From real estate agents to pet groomers: These are the jobs that New Zealanders can’t or won’t do | Stuff.co.nz
Thousands of migrants have been granted temporary work visas to fill ordinary jobs that New Zealanders aren’t prepared to do despite unemployment rising at a rate not seen since the 1980s.
Figures released to Stuff under the Official Information Act show that from March 19, when New Zealand’s borders closed due to Covid-19, to September 30, Immigration New Zealand received more than 18,000 new work visa applications under the essential skills category.
It approved nearly 15,000 essential skills work visa applications in that time and declined about 1500, including some received before March 19.
Applications were approved for 633 different jobs ranging from low skilled roles including taxi driver, cafe worker and cleaner, through to highly skilled jobs such as paediatrician, aircraft engineer and chemical engineer.
The visa approvals come at the same time as many New Zealanders are finding themselves out of work as a result of Covid-19’s impact on businesses and the economy.
Jobs data released earlier this month showed New Zealand’s unemployment rate hit 5.3 per cent, with the number of jobless people rising by 37,000 in the September quarter to reach 151,000, the largest quarterly rise in unemployment since 1986.
Wanaka chef Chrissi Roper has experienced first hand the absence of New Zealanders, or migrant workers for that matter, willing or available to step into a job.
She’s been busy preparing to open a food truck in a few weeks time, but a labour shortage could spell disaster for her and other operators in Wanaka and Queenstown, she said.
“I have been advertising for chefs and cooks for over a week now on various platforms and I have had zero applications,” Roper said.
She said a lack of hospitality staff in the region was causing a “massive wave of panic” amongst business owners.
“There’s nobody, nobody looking for jobs – they’ve tried to get Kiwis or people with visas and it’s just not happening.
“We are literally tearing our hair out with stress.”
Training people took time, and she wanted the Government to create a hospitality visa similar to a Supplementary Seasonal Employer Work Visa established for the horticulture and agriculture industries.
Since New Zealand’s borders closed to nearly everyone except returning residents, Immigration New Zealand stopped processing visa applications for overseas applicants unless they met strict border exception criteria.
An Immigration NZ spokesman said essential skills work visas were employer-assisted, meaning the visa was linked to a role being offered.
When supporting a visa, employers were required to check that there were no New Zealanders available to fill the role, before looking to hire a migrant worker, he said.
Employers needed to provide evidence that genuine attempts to recruit a New Zealander had been made and Immigration New Zealand needed to be satisfied that, at the time the application was assessed, there were no New Zealanders available to do the work before granting the visa, he said.
“As part of the application process, employers must provide evidence that they’ve taken all reasonable steps to hire a New Zealander first.”
Applications for jobs in sectors or geographical areas where there was an undersupply of New Zealanders available to perform a role were more likely to be successful, he said.
As of September 30 nearly 5000 applications received during the period were still pending a decision.
New Zealand immigration specialist Simon Laurent, principal at Laurent Law, said he suspected the majority of essential skills work visa applications approved since New Zealand’s borders closed were for people from overseas who were already in the country on another visa.
Laurent said he had never heard of an essential work visa application being issued for a taxi driver, for example, but without seeing how applications were presented it was difficult to say whether Immigration New Zealand was right to grant a visa.
“There may have been some justification for the reason why the decision was made in that way,” Laurent said.
He said he had experienced inconsistency in decision-making from Immigration New Zealand due to a relative lack of experience of front line staff.
NZ Taxi Federation executive director John Hart said some taxi companies were having trouble finding drivers in some areas such as Auckland and Christchurch.
He said to become a taxi driver one must hold a full drivers licence and pass a fit and proper person test in order to receive a P endorsement.
Beyond that there were few other skills requirements.
“Really they don’t have to do very much.”
Infometrics senior economist Brad Olsen said he was surprised by many of the jobs for which visa applications had been approved.
“There are a considerable number that I really do question how they managed to get on that list and how New Zealand as a country isn’t able to provide some of those skills,” Olsen said.
He said he struggled to understand how so many essential visa applications were being granted considering New Zealand was in the middle of a pandemic and a sharp economic downturn.
“On first blush a lot of these roles do seem to be things that you might expect a New Zealander might be able to step into.”
The list showed businesses were struggling to fill roles with New Zealanders, he said.
“If we’re not able to fill these roles in New Zealand it reiterates that we haven’t been able to get a handle on skills mismatches that existed outside the pandemic.”
If businesses were struggling to fill roles now then that was likely to continue for years to come, he said.
“The scale of the list reiterates the breadth of need across different sectors.”
More work needed to be done getting New Zealanders into training which would allow them to fill jobs currently going to migrants, he said.
“If we can start to bridge those mismatch divides we can start to get more Kiwis back into these roles and develop their potential to move up the skills chain.”
This content was originally published here.