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Why Does National Think Importing Cheap Labour Is The Solution To Every Problem?

The National Party announcement on proposed immigration reforms is a leap backwards to the pre-Covid times when the economy depended on cheap and vulnerable labour imported from overseas and bonded to their New Zealand employer.

The number of workers arriving on on temporary visas has already exceed the number that were arriving pre-Covid - $20,000 a month - around quarter of a million a year.

300,000 workers were in the country on one form of temporary visa or another. Some had been here up to a decade bonded to employers with no chance of transitioning to residency. Why do National seem to be trying to recreate that awful system again?

The current government did the right thing by giving 200,000 a pathway to residency.

They also set in place a new system of accredited employers who had to pay at least the median wage of $30 an hour to import workers. This has forced companies like McDonald's to offer this rate for night shift jobs in New Zealand. Before this change, most night shift staff didn't get any extra above the minimum wage because the could rely on a steady flow of cheap migrant labour to do the work. They were able to avoid paying extra for the anti-social hours. Now they cannot. This is a good thing. It benefits NZ-resident workers as well.

The new wage requirement hasn't stopped a surge back to the record number of work visas being issued in March this year of 28,071. Only 11,000 of these are Accredited Employer Visas. The rest (post-study, working holiday, partners) are already exempt the minimum demanded for the Accredited Employer Visa.

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With close to 30,000 visas being issued each month there is no need to make it any easier or pay any less.

In fact what we should be doing is moving away from relying on temporary visas holders to fill claimed shortages in the New Zealand labour market. National propose to make it easier for their farmer mates to have have their employee have a pathway to residency. Why shouldn't every worker in this category have this right?

Data on work visas issued in March (Thanks to Green Party researcher Lachlan Patterson)

20,443 is the number of arrivals in March, whereas the number approved is 28,071. MBIE doesn’t publish the data for arrivals broken down to particular visa type.

Here’s a summary of work visas approved in March compiled from MBIE’s data portal. I’ve excluded any that are less than 100.

VisaNumberWage requirement
Accredited Employer11,025Median wage $29.66 (except where sector agreement) from 27 Feb 2023
Post-study - Open4,722None
Recognised Seasonal Employer2,904None
Partner of a worker2,076None (until June)
Specific Purpose or event1,272None
Variation of Conditions783None
Partner of Student321None
Total28,071Note numbers above are subject to random rounding to base 3

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