NZ Employers still want migrants

July 13, 2009

Employers are calling for a "more pragmatic approach" to migrant workers, saying the loss of their skills now will hurt the economy in the long run. Canterbury Employers' Chamber of Commerce chief executive Peter Townsend said the situation with migrants on temporary visas was "messy", and he called for clearer guidelines. Townsend said employers were telling him that their industries had been taken off the Long Term Skill Shortage List and they were losing skilled migrant workers, but were unable to replace them with Kiwis. He said there needed to be a "more pragmatic approach". "Businesses need to make sure they have the right people doing the right job for their business to maximise opportunities," he said. "Migrants need to be given some sort of comfort that the job they're doing is worth doing and they can keep doing it." He said migrants needed to recognise they were taking a risk coming to New Zealand on temporary permits. Kiwis working overseas were being forced out of other countries, and they also needed jobs, he said. Government figures show that about 3000 of the 26,000 Kiwis who returned to New Zealand over the past year ended up on the unemployment benefit. The Motor Trade Association said employers and skilled migrants were "not getting a fair deal on work permit extension". Association spokesman Andy Cuming said automotive technology had recently been reassigned as no longer having a skills shortage, but the industry still needed skilled migrants. "There are cases now where permits are not being extended and hard-working contributors are being advised they are no longer required in our country, despite their employers wanting to retain their services," he said. "This does our country's reputation no favours and works against New Zealand being considered a good destination for future skilled migration as the need arises again when the economy rebounds." Immigration New Zealand chief executive Andrew Annakin said last month that the removal of occupations from the list was the result of "extensive consultation with industry groups, other stakeholders and relevant government agencies". Removal of an occupation from the list did not mean employers could not recruit migrants if they could prove no New Zealander could do the job, he said. If what employers are saying is true, then this is certainly possible.