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Two-Year High for Net Migration, But Is New Zealand Doing Enough?

Is the New Zealand Government’s immigration policies doing enough to attract new migrants? Will we get the support we need for social and economic growth?
April 25, 2023
|
5
 min read

Net Migration in New Zealand Reaches Two-Year High

After our borders opened again in 2022, New Zealand witnessed a negative net migration as migrant departures resumed their typical rates, whilst the influx of migrants has been slower to rebound. In addition, New Zealanders emigrating also exacerbated the issue, finally being able to leave the country to seek job opportunities overseas, compounding the labour shortage issues for NZ employers. 

Nevertheless, according to recent migration statistics, net migration is finally starting to look positive, with significant migrant arrivals transforming the brain drain into a brain gain. 

(Source: Stats NZ)

In the period between Jan 2022 to Jan 2023, net migration is estimated to have climbed to 33,200 more migrants arriving in New Zealand compared to those who have departed. Although net migration will now be much lower than our pre-covid levels, Immigration NZ aims to increase the number of migrants moving to our country and provide a smoother service with shorter immigration queues and quicker approval times. 

Is New Zealand's Approach to Immigration Enough to Support Economic Growth?

New Zealand's Immigration issues are both short and long-term issues. New Zealand's economic downturn will not be solved quickly by increasing the levels of migrants. With higher costs of living, many companies are not likely to see growth for some time. Controlling the quality of migrants coming in will, however, it encourages employers to hire migrant workers with a higher skill set, which may lead to more economic growth over time. 

In the long term, the benefits of their approach are hoped to increase the productivity of New Zealand companies and improve the earnings for both Kiwi and migrant workers.

The Rebalancing of Immigration Towards a Higher Skilled Workforce

The Government's rebalancing of New Zealand's immigration system is attempting to shift the future migrant workforce to increase the amount of highly skilled workers and reduce the other end of the spectrum to support our economy's growth. 

With the elections coming up, it could be seen as a political move to reassure voters that the Government is addressing the potential impact on our infrastructure and housing rather than the underlying issue of building more houses to support New Zealanders and a migrant workforce. 

The policies structured to allow few people in at a higher level of qualification and skill may help support Kiwis struggling to find housing. However, its impact on our economy could prolong the downturn. This is a long-term strategy and may not help our economy grow quickly.

In a time where costs of living are rising each month, it puts more pressure on employers to pay more to hire new migrant staff and meet higher medium wage thresholds. 

Short-Term Issues Affecting Economic Growth

In the short term, the momentum lost by the closure of the borders to migrants and the restructuring of who is allowed to enter the country has impacted many businesses financially. 

Businesses that have been forced to close or see their growth severely affected due to the lack of labour and higher costs of goods. This has had a roll-on effect on the economy, where inflation has risen to 7.2%

(Source: Stats NZ)

How is the Government Helping Kiwi Businesses?

With a higher rate of immigrants coupled with fewer jobs advertised, there is the potential for a power shift this year back in the employer's hands with a broader choice of candidates. Employers can select based on a higher skill level potential to increase productivity. In the downturn, however, the higher median wage requirement for migrant workers could persuade businesses to continue to favour a less qualified Kiwi employee as a cheaper option.

The Government has increased the amount of holiday work visas and excluded Tourism and Hospitality employers from medium wage hikes for a period to support the short-term effects of its new immigration policies. They have also given several sectors reliant on lower-wage workers additional time to find labour solutions before meeting the new medium-wage thresholds. 

However, for businesses reliant on migrant workers, that could mean a significant increase in the cost of labour which will, in turn, affect their margins and continue to push up the prices we pay for products and services. 

A Long-Term Strategy for NZ Immigration.

To level the playing field and to entice and retain more highly skilled workers, the Government has implemented schemes that will potentially raise wages, streamline immigration and for critical migrant workers fast track their residency. 

The New Zealand green list and Skilled Migrant Visas are designed to help streamline the immigration process and make gaining residency easier if you have the right experience. 

However, it is early days for this scheme. Few statistics have been published about how many people it attracts overall. The figures released for the healthcare sector in March 2023 saw the majority of approved visas for migrants already in the country. However, out of 20 specialist doctors approved for a fast-tracked residency, 40% were new applicants, which could be more promising for our healthcare sector. 

How Can NZ Attract More Immigrants?

Unless we find a solution to the current downturn to help boost consumer spending and cost of living, it will be hard for many companies to see growth in 2023. Limiting numbers into the country at this point may also limit the productivity of companies. So the Government is asking its business community to invest in the future now, improving its technology, increasing training which it hopes will lift productivity in coming years. 

Investing in your business’s future growth could be attracting and retaining highly skilled migrants now. Paying higher wages now may hurt the bottom line further, however, the potential experience you gain when inviting international talent into your business can help raise your game in the longer term. 

Workers planning for the future, and wanting to afford a house and family, will be comparing the economic and lifestyle benefits when selecting a new country. However, if we are to compete with the likes of Australia and Canada, both celebrated for their beauty, work/life balance and security, we need to pay more for this talent. 

Lucky for NZ workers, this wage increase was already in effect last year. With the Private sector average hourly earnings increased by 8.6 percent to $36.09, whilst public saw a smaller increase of 4.3%

(Source: Stats NZ)

The Future of New Zealand's Workforce

By 2038, we will see our over +65 year population balloon to 1.34 million or 21% of our population. At the same time, our population of tax-paying workers supporting the aged population will be reduced to 3:1 within twenty years. This situation is similar overseas as birth rates drop and the cost of living increases. 

New Zealand needs to plan for the next twenty years now to attract more tax-paying workers to support this ageing population. Immigration will play a massive part in helping our economy to grow in the long term. 

The Ageing Population: Healthcare Statistics

To support this ageing population, we need to increase our healthcare solutions, attracting more doctors and healthcare professionals. Our health professionals are also ageing, with 40% of doctors and 45% of nurses over 50. 

General practitioners, for example, are estimated to see their workforce reduced by fifty per cent in the next ten years due to retirement. One in five nurses is also looking to retire in years. The need for new graduates in this area is pushing New Zealand to look to international shores to fulfil their healthcare needs.

We now rely heavily on a migrant workforce to support our healthcare system. Currently, 42% of our doctors, 32% of our midwives and 26% of our nurses are migrant workers. To ensure the health and expectations of caring for New Zealanders are met internally as well as with the support of migrants, New Zealand is investing in training and incentives to retain the people it trains for the future. 

How NZ is Addressing the Healthcare Shortages

The Government has fast-tracked residency visas for many medical roles to capture overseas migrants. 

The healthcare system plays a vital role in caring for our community; due to the pressure of the pandemic and low staffing numbers, the system is reported to have an 11% deficiency in its staff. 

Nursing was vulnerable to this issue, with nurses leaving for Australia attracted by the higher wages. In Dec 2022, however, the Government increased nursing wages in line with their Australian counterparts, which saw an increase of 14% for most roles.*

It's early days to see how this wage increases our nursing retention rate however, we are now more competitive with Australia to attract new nursing professionals. 

In conclusion, New Zealand is finally back in positive net migration in the first month of 2023. However, this positive trend may not necessarily lead to quick economic growth as the country still faces labour shortages, higher living costs, and increasing inflation. 

To address these issues, the government focus on the policy improvements that will help speed up the immigration process and increase the pool of highly trained workers in this country.It urges businesses to invest in their future growth by attracting and retaining highly skilled migrants, despite the potential short-term financial costs. 

Overall, New Zealand's current immigration strategy is aimed at long term growth, increasing the productivity of companies and improving the earnings of both Kiwi and migrant workers in the long run.

Read our article on how the Government is attempting to fix skill shortages for more information.

 

Get Licensed Immigration Advice Today

Whether you're looking to hire migrant workers, applying for a Green list role, or seeing what opportunities New Zealand has for you, Malcolm Pacific Immigration can help you. 

Our licensed advisers assist you in understanding the visa process and take the stress away to let you focus on your business. In addition, we have an employer services team on standby and ready to help. 

Get in touch with us today!

*Te Whatuora - Health NZ - Nurses Pay Equality

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Update

Migrant Worker Residence

Today the government announced a pathway to residence for migrant workers who are living and working in New Zealand. Applications open on 1 December 2021 for the first wave who are eligible to apply. The second wave can apply from 1 March 2022. The deadline to lodge an application is 31 July 2022 or else they will miss out on this one off opportunity.

January 9, 2023
Update

Skilled Migrants Opportunity

Today the government announced a pathway to residence for people living and working in New Zealand. Applications open on 1 December 2021 for the first wave eligible to apply. The second wave can apply from 1 March 2022. The deadline to lodge an application is 31 July 2022 or else you miss the boat.

January 9, 2023
Update

New Employer Accreditation Process

The government has moved the introduction of the new employer accreditation process across to mid-2022. At the same time, the Minister of Immigration announced new work visa rules for migrant workers who are already in New Zealand and working full time.

January 9, 2023
Update

Skilled Migrant Changes

The government has increased the median wage to $27 per hour from 19 July. Any Skilled Migrant residence application lodged after this date will need to include a skilled job offer that pays at least $27 per hour. For some lower-skilled occupations, the minimum pay rate increases to $40.50 per hour.

Read more here.

January 9, 2023
Update

Work Visa Rules

From 19 July 2021

  • The median wage used to assess Essential Skills Work Visa applications increases from $25.50 per hour to $27 per hour.
  • Applicants paid below the median wage may be granted a work visa for up to 24 months. The usual 6-month visa validity restriction is suspended until mid-2022.
  • In certain cases, the labour market test is waived and in some cases, it will still apply.

Read more here.

January 9, 2023
Update

Work Visa Rules

From 30 June 2021

  • Employer Accreditation and Approval in Principle applications are now closed.
  • No new Employer Accreditation applications (including renewals) will be accepted until the new process goes live in mid-2022.

Read more here.

January 9, 2023
Update

Employer Accreditation Becomes Mandatory

Employers of migrant workers must become accredited from 1 November 2021 before work visa applications can be processed. Most employers are not accredited. Those that are accredited will have to roll into the new system when it goes live in late September.

January 9, 2023
Update

Work Visa Rules

From mid-2020 (delayed)

  • Government to negotiate and introduce Industry Sector agreements setting minimum conditions for industries that heavily rely on overseas workers. Sectors include; residential care, meat processing, dairy, forestry, road freight transport, tourism, and hospitality. Construction, horticulture, and viticulture may also be included.

Read more here.

January 9, 2023
Update

Skilled Migrant Changes

Skilled occupation "Dairy Cattle Farmer" spilt into three occupations. New occupations are: "Dairy Farm Manager", "Assistant Dairy Farm Manager" and "Dairy Herd Manager". Each sit at different skill levels, therefore, the award of points will depend on pay rates, job tasks and other requirements.

Read more here.

January 9, 2023
Update

Work Visa Rules

From 15 February 2021

  • Dairy Cattle Farmer job offers are now assessed by three new occupation descriptions: Dairy Farm Manager, Assistant Dairy Farm Manager and Dairy Herd Manager. Pay rates and job tasks will determine how long a work visa is valid. Take advice.

Read more here.

January 9, 2023
Update

Skilled Migrant Changes

The government has deferred the fortnightly selection of Expressions of Interest from the Skilled Migrant pool for six months (to be reviewed in April 2021). Invitations to Apply for Residence remain suspended. The last selection from the Skilled Migrant pool took place on 18/03/2020.

Read more here.

January 9, 2023
Update

Work Visa Rules

From 7 October 2020

  • Introduction of "Oversupply" and "Undersupply" occupation lists used to assess Essential Skills Work Visa applications when a job offer pays less than the median wage.
  • Employers offering jobs to migrant workers where an occupation is on the "Oversupply" list will not get Skill Match reports issued by Work & Income. Solid evidence of genuine attempts to find a local to fill the job will be critical for approval.

Read more here.

January 9, 2023
Update

Skilled Migrant Changes

The government added four new occupations that are now regarded as skilled employment and may qualify for job offer points under the Skilled Migrant Category. These are:

Aged or disabled carer, Bicycle mechanic, Driller and Nursing Support worker.

Read more here.

January 9, 2023
Update

Work Visa Rules

From 27 July 2020

  • Essential Skills work visa applications are now assessed based on the current median wage (NZD $25.50 or more per hour.).
  • Job offers paying below the median wage require employers to pass the labour market test* and secure a Skills Match Reports from WINZ (work visas granted for a maximum of 6 months).

Read more here.

January 9, 2023
Update

Skilled Migrant Changes

Anyone invited by Immigration NZ to apply for residence under the Skilled Migrant Category where their invitation is dated between 1 November 2019 and 15 April 2020 (inclusive) has now been granted an additional six months to lodge their residence application.

Read more here.

January 9, 2023
Update

Work Visa Rules

From 27 May 2020​

  • Regional Skill Shortage List goes live. 15 regions around New Zealand list occupations reflecting local skill shortages in each region. The labour market test is not mandatory provided the job offer matches the occupation and region plus the visa applicant has qualifications and/or work experience set out on the list.

Read more here.

January 9, 2023
Update

Skilled Migrant Changes

The government has deferred the fortnightly selection of Expressions of Interest from the Skilled Migrant pool. This means Invitations to Apply for Residence are also suspended. Malcolm Pacific Immigration does not anticipate selections to resume until after the general election held on 17 October 2020.

Read more here.

January 9, 2023
Update

Skilled Migrant Changes

Immigration NZ is now prioritising Skilled Migrant Residence applications where the main (principal) applicant meets the criteria:

  • Has employment paying double the median wage which is currently NZD $51 per hour OR NZD $106,800 per annum; OR Has New Zealand occupational registration and is required to hold valid registration to lawfully carry out their job.

Read more here.

January 9, 2023
Update

Work Visa Rules

From 24 February 2020

  • Wage or salary thresholds increase for Essential Skills Work Visas applications lodged on or after 24/02/2020 (labour market tested; read more here).
  • Higher Skilled employment increases to $38.25 or more per hour ($79,560 per annum*)
  • Mid Skilled Employment increases to $21.68 or more per hour ($45,094 per annum*)

Read more here.

January 9, 2023
Update

Work Visa Rules

From 7 October 2019

  • Base salary to qualify for a Work to Residence Visa (WTR) supported by an accredited employer increases from $55,000 per annum to $79,560 per annum (or $38.25 per hour).
  • Pay rates for WTR visas are now reviewed annually.
  • Work visa applicants paid less than $79,560 per annum by accredited employers need to apply under other work visa categories.

Read more here.

January 9, 2023
Update

Skilled Migrant Changes

The government recently added more occupations that are now to be regarded as skilled employment and may qualify for job offer points under the Skilled Migrant Category. In order to qualify for points, the job must be paying at least the current median wage (or higher for certain occupations) at the time the residence application is lodged.

Read more here.

January 9, 2023
Update

Work Visa Rules

From 1 November 2021

  • Work to Residence Visa (Accredited Employer and Long Term Skill Shortage) applications close.
  • Applications lodged on or before 31 October 2021 will be processed under current visa settings.

Read more here.

January 9, 2023
Update

Mandatory Vaccination Required for Travel

From 1 November 2021 anyone who is not a NZ citizen must be fully vaccinated (unless exempt) before travelling to New Zealand. Fully vaccinated means your last dose of vaccine was given at least 14 days before travelling and it was an approved vaccine.

January 9, 2023
Update

Employer Accreditation

Applications for employer accreditation closed at the end of June 2021. Applications lodged before the closure date are still being processed. New applications for accreditation open on 9 May 2022. The process will be quite different to what employers have experienced in the past. Businesses will need to meet minimum standards.

January 9, 2023
Update

2021 Resident Visa

Wednesday, 1 December is fast approaching and it is estimated that around 16,000 individuals and families can apply in the first wave for the 2021 Resident Visa opening next month. It is exciting for the thousands of people who have been waiting patiently to become residents that finally the finish line is in sight.

Read more here.

January 9, 2023
Update

2021 Resident Visa

The first wave of applicants can apply from 1 December 2021. Around 16,000 applications are expected in this first wave. The second wave opens on 1 March 2022. In total, the government expects approximately 110,000 applications that will include about 165,000 people.

Read more here.

January 9, 2023
Update

2021 Resident Visa

The second group of workers who can apply online for the 2021 Resident Visa that opens on 1 March 2022 are those who hold an eligible work visa and either meet "Settled", "Skilled" or "Scarce" as set out above. In total Immigration NZ estimate around 110,000 people will qualify to apply for this visa.

Read more here.

January 9, 2023
Update

2021 Resident Visa

The first group of workers who can apply online for the 2021 Resident Visa that opens on 1 December 2021 are those that on 29/09/2021:

  • Had lodged a residence application under the Skilled Migrant Category (SMC) or Residence from Work category; OR Had lodged an SMC Expression of Interest (EOI) in the SMC pool that included at least one dependent child aged 17 or above.

Read more here.

January 9, 2023
Update

2021 Resident Visa

Is this the only requirement to qualify for residence? No. In addition to the eligible work visa criteria workers also need to be regarded as one of the following:

  1. Settled.
  2. Skilled.
  3. Scarce.

Read more here.

January 9, 2023
Update

2021 Resident Visa

People who were lawfully in NZ (or in Australia when the travel bubble closed between April and July 2021) on 29/09/2021 need to meet the visa eligibility criteria:

  • Workers in NZ who held an eligible work visa on or before 29/9/2021 and on the day they apply for residence; OR Applied for an eligible work visa on or before 29/9/2021 and the work visa application is subsequently approved and still hold an eligible work visa on the day they apply for residence.

Read more here.

January 9, 2023
Update

2021 Resident Visa

The government has introduced a limited pathway to residence for people who are already living and working in New Zealand. Applications open on 1 December 2021 for the first wave of people eligible to apply. The second wave opens on 1 March 2022. The deadline to apply for the 2021 Resident Visa is 31 July 2022.

Read more here.

January 9, 2023
Update

Critical Purpose Visitor Visas

A small number of critical health workers (taking up jobs for six months or longer) or specialist workers (taking up jobs that are for longer than six months) who were granted border exemptions may also have eligibility for the 2021 Resident Visa. They will need to have arrived in NZ and lodge a 2021 Resident Visa application.

Read more here.

January 9, 2023
Update

Policy Decision Key Dates in 2022

  • July 4. Applications open for the new Accredited Employer Work Visa.
  • July 31. Applications for the 2021 Resident Visa close.
  • August. Skilled Migrant Residence category scheduled to reopen.
  • August. A new pathway to residence for people earning 200% or more of the median wage.

*Excludes high-risk countries.

January 9, 2023
Update

Policy Decision Key Dates in 2022

  • February 13. Fully vaccinated Kiwis plus certain other travellers entering NZ from the rest of the world* can skip MIQ.
  • April 30. The border starts a phased reopen to fully vaccinated foreign nationals.
  • April 30. The Productivity Commission reports back to the government on immigration settings.
  • May 9. Applications open for mandatory Employer Accreditation.

*Excludes high-risk countries.

January 9, 2023
Update

Work Visa Categories Closing

The work visa categories set to close are:

  • Essential Skills Work Visa
  • Essential Skills Work Visa – approval in principle
  • Work to Residence (Talent – Accredited Employer)
  • Work to Residence (Long Term Skills Shortage)
  • Silver Fern Job Search Work Visa (closed October 2019)
  • Silver Fern Practical Experience Work Visa.
January 9, 2023
Update

The Green List

In order to address labour shortages in New Zealand's crucial industries the NZ government has implemented a "Green List" of sought-after high-skill occupations. This list offers a prioritised pathway to residency.

There are qualification and/or occupational registration requirements to meet. Occupations are broken down into two tiers: 

  • Tier 1 - direct pathway to residence
  • Tier 2 - requires a period of two years or longer before applying

The recent additions in May 2023 across many sectors can be found here

June 16, 2023