Video | Agriculture | Confidence | Economy | Energy | Employment | Finance | Media | Property | RBNZ | Science | SOEs | Tax | Technology | Telecoms | Tourism | Transport | Search


Unfair Labour Market Testing Amid COVID-19 Crisis


Opinion Piece: Aaron Martin, principal immigration lawyer for NZIL

This week sees more adverse treatment of migrant workers from Immigration New Zealand in the wake of COVID-19.

As of the 13th of May Immigration New Zealand (INZ) has released advice to INZ officers processing Essential Skills work visa applications.

Many employers who have advertised for a role and accepted a migrant candidate who fulfilled the criteria of the job and had earlier passed the labour market test are now being sent this generic response to a work visa application:

The position that you have been offered was advertised prior to the COVID-19 Pandemic. COVID-19 has greatly affected New Zealand’s economy and job market meaning there has been significant changes to the labour market since that time. The change in the labour market was unpredicted and extremely fast. The documents that you have provided to date do not allow us to make a complete assessment, given the amount of change that has occurred.

Based on the evidence of recruitment provided with your application, we are not yet satisfied that there are no New Zealanders available for the work you have been offered, as required by immigration instructions at WK1.5 and WK3.10; therefore your application may be declined.

This response forces employers to advertise again to prevent a declined application, without offering any substantive evidence that the skillsets the employer is looking for and has advertised for pre-COVID is no longer in short supply.

It would affect anyone applying for a work visa under the Essential Skills category – who’s application has not yet been processed and completed.

H2: Getting Around their own Rules

We’ve previously written an article explaining how Immigration New Zealand cannot compel employers to re-advertise roles.

INZ is supposed to provide tangible evidence that the labour market has changed for a particular market or a particular set of skills, and to outline what they’re looking for.

However, what they’ve actually done in this instance is create a standard template, that has a generic observation about the impact of COVID-19 on unemployment rates. Then they say they cannot be satisfied no New Zealanders are available to fill those jobs.

The implication is very clearly that if you don’t come back with some form of advertising proof, we’ll deny the work application.

When you read the generic paragraph, you could apply that same information to a work visa for a brain surgeon, as you would do a warehouse assistant. It’s that generic.

This is incredibly disingenuous. Essentially, Immigration New Zealand have administratively got around their earlier internal advice – but instead of providing some solid evidence to that fact, they’ve put a generic statement out there around unemployment rates, which is almost someone’s narrated observation.

There is absolutely no empirical data in this statement that is relevant to the particular immigration application the officer is considering.

Not all industries will be affected from the COVID-19 crisis

The truth of the matter is, not every industry’s skill shortage will suddenly be improved by more New Zealanders being on the job market. Increased numbers of unemployed does not necessarily translate to increased people with transferrable skills relevant to an employer’s business.

What industries wouldn’t?

The skill shortage in New Zealand amongst trades, for example, was there long before the boom occurred in the building/construction centre – because of the systemic failure in governments to invest in and foster trade training, and because the employer sector didn’t up-skill their own staff.

(Even worse in this instance is that we’re about to pump money into infrastructure, and we’re going to need those skilled people – there won’t be the volume to support and sustain those projects if we send all our imported plumbers, gas fitters, drain layers, builders offshore again!)

Some industries are also not appealing to New Zealanders, which has created a long-term skill shortage.

For example, there’s a big turn away in some sectors from pursuing careers in industries like dairy or horticulture, for example.

It makes complete rational sense that the skill shortage in these industries (and many others) would remain, as they had nothing to do with skill shortages driven by demand and public consumption.

What industries would be affected?

That situation is completely different to, say, the restaurant sector. That skill shortage was purely demand driven. So, of course COVID-19 would have impacted the pool of people who can take those jobs, as many restaurants will have made staff redundant or shut down completely.

To have those skill shortages be filled with qualified New Zealanders is understandable. Nobody would argue with that.

What would be more reasonable?

INZ shouldn’t be making decisions or threatening someone’s work visa application with a decline decision based on generic, loose observations. Instead they should be taking an intelligent approach using labour market data and intelligence – especially given the level of information sharing between Immigration New Zealand and Ministry of Social Development.

If employers are to take them seriously, INZ should be able to know which industries have been more affected by COVID-19 and which ones have not – which could be easily done by reviewing the skillsets of those who are registering as unemployed, and by reviewing redundancies and job losses in different areas.

For example: "We’ve found there are 20 restaurant managers have registered as unemployed in the Queenstown area, we believe that the pre-COVID labour market is no longer reflected now, and invite you to comment? "

That’s completely reasonable and understandable.

Why aren’t INZ using empirical evidence?

This is a good question!

It seems to come down to not having the data (in which case, how are you maintaining skill shortage lists?) to not wanting to touch on the issue of immigration since it’s an election year – or it being much easier to send out a templated form.

It’s incredibly short sighted to force all these migrants offshore and assume that it will be economically beneficial for New Zealand. It’s not. A lot of those skill shortages remain regardless of COVID-19.

Quite frankly, this is lazy, sloppy, and disingenuous – we should expect better from our government and paid officials.

© Scoop Media

Business Headlines | Sci-Tech Headlines


It’s All In The Genomes: New Study Reveals Scale Of Havelock North Campylobacteriosis Outbreak

When the campylobacteria outbreak hit Havelock North in 2016, no-one fully understood how widely it affected the local communities. Gene-sequencing technology used by scientists has shown the true scale of the outbreak. The joint study from ESR, Massey ... More>>


Tiwai Point: Rio Tinto Announces Plans To Close Tiwai Point Smelter

Rio Tinto has just announced that it will wind down New Zealand Aluminium Smelters - the Tiwai Point smelter - saying the business is no longer viable. More>>


Freight: New Report On Auckland Port Relocation

The Government has released a major new report on the options for relocating the Port of Auckland’s freight operations while deferring any decision on the issue. More>>


Taxation: Black-Market Tobacco Sidesteps $287 Million In Excise Tax

Year-on-year increases in consumption of illicit tobacco in New Zealand have seen illegal trade swell to 11.5% of the total market. If consumed legally, illicit products would have netted the Government $287 million in excise tax during 2019. Independent ... More>>


Energy Sector: Meridian Spilled Water To Hike Electricity Prices - Authority Ruling

The Electricity Authority has found that generator Meridian Energy manipulated the power market, costing consumers about $80 million. More>>


XE Data Update: RBNZ Official Cash Rate Decision

The RBNZ will keep the Official Cash Rate (OCR) at 0.25%. T he key points in the RBNZ statement are: RBNZ keeps the OCR unchanged at 0.25% Maintain the LSAP (large scale asset purchase) at NZD$60 billion. Committee prepared to use additional monetary ... More>>


Electricity: Kiwis Ignore Promise Of Cheaper Power

Electric Kiwi and Flick Electric Co are joint winners of Canstar Blue’s award for Most Satisfied Customers | Electricity Providers From putting on an extra layer – rather than turning on a heater – to turning off lights and choosing the energy-saving ... More>>


ASB: Regional Economic Scoreboard Q1 2020

ASB NZ Regional Economic Scoreboard Gisborne still the place to be It has been Gisborne’s year, and the region comes out tops on our regional rankings for the fourth successive quarter. Like everywhere, question marks are about the COVID-19 impact on the future. ... More>>

RNZ: Economic Activity And Business Confidence Bouncing Back

Two surveys from ANZ show business confidence and economic activity have rebounded, but uncertainty about the future remains extreme. More>>


NIWA: The Climate Record That Keeps Getting Broken

Among the multitude of New Zealand climate statistics there is one record that continues to be broken month after month. Since January 2017 there has not been one month that recorded a below average nationwide temperature, according to NIWA’s seven station ... More>>


Govt: Extended Loan Scheme Keeps Business Afloat

Small businesses are getting greater certainty about access to finance with an extension to the interest-free cashflow loan scheme to the end of the year. The Small Business Cashflow Loan Scheme has already been extended once, to 24 July. Revenue and Small ... More>>


Science: 2019 Prime Minister’s Science Prizes Announced

The 2019 Prime Minister’s Science Prizes have been announced in a digital livestream event today. The Prizes recognise the impact of science on New Zealanders’ lives, celebrate the achievements of current scientists and encourage scientists of the ... More>>


Stardome Observatory: Young Kiwi Astro-Photographer Shoots For The Stars

Matariki by Josh Kirkley. The stars are aligning for up-and-coming Auckland-based astro-photographer Josh Kirkley (Kāi Tahu). During lockdown, one of his images was picked up by NASA and shared on the space agency’s Instagram to its 59.2 million ... More>>

DCANZ: Time For EU To Commit To A Level Playing Field For Trade

The Dairy Companies Association of New Zealand (DCANZ) has welcomed New Zealand Trade Minister David Parker’s statement that it is unacceptable for New Zealand exporters to continue facing an ‘unlevel playing field’ in the EU. Details leaked ... More>>


New Zealand Government: Supporting Kiwi Businesses To Resolve Rent Disputes

The Government will legislate to ensure businesses that suffered as a result of the COVID-19 response will get help to resolve disputes over commercial rent issues, Justice Minister Andrew Little announced today. More>>