Migration

New Zealand’s failure to attract migrants hurts Covid recovery

New Zealand is struggling to attract and retain skilled migrants, and it’s hurting the country as it tries to bounce back from Covid-19, the National Immigration spokesperson has said.

Erica Stanford told Q+A host Jack Tame that migration is playing a “critical factor” in New Zealand’s economic recovery from the pandemic, but the government’s recent immigration policies have not not help.

She said this was evident in New Zealand’s net loss of migration, which was leading to staff shortages in a number of sectors, such as hospitality and healthcare.

Data from Stats NZ estimated a net migration loss of around 8,700 people in the year to April. Of this figure, there was a loss of 8,900 non-nationals, and part of this was offset by a net gain of 200 New Zealand citizens.

Stats NZ said New Zealand saw large numbers of migrants arriving between late 2019 and early 2020. He said many of those travelers chose to extend their stay in New Zealand due to the pandemic.

Stanford said the numbers were “very shocking” but were no surprise because “we treated them so badly”. As an example, she pointed to the government’s changes to immigration in May that streamlined specific jobs with pathways to residency.

The nurses’ union criticized the changes because the government required nurses to be in New Zealand for two years before they could apply for residency, unlike doctors, scientists and engineers who followed a “straight to residency” route.

At the same time, the country’s nurses reported being understaffed and overworked. More recently, after the death of a patient who left the emergency room at Middlemore Hospital due to long waiting times, nurses warned that more people could die if staffing shortages are not resolved. urgently.

Then-immigration minister Kris Faafoi said last month that the requirement was imposed on nurses because it would mean they would have to stay with the same employer for at least two years, and that the sector l had asked.

But Stanford told Q+A that Faafoi might have gotten confused because the real problem was nurses switching between working in elder care and DHBs.

It was the aged care sector that raised the issue of retention, she said.

Stanford said if National were in power, they would have simply used a specific section of immigration law to attach conditions to residency, instead of making nurses wait two years.

Because of the hurdles nurses faced, they would likely look abroad rather than stay in New Zealand, she added.

“Every country in the world is looking for these same incredibly talented migrants. We are not putting ourselves in a position to compete with Australia, Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom in attracting the best talent.”

Under National, all healthcare workers would have an expedited residency option, she said.