You can tell its election year. Yesterday the government announced yet another series of changes to Immigration policy.
As per usual the announcement from the Minister frames immigration around the impact on the economy and the job market.
Minister Woodhouse basically dehumanises those who want to work and make a life here in Aotearoa New Zealand by stating that he wants to improve the ‘quality’ of immigrants.
He proposes to do this by limiting the length of time of temporary work visas and introducing a salary criteria that will need to be met if a person is entering the country under the skilled or unskilled worker category.
It’s unclear what these changes will actually mean to the long-term trend of arrivals to New Zealand but one thing is for sure: it certainly doesn’t focus on the experience of the person coming here to work.
Another of the changes the government is seeking to introduce is about preventing some partners of temporary visa holders from working – which does nothing to promote integration into New Zealand and is unnecessarily harsh on families.
The policy does nothing to stop exploitation of migrant workers and students. In fact it significantly increases the chance of bad employers exploiting workers because with less of a pathway to residency the power imbalance increases their vulnerability and reduces their ability to protest. This type of exploitation is outlined very clearly in the research by Dr Christina Stringer in her report Worker Exploitation in New Zealand: A Troubling Landscape that was published in December.
Migrants bring more to Aotearoa New Zealand than just the job they are coming for. We can and should be ensuring that their experience, whether for work or settlement, is positive.
That means we need to reject the dog-whistling that blames migrants for the lack of infrastructure and planning. A responsible government would be planning for the future and would test their policies for effectiveness before introducing them. This isn’t it.