Increased migration needed to address labor shortages

11 May 2007

New Zealand businesses are facing labor shortages and immediate measures are needed, including increased immigration, according to the Wellington Regional Chamber of Commerce.

Recent figures from Statistics New Zealand show a strong demand for labor.

"The data is consistent with the Chamber's latest survey of business confidence, which shows that employers are finding it harder to find staff. Not only skilled labor but less skilled also," said Chamber CEO Charles Finny.

According to Finny, while business confidence and investments are down, employers still want to take on more people ... unfortunately, there have been no people available to hire.

While he welcomes an increase in part-time employees and older workers re-entering the workforce, he feels that further steps are needed to fill job placements.

"We need to acknowledge that there is not a never-ending supply of people outside the existing workforce to tap into. Immigration rules need to be adjusted urgently to allow increased migration to meet employer demand," he said.

However, there have been recent changes to New Zealand immigration law. The changes allow more time for a skilled migrant to find work if they come under the Work to Residency program. Migrant workers now have nine months to find a job rather than the previous six months.

Migrants also do not have to work for three months before being granted residency as it is granted immediately now.

The points-based system being used to evaluate candidates for New Zealand work visas has been working well in other ways. Far fewer immigrants are coming to the country now and working in areas outside of their education and experience. Previously, there had been examples of doctors and PhD's taking jobs such as driving taxicabs. That is a nearly unheard circumstance now.

As the government has adjusted the system, there has been an increase in job satisfaction and targeted employment for needed skills. Temporarily, there has been a slight decrease in overall immigration, resulting in the current shortage to fill open labor positions.


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