Skills-based immigration – D

I’m sure they are excellent dairy workers/farmers (all 8000+ of them), but there are only around 11000 dairy farms in the whole country.  It does, rather, have the feel of an approach more strongly focused, in effect, on keeping down wages rates and conditions in the New Zealand dairy industry –  and fuelling the gross output driven mentality which Peter Fraser and co-authors suggest has dominated the industry in the last decade or so, a period when real value-added in agriculture has not grown at all.

The gains to farmers are clear, but those to New Zealanders as a whole are rather less obvious.

A quite remarkably larger number of (skilled?) domestic house-keepers as well, no doubt complementing the 1000 commercial housekeepers, and contributing to the long-sought lift in productivity.

work visas D

7 thoughts on “Skills-based immigration – D

  1. Hi Mike

    Enjoying your blog – really important work you are doing – find myself agreeing with nearly all of it – worrying!

    John Tait



  2. Michael

    Surely, if it doesn’t already exist, a spreadsheet could be made available/compiled by government officials that produced the equivalent of this ‘gross flow’ work visa data, for those finally achieving permanent residency? The data would surely be on everyone’s file at the time of granting permanent residency, and I would have thought that the occupational information at that time would have been recognised as of even more importance than the ‘flow’ data you are enumerating. Have you asked for such data?

    Combining the two datasets would be interesting. I think, for example, that you would find the reason for the flow pipeline being so full for work visas for dairy workers and ‘farmers’ is that once permanent residency is granted to the incumbent visa workers on farms, they leave soon after for cities and better education for their children, to be replaced by the new workers whose very large numbers you have highlighted. The value of permanent residency will be illustrated as high, and the price doesn’t have to be paid forever.

    Over forty years ago, someone at a Treasury ‘biscuit group’ which was considering the Canadian points system for immigration, worried (I think reasonably at least in some categories) that bringing in ‘readymade’ experienced workers in any category took some opportunity from NZ citizens training for roles, and less experienced. I think at the moment, in younger and not-so-skilled categories especially, that may be happening, as employers can pick up waiters and cooks etc from a constant stream of arrivals from elsewhere, who have better work skills and presentation, perhaps, than ‘citizen’ youngsters, who might need more time from the employer to get up to speed. The overall rate of unemployment is ‘not bad’, but it is bad among young people and some ethnicities. Our work visa practices may be militating against getting kids started in work at the bottom of the ladder.



  3. Thanks Clive

    I certainly need to keep stressing that these data are not the same as net inflows (and hence permanent boost to population) that comes from the PR programme. I’m pretty sure the same level of disaggregated data won’t be available for the PR programme, because PR approval isn’t dependent on a specific job offer.

    I’m using these data mainly because I stumbled on them – OIAs for anything else are very slow – and really just to highlight that in the specific work-based component of the immigration programme the concerns that others had raised (and which I hadn’t really been aware of, and which hadn’t been my – more macro – focus) about the low skills nature of many of the approvals seem to have quite a lot of merit.

    The logic of giving migration approvals for cyclical skills shortages seems wrong-headed: the market can deal with those by relative wage changes, and if the shortages become widespread through tighter monetary policy (there is great quote along these lines from Frank Holmes in the 60s which I must dig out again). As immigrants actually more to demand than supply in the short-term, any easing in pressures in specific sectors lucky enough to get on the approved list is typically at least fully offset by aggravating demand pressures elsewhere in the economy.


  4. I think the facts revealed by this series on skills based migration (as well as the wider migration issues discussed in other posts) are important and disconcerting.

    If it were found to be true that vested interests, whether in primary industries or elsewhere, were lobbying either the government or the immigration authorities to allow this number of foreign low-skilled entrants into the job market to keep down the wages or reduce employment opportunities of its own citizens – that would be quite a shock but maybe not a surprise. In a sense wouldn’t this imply that the government was essentially subsidising these migrant jobs by having to pay unemployment benefits to people who might otherwise be in paid employment?


    • It is a complex argument. There is a lot of debate internationally as to whether large scale migration of low skilled people tends to depress wages in the destination country. But if it does, it is probably not at the expense of the government – the unemployment rate over time will be what the labour market institutions make it – but at the expense of less-skilled home country workers.


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