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Posted by Myer on July 20, 2018, 8:16 p.m. in Australia
And the place where you belong, contrary to what the song would indicate, is not West Virginia, but Geelong, Adelaide, Hobart or any other part of Australia that is “regional”.
Recent changes to Australia’s skilled migration program is going to have the effect of placing more of you on country roads than ever before.
Figures just released evidence that Australia accepted approximately 162,000 permanent migrants in 2017/18, down from about 183,000 the year before, and well below the 190,000-a-year quota. Net migration was 240,000 but this includes those who are not only arriving as permanent residents but those on visas allowing a stay of 12 months or more, which is a fair number of people to accommodate in terms of accommodation, transportation, healthcare facilities and education facilities.
We also learned this week that Australia’s population is set to reach 25 million in August 2018 some 24 years earlier than predicted in 2002.
Australia’s larger cities such as Sydney and Melbourne are suffering from congestion, infrastructure that cannot support a growing population, rising property prices (although having said that, at time of writing property prices in Melbourne and Sydney are forecast to decrease by 1 – 2%) and in the context of these issues migration to the larger cities is said to be adding to the burden.
Yet on the other hand, Australia has a shortage of skilled people in regional areas. Regional areas would constitute some of the smaller cities in Australia such as Adelaide and Hobart as well as anywhere outside of the metropolitan areas of Melbourne, Sydney, Gold Coast, Brisbane, Perth to name a few.
Since late 2016, job vacancy growth in regional areas has outstripped vacancy growth in our largest cities. According to the latest Internet Vacancy Index released by the Australian Government, vacancies in regions have grown by 20 per cent since February 2016 compared to only a 10 per cent increase in our largest cities.
These growing vacancies are occurring across a range of job opportunities.
This is the context in which some of Australia’s recent policy changes have taken place aimed at reducing the number of migrants destined for Australia’s major cities and encouraging migration to smaller cities and towns. These changes include:
As most of these changes have occurred in the months April– July 2018 they are to soon to have caused the reduction in permanent migrants in 2017/18, from 183,000 to 162,000 and their effects both in terms of the annual quota of permanent migrants as well as the effects on diverging migrant flows from metropolitan to regional areas is yet to be felt.
In fact it may take some time before the true effects of these changes are felt because of transitional provisions available to those on work visas in Australia at the time these changes came into effect. Those on temporary 457 visas still have a greater number of occupations to transition to permanent residence and it could be as much as 4 years before the full effect of the changes take place.
It’s therefore ironic that we are having a debate about migration numbers in the context of some of the harshest changes to immigration policy that I have seen in the last nine years.
It is, however, overdue that we should have an informed debate about population size and whether the vision for Australia is a “big” Australia, or “sustainable” one as some of the terms that politicians have been bandying about and to then design in immigration policy designed to meet that target. Instead of what we have been doing the past is to come up with an arbitrary annual quota because in the absence of a formal population policy, Australia’s immigration policy is its de facto population policy.
For the foreseeable future I expect that there will be more Van der Merwes, Singhs and Lees found enjoying the country lifestyle of Australia.
- Myer Lipschitz, Managing Partner (Melbourne Office)
Posted by Iain on March 16, 2018, 10:22 p.m. in South Africa
You have to love Australia! It is not very often I agree with Julius Malema and his Economic Freedom Fighters but strangely this week, I find myself doing so but for very different reasons.
It is interesting and completely understandable that the South African Government has reacted with affront at the Australian Minister of Immigration’s suggestion that they must look very carefully into trying to help and "fast track visas" for “white South African farmers who are being persecuted”. To suggest that these people need help “from a civilised country like ours” actually made my skin crawl. Not because South African farmers are not being targeted by their Government and criminals, but because virtually everyone in South Africa that is not black is being marginalised for reasons of ‘economic transformation’, and not a small dose of political retribution.
Australian hypocrisy seems to know no bounds. And nor their racist tendencies.
This all comes about as Australia responds to the recent passing of legislation in South Africa allowing expropriation of land without compensation. There’s no doubt that South Africa is increasingly a tinderbox as the ANC Government continues to fail to deliver the sort of economic conditions that create employment, leaving millions of overwhelmingly black people (but more than a few whites, Indians and others it must be said) without work or prospects and with every passing month the politics becomes more radical to keep Mr Malema the leader of a minority support political party and not a majority one. He could easily hold the balance of power at the next national elections. The ANC rightly fear his politics and promises.
When President Ramaphosa said the law would now change to take land, he was clearly doing it to appease the increasingly-powerful firebrand and leader of the EFF. Of that particular fellow, everyone in South Africa should be frightened; irrespective of their skin colour. The reality is, however, that he is increasingly popular and he clearly does not like white people, no matter what he says.
Part of me says good on the Aussies, but the other part says what about every other person in South Africa who is being 'discriminated' against because of their skin colour, and who is now paying for the sins of their (grand)fathers?
I happen to be in South Africa at the moment and I’m noticing that those looking to leave the country are increasingly young and desperate and usually, but by no means all, white. I am seeing more and more young black South Africans as well. Most whites are leaving because they are being shut out of tertiary education and employment opportunities. I’ve always accepted Affirmative Action (priority given to black applicants for jobs and places at University for example) was a necessary ‘reset’ in trying to redress the social and economic inequality created by Apartheid. The fact that it is also economic suicide on so many levels is a price the ruling party and the majority of people of South Africa seem willing to pay. It smacks to me of short-term political gain for long-term economic pain.
Returning to Dutton’s concerns however, it strikes me as somewhat hypocritical that a nation known for “discouraging” refugees by dumping them in detention centres in the middle of deserts, shipping them off to third-world countries or locking them up on islands in the middle of the Indian Ocean misses a couple of points — many of those (non-white) refugees will be Engineers, Teachers, Software Developers and otherwise simply hard-working people looking for a break who would give as much to Australia as South African farmers would, and who also have a genuine and well founded fear of persecution if they stay in their home country which is discriminating against them.
Is being a white refugee better for Australia than being a non-white one?
What makes white South Africans so special? And what makes farmers more special than other people looking to get out of South Africa? Does Australia have a shortage of farmers? Would it also take non-white farmers under their fast track visa thinking or is it limited to whites (the legislation in SA is not limited to taking white owned land without compensation)? How about all the skilled white South Africans who are not farmers who would saw off their left arm for a chance to raise their children in a country where apparently skin colour doesn’t matter?
How ironic that a country apparently outraged at the racist treatment of white farmers is happy to have, at its core, an openly racist visa policy based on skin colour.
Someone tell me why you would single out white South African farmers for special treatment over and above the thousands of other whites (and other highly skilled but non-whites) in South Africa that are being cut out of the country's economic future? It is incredible they even think it let alone publicly declare it and it is racist. I am sure if they go through with it and you were a white South African farmer you won’t care, and I wouldn’t blame you.
The Australian Minister of Immigration has long been a highly-controversial character with some of his world views, and I accept it’s up to each country to decide who they want, what skills they want and in what numbers. it has been a long time however since Australia chose migrants based on skin colour - a return to the pre 1950s whites only policy?
If however, Mr Dutton thinks that white farmers who are having their livelihood put at risk might be good for such a “civilised” country, what about all the rest of the white and other recently marginalised people in South Africa also being “persecuted” because they happen to now be growing up in a country in which their grandfathers ruled that whites and non-whites would be treated differently?
It says a lot to me about what makes Australia 'tick'.
Until next week...
Iain MacLeod, Southern Man
Posted by Iain on March 8, 2018, 8:35 p.m. in Immigration
I’m often asked to write pieces on Immigration Policy by my marketing team because they are more widely read than my musings on the life and times of New Zealand. I confess some reluctance to do it because the fundamental reality of Immigration Policy decision-making can’t usually be broken down into bite-size chunks. It is often the case of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts on the one hand and different Immigration Officers interpreting the same rules in different ways on the other.
Today I want to attempt to explain how the Immigration Department decides whether the job offer that you have in New Zealand is ‘skilled' or not.
The first thing they have to do is to decide whether the job that you have in New Zealand falls into a Skill Level 1, 2, 3, 4 or 5 category. The lower the number the more highly skilled the occupation is, on the face of it. Occupations that fall into Skill Levels 1, 2 and 3 are assessed one way and those which fall into Skill Levels 4 and 5 another.
Dealing with the lower skill level first; if your occupation is Skill Level 4 or 5, the first consideration is what it will pay and the effective hourly rate earned. You must also hold a relevant, recognised qualification comparable to the learning outcomes of a Level 4 New Zealand qualification or higher, a qualification at Level 3 on a New Zealand Qualifications Framework which is exempt from assessment by the New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA) or you must have three years of “relevant” work experience as a substitute for one of the two qualification options.
In terms of remuneration, the effective hourly rate before tax in terms of guaranteed income is NZ$36.44 per hour or higher excluding bonuses, commissions and the value of perks such as motor vehicles, cell phones and so on.
For the Skill Level 1, 2 or 3 occupations (which I should add covers most of our clients), the effective hourly rate must be at least NZ$24.29 per hour. These applicants must also have ‘relevant’ qualifications that are recognised for points and they must have a qualification at the level or above as dictated for their occupation in the Australian and New Zealand Standard Classification of Occupations (ANZSCO) or a certain number of years of work experience in that occupation that might substitute (usually five, but never less than three).
In this regard, New Zealand has adopted an assessment process on jobs which increasingly looks like the Australian General Skilled Migration process and that is to say that you are expected to effectively ‘nominate’ an occupation that you believe fits with your job description. You need to be extremely careful what occupation you choose.
Irrespective of which occupational title you do choose, the Immigration Officer assessing your application is still meant to treat each case on its merit and assess your primary tasks in your role with the task lists for that occupation contained in the ANZSCO or another, more suitable. It can help you influence the outcome if you can work out the right one — which I should add is often almost impossible because in the real world most job descriptions overlap with that of other related occupations.
And that’s when the trouble really begins because the rule book says that an applicant must complete “most” of the tasks listed for that occupation in ANZSCO. The problem with that is the task list provided in the ANZSCO for your job is often, at least in part, shared with other similar occupations which may or may not be ‘skilled’.
Take for example; Retail Manager. ANZSCO has a number of occupations which fall under the general title of Retail Manager and these include: Antique Dealer, Post Officer Manager, Travel Agency Manager, Hair Salon Manager, Betting Agency Manager and General Retail Manager. They are all different but will have some tasks in common. The rule book lists up to eight primary tasks that these occupations might do. The Immigration Officer must therefore decide which of the 8 tasks apply to your particular ‘retail management’ job. On that, in my experience, they do not excel; not made any easier for them that applicants increasingly design their job descriptions and employment contracts around these ANZSCO tasks, for which I cannot blame them. INZ often these days starts with the assumption the role has been embellished or designed to fit the ANZSCO task list and sets out to satisfy themselves the applicant and employer have embellished the role. Sometines they are right but in our experience with our clients, they are always wrong as we make sure this never happens - if the role isn't skilled, our clients are told to go find one that is.
I’m sure I have lost you already and this is why I don’t like writing blogs about it because it’s really hard to explain but in a nutshell, what you need to do is:
As an important aside, how does the Immigration Department calculate what your effective hourly rate is?
The answer is that they look at the hours that you “may” work and that is full of fish hooks. Most Employment Agreements in New Zealand will confirm that the normal weekly hours are 40 but other such hours as may be required from time to time are expected to be worked without additional remuneration. Sometimes, the Employment Agreement might say employees are expected to work “up to 45 hours a week”. If you might work 45 hours per week then Immigration will look at your gross salary, divide that by 52 and divide that by 45 and that will usually push down the effective hourly rate. That is, even if you only work 45 hours once a year...
This is causing major problems, especially for Human Resources Departments, as we are now constantly asking that Employment Agreements be written in such a way that it takes into account the hours the employer expect the applicant will work; not what they may be asked to work from time to time. Crazy system for establishing skill and as always when these rules are changed in the minds of the policy people to solve one problem (in this case, making it easier in theory to work out what is skilled and what is not), they end up opening a whole new can of worms.
But that is what they have to do and I hope that is of some use to you.
Please do not post questions below on this - if you have a question, we offer a fantastic discrete question answering service which you can access by clicking here (note we charge AUD$15 per question).
Until next week...
Iain MacLeod, Southern Man
Posted by Myer on Feb. 26, 2017, 4:30 p.m. in Australia lifestyle
I had a recent consultation with someone in Singapore who wanted to immigrate to Australia for the purposes of educating his children at University but didn’t necessarily want to immigrate during the initial five-year period that an independent visa would allow (the children were quite young).
It’s not always not up to you to choose the time when you can apply for permanent residence because of the amount of change that occurs in the immigration process. It’s more likely that the time chooses you.
I’m never able to “time-the-market” when I buy a house or buy or sell equities but I can tell you that the perfect time to apply for permanent residence is the time at which you meet the eligibility requirements and if that time is now then as inconvenient is the time may be, you need to act. Often the only difference between eligibility and and missing the opportunity completely is timing.
Most applicants aren’t aware of the amount of change that occurs in the course of a relatively short period of time. Not only do applicants get older (and one’s chances of securing a visa never improves with age) but there is also a significant amount of change occurring within immigration policy.
Perhaps one of the most significant changes - certainly in terms of general skilled migration visas - is the publication of the Skilled Occupations List which occurs on 1 July of each year. This list determines which occupations will be eligible for obtaining independent permanent residence without requiring state sponsorship and represent those skills that are in medium to long-term demand in Australia.
Certain occupations have been “flagged” for possible removal in the future. Generally, occupations are flagged when there is emerging evidence of excess supply in the labour market.
The list of flagged occupations for the list to be published on one July 2017 is as follows:
Not only does the Skilled Occupations List change, but so do the quotas of each particular occupation sought by the Australian Government under its skilled migration visas.
These quotas are also announced on 1 July and determine the pass marks of independent visas. Several years ago it was possible to obtain permanent residence for an Accountant scoring 60 points with no previous work experience as an accountant, however a cut in the quota of accountants have meant that these days accountants need to score 70 points.
Some applicants might need State sponsorship if their occupation appears on the Consolidated Skilled Occupations List and whilst these state sponsorship lists are reflective of the skills needed by the 8 states or Territory’s in Australia, they too change depending upon the quota of a particular occupation required in a State or Territory.
Australia is, however, quite generous as to when applicants have to commence residing in Australia.
After the visa is granted, as long as you visit within 12 months specified by the Department, you have 5 years in which to immigrate. If you cannot immigrate within the first 5 years, as long as you visit Australia once every 5 year period you can always apply for a Resident Return Visa.
So whilst one has less choice about when to apply for permanent residence one has a greater degree of choice about the date that you ultimately choose to settle in Australia.
Posted by Iain on July 15, 2016, 3:28 p.m. in Education
One of the unexpected consequences of Auckland's house price values and population increase in the past few years is an emerging shortage of teachers.
It is, by all accounts, really starting to bite.
Population growth has meant the government has set aside more money for construction of additional schools, classrooms and teachers particularly in, but not limited to Auckland.
The problem schools face is that many of our own local graduates are accepting jobs outside of Auckland, where on a teacher's salary they can afford to get into the housing market, something which is only going to be a dream for many young and single teachers if they stay in our neck of the woods.
Operating a national pay scale, it matters not where a Teacher is employed in the public sector (which accounts for over 95% of all schools) but how qualified they are. So an Auckland based teacher who begins on an annual salary of around %55 000 earns the same as the teacher at the other end of the country where the cost of living is significantly lower. Average house prices in Auckland are around $900 000. The average house price across the rest of New Zealand is around $500 000. You get the picture.
Until a few years ago we were advising most teachers that get to work as a teacher without a Residence Visa or that precious work visa was possible but usually took many months to secure roles. We had a few coming through but we advised most to be very cautious and realistic about the barriers and the time frames they could expect and the uncertainties of achieving the residence dream if they were teaching.
Most schools (still) prefer locally trained teachers so ironically there has been a relative shortage of experienced teachers for a number of years; but it was the schools rather than the usual 'chicken and egg' situation surrounding jobs and work visas as the cause.
As a company, IMMagine has until recently advised our pre-primary, high/secondary and tertiary level teachers to use Australia as the 'back door' to New Zealand. We have been able to secure NZ Resident Visas off the back of Australian Permanent Residence Visas for a number of teachers. This means when they get off the plane they have full work rights and the schools will talk to them and if not offer them full time and permanent roles then perhaps as 'relief teachers'. If they cannot find anything then they could go and do whatever else they needed to in terms of work to put food on the table.
We have this year however had two high school teachers (one from Singapore and one from South Africa) secure full time and permanent teaching roles without visiting New Zealand (both got jobs in Auckland).
We are now representing a teacher from the Democratic Republic of the Congo who has been denied a visa to take up a job offered at an Auckland High School. The position he was offered was eventually filled locally after many months but the school has another vacancy going unfilled all year they have offered him.
Many schools are now reporting fewer than 5 applicants per vacancy advertised.
How times have changed. Only four years or so ago the Ministry of Education was putting off those from overseas making enquiries about coming over as they said there were fewer teachers leaving the profession (caused by, it was believed, the global financial crisis where higher perceptions of job insecurity meant many were staying in their jobs rather than moving on).
This doesn't mean desperate school principals are standing at the Auckland Airport arrivals hall with some "Teachers Wanted!" signs, but this increasing shortage is real and presents opportunities for some teachers where few existed even 2-3 years ago.
We will likely not stop advising our clients to use the Australian 'back door' pathway as landing here with a Resident Visa trumps even a job offer and the whole NZ visa process to negotiate if a teacher finds a job. It is all about minimising risk and there is no substitute for the certainty of the Resident Visa in the hand!
Until next week...
Posted by Iain on June 11, 2016, 12:10 a.m. in Immigration
As a little boy I had an intense interest in politics.
My favourite Uncle who had himself run for Parliament was, I suspect, partly responsible for that interest and we had many a conversation where he pitted his mid-40 year old conservative wisdom with my ten year old love for communism.
I will never forget a piece of advice he gave me if I ever ran for elected office. "Remember Iain, there are two Governments. The elected Government and the permanent Government." Permanent Government being the bureaucracy.
I never imagined that I'd end up by making my living helping people to fight their way past this permanent Government. And observing up close the relationship between them and the elected Government.
To some extent he was quite right but in other respects he was wrong.
Right now a potential crisis is unfolding in New Zealand's Skilled Migrant Programme and the (elected) Government is refusing to listen to the permanent one.
Within two years this crisis is going to hit the Government hard, yet they refuse to acknowledge they have a looming issue despite the obvious staring them in the face in the form of research carried out by the immigration bureaucrats. To that you can now add Treasury.
I have read a number of papers released under the Official Information Act which clearly demonstrate that there is real concern within the bureaucracy that Government policies in the area of export education is dumbing down the skilled migrant category. This is because there is a massive marketing machine (both public and private sector) encouraging international students to invest tens of thousands of dollars in low level, low grade New Zealand qualifications because they have the promise of a work visa at the end and a pathway (in theory) to a Skilled Migrant Resident Visa.
There are several big problems with this.
The sorts of jobs many of these students are likely to get once they complete their very expensive qualifications are not skilled because they tend to be entry level, do not attract points toward residence and they have not been warned by either the Government, the tertiary Instructions peddling these products or their agents (unlicensed) representing them in markets such as India. They will only find out once they have completed these very expensive local courses and I suspect they will leave New Zealand justifiably bitter at having been sold a lemon.
Those that succeed are, most of the time, getting marginally skilled jobs of questionable value to New Zealand. The two occupations that top the list for the number of skilled migration approvals today are Retail Managers and Chefs. In both these areas the risk of fraudulent job offers grows and an entire industry where big money will change hands as desperate foreign graduates realise their predicament try and buy jobs will emerge. Anecdotally it already has.
There are literally tens of thousands of such students in New Zealand today. I understand more than 40,000 in Auckland alone.
Immigration statistics show that these students are consuming an ever greater percentage of the finite and capped skilled migrant places available each year.
What's the problem with that you might ask (I understand senior Ministers are asking the same thing)?
Right now policy settings demand the significant majority of skilled migrants possess skilled job offers.
Each year there are 27,000 resident visas (with a 10% variance) available to Principal Applicants, their partners and children. That translates into around 10,000 Principal Applicants and 10,000 skilled jobs up for grabs.
Right now if you have a skilled job you will be approved residence all other things being equal.
So what happens in two years when we might have 20,000 Expressions of Interest for people with job offers sitting in the pool? Right now they are all selectedl.
Which ones do we grant residence to? Right now it has to be all of them.
If we decide to only select half (so we don't double migrant numbers from current levels) should it be those that have got jobs as Retail Managers, the Chefs and the Secretaries or the experienced Engineers, IT workers, Trades people that New Zealand is so desperate for?
Right now there is no distinction - 100 points equal selection irresepctive of the job offered.
What about all those with false job offers?
The Government could turn around and double the annual intake and issue twice as many visas.
The Prime Minister said this week (as he always does) that current migrant numbers are about right. That suggests no appetite for doubling the numbers.
Auckland has a housing crisis. Too many people arriving and not enough houses being built. Much of this is being blamed on foreigners even though the cause is largely more New Zealanders staying put in NZ and more New Zealanders coming home, particularly from Australia. This has become a real political problem and there are politicians calling for a cut in migrant numbers (there are those that never let a few facts get in the way of a few votes).
This volume will be dialled up next year during the election cycle.
So Prime Minister, what is your plan when in two years the demand for the current number of places doubles or triples and many of those applying are Retail Managers and Chefs rather than Engineers and Builders and Software Developers with ten years of practical experience?
How do you choose between them all when you only have 27,000 places up for grabs?
Senior immigration industry leaders, including me, have been warning that changes have to be made now especially to what is being offered to international students. Export education is worth as much to NZ as an export each year as IT is in terms of exports at close to $3 billion a year. Clearly it is worth preserving and developing but not at the cost of either New Zealand's reputation or if it starts excluding better quality skilled migrants.
I have no issue with offering students a study to work to residence pathway but we need them to be studying the occupations we are critically short of in Engineering, IT and potentially, Trades.
Equally the question has to be answered which migrant adds more value to New Zealand; the 23 year old with a one year Diploma in Business who gets a job as the Manager of a Retail Outlet or the 35 year old Quantity Surveyor with ten years of industry experience?
When places are rationed the Government has to decide.
If that means we incentivise international students to study what New Zealand employers really need rather than what turns into a quick short term buck for NZ then for me there is no contest. The market will respond by offering students who want residence a course that offers the greatest chance of securing that outcome by offering such courses. Everyone wins.
It is a potential time bomb. When the Government has been warned it will explode within the next two years you'd you think they might sit up and listen to those of us who are right there looking at it and providing the evidence that it is real.
While in my experience of politicians and bureaucrats the bureaucrats often do get their own way there is scant evidence the current crop are.
It does not bode well for the Skilled Migrant Category.
Until next week
Southern Man Letter from New Zealand
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