Govt rethink on migrant worker plan

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Wellington
The Government has relaxed remuneration bands separating low and mid-skilled workers after businesses complained the original rules were too tight.
There were 170 submissions on the Government’s planned changes to temporary work visas, prompting a rethink on how skilled migrants are identified under visa requirements.
Under a plan announced in April the government proposed changes meaning migrants would only count as “skilled” if the job they were coming for paid more than about $49,000 a year.
That figure has been relaxed to a little over $41,000 a year following consultation, or around 85% of the current median income.
Employers were concerned higher qualified mid-skilled workers, on a pathway to higher level jobs, could have been penalised by a requirement to stand down after three years.
It recognises workers are filling genuine skills shortages, Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse said.
He believed between 6000 and 7000 people, on current numbers, would not be subject to the stand-down period following the changes and could be in line for a pay increase.
“If somebody has a remuneration threshold to reach and they are below but within the range of it, it may well be that if the employer is keen to ensure that worker remains — and an overseas worker is still required — then there could be a salary increase for them,” he said.
He did not believe wages would be suppressed or that employers would reduce wages from the old threshold to the new.
”We’ll be watching that closely but I think that’s highly unlikely.”
Business NZ labelled the policy “helpful” but chief executive Kirk Hope said innovative solutions were needed to help young New Zealanders upskill and find work.
Federated Farmers says the changes won’t help.
“The entire sector called for the Government’s proposal to be amended to provide a framework for employers to attract and retain quality, motivated, highly capable migrant employees,” immigration spokesman Chris Lewis said.
“None of the changes proposed in the document released today will do that.”
Labour’s immigration spokesman Iain Lees-Galloway said the focus should be on high-skilled immigration.
“I think it’s a really bad policy, using salary as a proxy for skills is just a poor approach,” he said.
“What we should be doing is properly assessing where the skill shortages exist, and where they do, fill them with migrant labour where necessary.”
New Zealand First leader Winston Peters says it was unfocused and haphazard and echoed Labour’s claims the policy was a knee-jerk reaction.
Other changes, including a maximum three-year visa duration for lower-skilled workers, a minimum stand-down period between visas and a requirement for partners and children of lower-skilled visa holder to meet requirements in their own right remain unchanged.
Temporary work visa conditions will be introduced on August 28, while additional issues will be addressed in phase two, Mr Woodhouse said.
That includes concerns around a lack of classification for some jobs under current Australian and New Zealand standard classification of occupation guidelines. — NZN

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