NZ Missing Out on Top Talent

Turning our backs on top talent

Opinion piece from Aaron Martin, principal lawyer for NZIL.

The Green List Residence pathway is now open which means that migrants employed in a role on the Green List or who are paid 200% above the median wage have a clear pathway to achieve residence. That’s good news for those who qualify.

The bad news, however, is that there’s currently no pathway or process for people to apply for residency if they are not on the Green List. The Skilled Migrant Points System Residency pathway is still ‘under construction’, with no indication from the Government on when it will update the points system or make it clear for other skilled migrants on how they can apply for residency. 

What we could learn from Australia

Our trans-Tasman neighbours are doing things quite differently. Not only has Australia outlined a pathway to residency and made it easier to get a visa, but they also offer better pay, cheaper house prices, and a lower cost of living. 

At a time when we’re competing in a global talent shortage, Australia is rolling out the red carpet to skilled migrants, while New Zealand has put out a dusty old doormat. 

The global talent war

Talented, in-demand workers who are on the move around the globe are looking to live in countries who recognise and reward their value by making it attractive and easy for them to move there.

Not staying globally competitive means we’re not only falling behind in attracting the experienced people we need to build our own capability, but also puts us at risk of losing our own talent. In the meantime, Australia is taking this skill shortage seriously and is raising its cap on permanent migration for the first time in a decade to help fill massive workforce shortages. It will take up to 195,000 people this financial year – an increase of 35,000.

Stalled by archaic thinking

The New Zealand Government still appears to be stuck in the mindset that employers should be reducing their reliance on migrant workers.

The philosophy of Australia is completely different – for them it’s not about reducing reliance, it’s about the very realistic approach of understanding what resources are needed to help their economy grow. 

Reliance is ingrained in the modern economy, especially one that has a low birth rate and a low population – as New Zealand does. Not being able to offer certainty for migrants who are not on the Green List is going to make it hard to attract scarce and valued talent. That talent will be snapped up by countries who are taking a more progressive approach.

Draining the talent pool

The government is completely blind to the fact that skilled migration actually leads to job creation. Internationally experienced managers play a crucial role in upskilling local staff. Without it, staff capability and business growth is limited, and so is the potential of New Zealand’s economy. 

So not only do we miss out on all the benefits of their expertise, but New Zealanders go looking for it offshore.

If the government wants to put a stop to the brain drain and fix our skilled migrant shortage it needs to get its skates on to remedy our crippled immigration system.

New Zealand’s immigration reset was supposed to make it easier for the skilled migrants we need to get a fast track to residency. That has clearly not been the case, and with other countries poised to take advantage of a global talent shortage, time is running out to actually do something about making New Zealand an attractive option for skilled migrants.


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