The Government is taking action through the revitalized and streamlined immigration system to help ease labor shortages faced by New Zealand businesses in a series of measures announced today by the Minister for ‘Michael Wood Immigration.
Measures include granting median wage exemptions to crucial sectors through sectoral agreements, temporarily doubling the workforce under the working holiday scheme and extending visas to retain the workforce. already working in the country.
“As the world recovers from COVID-19, labor shortages continue to be a lingering global symptom,” said Michael Wood.
“Our immigration rebalancing was designed during the pandemic and included the flexibility to respond to scenarios, such as the global labor shortage we are currently facing. These measures are intended to provide immediate relief to businesses hardest hit by the global labor shortage.
“We have listened to the concerns of these sectors and worked with them to take practical steps to free up additional labour. We know these measures will help close skills gaps as businesses strive to adopt more productive and resilient ways of operating.
“When we launched the immigration rebalancing, we heard from key sectors that they would need time to transition to the new rules. We have worked urgently alongside industry to develop sector agreements for the aged care, seafood, meat processing, construction and snow and adventure tourism industries that will be in place from today,” said Michael Wood.
Sectoral agreements allow for time-limited exceptions to new median wage requirements for companies hiring skilled migrant workers, keeping wage requirements more in line with old immigration parameters as they transition and we developing the skills needed for these industries here in New Zealand.
“Each agreement also includes expectations for improvement, including the implementation of workforce transition plans and industry transformation plans. Performance against these will be monitored and fed into reviews and decisions regarding future access to migrants below the median wage,” said Michael Wood.
The government also today announced changes to help ease casual labor shortages by temporarily increasing access to working holidaymakers by extending visas for those in the country and making available 12,000 additional places.
“Workforce challenges are seen at all skill levels and in all sectors. New Zealand is not alone in this, with countries around the world reporting similar issues.
“Since our borders have been fully reopened, we have seen the return of working holidaymakers with around 4,000 already in the country and more than 21,000 having had their application to work here approved.
“COVID has paralyzed the world. While we can guarantee the ability for these to come and work here, we recognize that the movement of people globally remains slow compared to pre-COVID levels, and this is particularly felt by the sectors of hospitality and tourism that traditionally depend on international workers.
“To help these sectors retain staff, we are also extending the visas of working holidaymakers already in New Zealand by six months with visas expiring between August 26, 2022 and May 31, 2023.
“We will also be providing an additional opportunity for those who previously held a working holiday visa but have not traveled due to Covid-19 to come to New Zealand for the summer. New visas will be issued to people from October 2022 allowing them to enter New Zealand by January 31, 2023. This visa will allow them to be in New Zealand for 12 months.
“We are also doubling capped PVTs, with a one-off increase, to recognize places left unused last year due to border closures. This will allow up to 12,000 additional holidaymakers to enter and work in New Zealand. over the next 12 months.
“These changes will have a positive impact on the workforce and make the most of the increased number of working holidaymakers we expect to welcome during the peak summer season,” said Michael Wood.
Summary of Sector Agreement Final Parameters (for details see https://immigration.govt.nz/documents/employer-resources/sector-agreements-factsheet
Care Workforce: Migrant Worker Access for Care and Support Workers at Tier 3 Compensation Legislation ($26.16), a two-year work path to residency for care workers migrant care commencing when they reach level 4 pay rate, and review in two years time.
Construction and Infrastructure: Access to below-median salary positions with no cap for specified occupations with a salary threshold of $25, with a review in two years. The salary threshold would be updated annually to reflect changes in the median salary to maintain its relative value. (i.e. 90% of the median wage).
A $25 wage threshold is already in place for a number of construction and infrastructure roles and this will continue until sectoral agreements come into effect from October 31.
Meat processing: access to migrant workers for entry-level meat processing positions in the red meat and pork processing sectors, at $24.00 per hour with a cap on the number of visas set at 320; will be replaced by a Pacific program from 2024. Migrants taking these places will receive 7-month visas and the salary threshold will be updated annually to reflect changes in the median salary to maintain its relative value. (i.e. 86% of the median salary).
Onshore Processing: Access to migrant workers for seafood processing roles at $24.00 per hour with a cap on the number of visas set at 600; will be replaced by a Pacific program from 2024.
Migrants taking these places would receive 7-month visas and the salary threshold would be updated annually to reflect changes in the median salary to maintain its relative value. (i.e. 86% of the median salary).
Sea Roles: Access to migrants on the Foreign Fishing Crew visa at minimum wage plus $4 per hour with a cap on the number of migrants set at 940. The salary threshold will be increased each year towards the median salary, but the cap will remain in place indefinitely.
Seasonal Snow and Adventure Tourism: Access to migrant workers in seasonal snow and adventure tourism roles at $25.00 per hour; the salary threshold will be raised each year until the end of the branch agreement in 2025.
Transitional arrangements are already in place to allow recruitment for specific positions in tourism and hospitality with Accredited Employer work visas below median wage until April 2023.
Summary of changes to the Working Holiday Program:
- Extend visas for working-shore holidaymakers that expire between August 26, 2022 and May 31, 2023 by six months from the expiry date.
- Additional opportunity for those who previously held a working holiday visa but did not travel due to Covid-19 to come to New Zealand for the summer. New visas will be issued to people from October 2022 allowing them to enter New Zealand by January 31, 2023. This visa will allow them to be in New Zealand for 12 months.
- Double the Working Holiday program caps with a one-time increase to recognize places left unused last year due to border closures. This means around 12,000 additional working holidaymakers will be able to come to New Zealand over the next six months or so.