This all done in the company of close friends we have invited to join us (not the sleeping ‘rough’ in the tent bit – we are not that friendly).
My sons are barely home both during the week nights or weekends. They are out with friends most nights (and yes from time to time the youngest does school work and the elder his Uni study and assignments). For them though weekends are just an extension of their busy weekly social lives - Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights are spent out with friends, in bars, clubs and at the various venues where every weekend some local or international major music act will be playing at either the 12,000 seat Vector Indoor Arena or at one of the clubs. They do what most teenagers do – have fun with their friends. Facebook is all pervasive in their lives. In one hand a smart phone, in the other the Facebook on the laptop. They sleep a lot. They are nocturnal creatures. They are expected to cook one night a week. They are expected to help clean up the kitchen. Load the dishwasher. Do the remaining dishes (but somehow that task seems to fall on my wife and me).
The eldest one drives and flies around the country to meet his mates studying at other Universities. They get up to mischief. They seem to have beer at the centre of their lives. They go to internet cafes.
So you tell me – sound boring or sound like your life?
I know the Singaporeans will have a 60 plus hour working week including at least a half day Saturday. On Sunday they reintroduce themselves to their spouses and children. They go to the shops. If they can afford the luxury of a car they sit in traffic. They then stand in restaurants and crowded food court queues. They have lunch together. The kids go home and study some more. Everyone sleeps. Riveting stuff for sure……study, study, study, work, work, work, then …..die.
In Durban? They do everything I do but many carry a gun just in case on the way to the mall or the supermarket or to the kid’s Saturday sport a fellow citizen decides they wish to redistribute some wealth. Riveting stuff no doubt but in a way most would prefer to live without.
So is New Zealand boring? Doesn’t feel like it to me but if the above is dull then I plead guilty. Lock me up but lock me up here and not South Africa or Singapore…….
Until next week
Iain MacLeod - Southern Man
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