The government’s immigration policy changes

The Prime Minister yesterday announced several changes to New Zealand’s immigration policy. This is an extract from the Minister of Immigration’s press release.

New measures to take effect from 1 November include:

  • Boosting the bonus points for Skilled Migrants applying for residence with a job offer outside Auckland from 10 to 30 points. [They require 100 points]
  • Doubling the points for entrepreneurs planning to set up businesses in the regions under the Entrepreneur Work Visa from 20 to 40 points.  [They require 120 points]
  • Streamlining the labour market test to provide employers with more certainty, earlier in the visa application process.

“Unemployment across the Mainland is nearly half that of the North Island, and labour is in short supply,” Mr Woodhouse says.“We’re looking at offering residence to some migrants, who have applied at least five times for their annual work visa. In return, we will require them to commit to the South Island regions where they’ve put down roots.”

Mr Woodhouse says the Government is also considering a new Global Impact Visa to attract high-impact entrepreneurs, investors and start-up teams to launch global ventures from New Zealand.

“I will announce further details later this year, but we envisage this visa would be offered to a limited number of younger, highly talented, successful and well-connected entrepreneurs from places like Silicon Valley,” Mr Woodhouse says.

I can’t see any background analysis to these measures, either on the MBIE website or with the Minister’s press release.  On the face of it, however, this looks like a set of measures that will, on balance, to undermine the quality of New Zealand’s immigration programme.

We all know about the infrastructure pressures in Auckland –  largely self-inflicted by central and local government.  Perhaps trying to steer some of the immigrants away from Auckland might temporarily ease some of those pressures a little.  But there is a price to be paid. Providing a significant increase in the number of points available for people with job offers outside Auckland must lower the likely average quality of incoming immigrants.  There is no sign that the permanent residence approvals target (135000 to 150000 on a rolling three year basis) is being increased, so people going to the regions –  taking advantage of the additional points for doing so – will be at the expense of otherwise better-qualified people who would have gone to Auckland.    Under the new policy, people will only have to stay in the regions for a year, so perhaps it will make only a very small difference over time to the number of immigrants who end up in Auckland.  But the ones who do come in, taking advantage of these additional points, will be – on average – less good quality people than the applicants who are squeezed out (people who might have a job offer in Auckland –  our highest paying and –  at least in a statistical sense –  most productive city).    Perhaps I’m missing a significant strand in the reasoning, but I can’t see the likely long-term economic gain for New Zealand.

The Global Impact Visa idea sounds superficially promising. But my impression from the Pathways Conference last week was that existing entrepreneur visa schemes had not worked particularly well.  It will be interesting to see the analysis behind this proposal, including an assessment of how the risks around it will be managed and overcome.  I remain a little sceptical of the attraction of New Zealand to “younger, highly talented, successful and well-connected entrepreneurs from places like Silicon Valley”.  The flow of people in that sector would seem more naturally to be in other direction.  I hope it is not an example of the old derogatory adage used about Britons working in Hong Kong:  FILTH  (“failed in London, try Hong Kong”).

Welcome to new readers

Welcome to readers who have visited this blog since my Q&A interview yesterday. Although the most recent post was on Australian monetary policy, my focus here is on New Zealand issues. The range of topics I touch on reflects some, slightly random, mix of my fairly wide-ranging interests, my experience, my reading, and what pops up in newspapers, speeches, or other blogs here and abroad.

The single economic issue that I care about most is reversing the decline in New Zealand’s relative economic performance that has been going on, in fits and starts, since at least the middle of the twentieth century, if not longer. We’ve done badly.  I want New Zealand to be a place my kids want to stay in, rather than joining the diaspora – the more than 900000 New Zealanders (net) who’ve left since 1970.

But much of the content of the blog so far has been on issues relating to housing, financial stability and banking regulation, and the Reserve Bank. That mostly reflects what has been going on in New Zealand this year, and choices that the Reserve Bank in particular has made. When I gained my freedom earlier in the year I didn’t set out to focus on the Bank. I think they’ve been making some poor calls – both on monetary policy, and around banking regulation – but even in respect of the Reserve Bank I’m more interested in advancing the cause of institutional reform than in this year’s specific decisions.

For the last couple of months, I have been categorising my posts so anyone new to the site can find a way in to the various topics I’ve covered. But for anyone interested in some more substantial pieces of my argumentation, you could try these links:
• A speech I gave in May on the “blunders of our governments”, that are primarily responsible for high house prices.
• A speech given at a LEANZ seminar in June on “Housing, financial stresses, and the regulatory role of the Reserve Bank”.
• A paper issued in May making the case for reforming the governance of the Reserve Bank
• My recent submission on the Reserve Bank’s proposal to restrict access to mortgage finance for residential rental businesses in Auckland.

In terms of the longer-term economic performance issues:
• This paper, written in 2013 for a Reserve Bank/Treasury forum on exchange rate issues sets out how I’ve been thinking about the issues.
• And these more-speculative speech notes also from 2013 take a longer-term perspective on New Zealand’s relative economic decline.

I welcome comments, and have been pleased (not to say relieved) at the tone that commenters have maintained. Thoughtful discussion and debate matter, and I hope that in some small ways this site can contribute.