09 July 2009

New Zealand official says country still needs skilled workers

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A senior immigration official has rejected claims by British newspapers that New Zealand authorities are effectively sending home immigrant workers to preserve jobs for their own citizens.

New Zealand skilled workers

New Zealand still needs skilled workers, like automotive mechanics, an Immigration New Zealand offical has said.

"Claims of an anti-migrant job crisis in New Zealand are not supported by the facts," Immigration New Zealand's service delivery group manager Steve Cantlon said.

"One can only feel sympathy for the plight of families who have had to return home because of the changing labour market .

"However, temporary workers have always known that there was no certainty that their permits would be extended or that they would be able to progress on to permanent residence.

"The change in their economic circumstances is to be regretted, but it is not the result of an anti-immigrant jobs policy."

In UK media there have been claims that the dreams of hundreds of British migrants in moving to New Zealand have been placed in financial difficulty when their temporary work permits expire and they have to apply for a new one.

British expatriates "face losing their jobs and being kicked out of the country" because of the credit crunch and what is said to be a major shift in policy by the New Zealand government, the Daily Mail newspaper reported in London.

"The dreams of hundreds who left for a better life on the other side of the world are now turning into nightmares.

"With unemployment at a six-year high of 5 per cent of the population of 4.3 million, tough economic times have led to jobs going to native New Zealanders first."

The newspaper said one factor was New Zealanders who had lost their jobs overseas returning home, and that more than 3000 of the 26,000 who returned last year ended up on benefits. Britons in New Zealand left without work had complained they were being hurt by a "jobs for Kiwis" trend.

The needed skills approach to issuing New Zealand work permits was last month narrowed and  Immigration New Zealand cut 44 job-types that had previously been on the Government's "immediate skill shortage list" of 87 occupations, in a twice-yearly Labour Department review.

Affected trades included bakers, sheep farm workers and construction sector occupations, such as bricklayers, carpenters, plumbers and scaffolders.

Employers wanting to bring in a migrant worker under the General Work Policy to do those jobs will have to show there are no suitable New Zealanders available in their region.

Mr Cantlon said immigration policy had always been based on ensuring that New Zealanders have the first opportunity to take up work vacancies but the Government's long-term skill shortage list still contained 60 professions, including air conditioning and refrigeration mechanics, automotive mechanics, boat builders, electricians and fitters and turners.

And the 87 professions still on the immediate skills shortage list included laboratory technicians, gasfitters and glaziers.

Mr Cantlon said the removal of 44 occupations from that list last month was a normal adjustment of supply and demand.

"There is now an increased supply of New Zealand citizens and permanent residents available who are qualified to fill positions previously on the skill shortage lists," Mr Cantlon said.

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