Valuing the migrants in our workforce

New immigration changes threaten the quality of care our sector can deliver to the country’s elderly.

With no consultation or warning, the Government recently increased the number of points required to gain residency under the Skilled Migrant Category (SMC) from 140 to 160. SMC awards points under three main areas – a job offer or existing employment in New Zealand, work experience here and overseas and qualifications.

Increasing the points required is likely to make it much harder for member care homes to recruit migrant registered nurses. Government figures reveal that almost half the 520 registered nurses recruited under the SMC in 2015/16 wouldn’t meet the 160 point threshold. This is compounded by more stringent English language requirements which will make it even more difficult for registered nurses from non-English speaking countries to gain residency.

NZACA is loudly protesting both the points increase and the lack of consultation. It’s disappointing the Government went ahead in the face of official advice showing registered nurses in the aged care sector would be amongst the most affected – at a time when it’s widely accepted demand for aged residential care services is growing and will continue to do so.

With a General Election scheduled for next year, the Government’s move is clearly politically motivated. Immigration is an easy target for political point scoring. It’s also short sighted.

Migrant registered nurses have long been an important part of the aged care sector workforce. They fill a shortfall of New Zealand nurses in our sector and these changes will compound that shortfall and make the situation worse.

It also undermines the valuable economic and cultural contribution skilled migrants make to New Zealand.

More immigration changes

The Government has also launched a broader review of the SMC.  It is proposing a variety of changes, including:

  • the introduction of salary levels to help define skilled employment
  • strengthening the use of work experience to define skilled employment, and
  • realigning the points system to better recognised highly skilled migrants

The negative reaction from NZACA and other affected sectors to the SMC points increase has encouraged the Government to put this review out for consultation. We have met with Immigration New Zealand officials and Business New Zealand to discuss the proposed changes and what they mean for our members. Frustratingly, only one week has been allowed for submissions.  A longer consultation period would have enabled a more informed response to an issue which has wide implications for our whole economy.

Jobs for young Kiwis

Close on the heels of the Government’s changes to the SMC, the Salvation Army released a report suggesting an “explosion” of immigrants is “crowding out” marginalised young Kiwis from available jobs.

The What Next report claims too many work visas are being granted in four sectors where young Kiwis could be finding work – aged care, hospitality, building and dairying. It recommends tightening immigration rules further beyond the Government’s decision to raise the SMC points’ threshold.

As NZACA told the NZ Herald and continues to tell the Government, the New Zealand aged care sector is committed to providing meaningful career opportunities for young New Zealanders. Our challenge is that we can’t recruit enough youngsters who are available and willing to learn.

We are working on a range of initiatives to overcome this challenge. This included a forum with the Ministry of Social Development in September looking at ways to attract more young Kiwis into our sector. MSD is now developing a strategy and will report back to us in November.

We also partner with WINZ to help get Kiwis off the unemployment register and into the aged care workforce. But again, we are only interested in employing individuals who have the right attitude.

With demand for residential aged care services set to soar, the ability to recruit quality workers has never been more important! We need Government policies that support and encourage this.

  • Posted 2 years ago by NZACA Chief Executive Simon Wallace