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Immigration Policies Could Cause A Back-Lash

New Zealand Government Immigration Policies In Danger Of Causing Back-Lash.

By Bruce Porteus

The recent protective measures taken by the NZ Government to discriminate against migrant workers in favour of Kiwi workers may have an unfortunate back-lash against New Zealanders working overseas. The recent case of Immigration NZ revoking work permits from Filipino workers on technical grounds is clearly a protective measure by the NZ Government is response to left-wing union pressure, but could be in conflict with New Zealand’s free trade policies. Restricting employers to have the right to hire skills from overseas in favour of semi-skilled New Zealanders not only hurts the NZ economy, but runs the risk of retaliation from our trading partners.

In the globalised world we live in today, it could be argued the free movement of skilled labour should be allowed as with goods and services the labour produces. Protecting labour costs while deregulating the global production of goods and services is causing considerable distortion to the NZ economy, and is one of the key contributors to our growing trade and current account deficit. Either we protect our productive sector and our labour market, or deregulate both. Otherwise manufactures simply move their production to where the labour costs are cheapest.

The real danger is that others countries will also adopt similar protective immigration policies to protect jobs for their own citizens. There is more New Zealanders working overseas today than there are migrant workers employed in New Zealand on temporary work permits. If the many thousands of Kiwis working abroad where forced to return to their home country, unemployment would sky-rocket.
If New Zealand continues to discriminate against migrant workers in favour of unemployable Kiwis, then this is a real possibility that other countries will adopt similar policies and send back the hundreds of thousands New Zealander’s working overseas. What if the UK or Australian Government adopted a policy of jobs for their nationals in favour of migrant workers, and began sending back New Zealanders who were not permanent residents in these countries.

While few employers have difficulty securing skilled staff at present, this situation could change quickly once the global economy recovers. Then NZ will have to compete for these workers in an international market place. Normally employers prefer sourcing skilled staff in New Zealand rather than from overseas, and will only do so if they cannot find locally. For the Government to discriminate against overseas workers at this time is a short-sighted policy, which could result in dangerous long-term consequences for NZ. Governments who believe that can “turn the tap off” for skilled workers coming into country to meet employer’s skill shortages and then sending them home when their usefulness is over is a very short-sighted policy.

New Zealander’s have been able to live and work overseas relatively freely up to now. Growing protection in international labour markets could change this. If other countries adopt similar protective labour market policies as has the NZ Government, then we can expect retaliatory action in response. The international movement of people has now an important competent of international trade, and if our Government continues to open NZ open to international competition by signing free trade agreements, there should also be allowed for the free movement of skilled workers with these countries to allow NZ companies to remain competitive. The planned free-trade agreements with ASEAN countries where labour costs are lower than New Zealand will result in New Zealand businesses not being able to compete, unless they have access to the skilled labour on the same terms as their international competitors.

New Zealand businesses can no longer continue to having to support protective labour market policies while living with free trade agreements and survive in a competitive global market place.


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