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New visa category the answer to skills shortage?

Is a new visa category for contractors the answer to NZ’s skills shortage?

By Jenny Ruth

Dec. 5 (BusinessDesk) - An employment lawyer is calling for a new visa category that lets skilled migrants work as contractors rather than being tied to a single employer.

That’s at the same time as the Employers and Manufacturers Association (EMA) says skills shortages are hurting employers and as ANZ Bank New Zealand reports rising job advertisements.

Job ads increased 6.4 percent in November compared with a year earlier and ANZ chief economist Sharon Zollner says that’s “consistent with the unemployment rate remaining low. With the employment rate under 4 percent, some firms may be giving up on advertising positions.”

Aaron Martin, the principal lawyer at New Zealand Immigration Law, says New Zealand is part of a global shortage of skilled workers but there are thousands of skilled migrant contractors in the worldwide talent pool that Kiwi employers can’t hire.

“The nature of work is evolving with the constant changes in technology,” Martin said.

“Employment is no longer as straightforward as it once was: fewer people are working for long durations with a single employer and more people are taking up contracts that allow them flexibility with projects and clients as well as places and times of work,” he said.

“The nine-to-five, Monday-to-Friday workweek is becoming less prevalent and ‘agile’ and remote working is becoming the norm.”

A visa for contractors would bring several benefits for New Zealand employers including less administration, increased flexibility and choice.

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EMA chief executive Kim Campbell said that finding new staff is the biggest handbrake on employers’ ability to increase productivity and the skills most lacking include technicians, professionals and machinery operators.

“Increasingly, employers are looking to the immigration market, technology or taking on relatively unskilled staff to train them up,” Campbell said.

Of his members, 32 percent are seeking migrant workers, up from 23 percent a year ago, and 70 percent say they are finding it “difficult” or “very difficult” to recruit for any position, let alone skilled roles, an increase of 9 percentage points on the same time a year ago.

The EMA’s survey had 206 respondents, mostly owner-operators with fewer than 50 staff and located from Taupo northwards.

The EMA represents about 8,500 member companies and not-for-profit organisations including hospitals and schools.



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