Tuesday, March 21, 2006

An interesting side effect

Writing in the Herald, international recruitment consultant Alan Charman argues that the government's tightening of immigration requirements has had an interesting side-effect: rather than being motivated primarily by better economic opportunities, the current crop of immigrants identify strongly with New Zealand's ideals - our independent foreign policy, commitment to human rights, and anti-nuclear policy:

There are Brits who see our society as colourful and integrated, there are Zimbabweans moved by equality, and Arabs by peace.

The attraction is no longer wholly economic but what the migrants believe about the nature of our society.

And these people will wait any amount of time to be allowed to move here, because this is genuinely where they want to live.

It's a nice side-effect, and its nice to know that we're seen in that way, but at the same time it would be nice to have a system that wasn't so unfair to non-English-speaking (meaning: non-white) immigrants, and which allowed the poor as well as the rich the chance to share the kiwi dream. Egalitarianism is after all one of the things that dream is all about.


As a Brit who is in the process of getting residence, I can safely say that while I've come here because it is country which appears to have a healthier democracy than the UK, doesn't get involved in too many foreign policy adventures at the US's request, is firmly anti-nuke, I have not been struck by society here being 'integrated'. Possibly on an economic level, but certainly not from an ethnic perspective. I have heard several shockingly racist comments about 'Asians' while here, that I would not have expected to hear back in the UK (not that it is a model of racial harmony by any means).

One of the more attractive things about NZ is that it still retains a healthy attitude to work-life balance: I like the fact that shops close around 5.30 and some close at lunchtime on a Saturday - it demonstrates that NZ still feels there's more to life than consumerism.

Posted by Anonymous : 3/21/2006 11:21:00 AM

that is how things often work. Although is it a side effect or is it the real reson why many people were promoting tighter immigration?

Posted by Genius : 3/21/2006 12:03:00 PM

I dispute that it's a good idea to have a system that aims to attract only those keen (or desparate) enought to spend years fighting red tape to come here. These aren't mostly going to be the smart highly employable people that we need to build our economy.

I'm not sure how *unfair* it is to expect immigrants to understand English. Unfortunately, if you don't have a good command of a country's language, your chances of getting a good job will be minimal - however well qualified you might be in other terms. Is it *fair* to encourage people to move here and be condemned to work in low-wage, low-skill jobs.

I actually think the system needs to be vastly simplified and in particular to stop trying to second-guess peoples employability. There should be a simple work-permit criteria - a bona-fide job offer at an above average salary - with residence on offer to anyone who's had a job and paid taxes for (say) two years. (and if you can get such a job without speaking English, then fair enough).

Posted by Rich : 3/21/2006 12:13:00 PM

I agree there should not be complexity for the sake of complexity.

1) there is massive fraud in the job offer area. We could name many many people who are here with double contracts one with a high salary one with an illegally low one etc.

What is really missing here I guess is TOUGH enforcement. I know a person who is well known in the community for illegally employing dozens of people and who seems to have been charged from time to time but never face any visible consequences (besides being extremely rich).

2) There are longer term objectives - will the person find another job after this job? will he bring family? How well adapted will that family be? Suddenly the simple becomes complex.

I do however find the questions like
"Are you a terrorist?"
"Have you committed any war crimes?"
A waste of ink (except in terms of comic relief).

Posted by Genius : 3/21/2006 02:04:00 PM

I think the issue with fraud on job offers could be solved by checking IRD records. The government can easily tell if someones paid tax for a year (if they want to somehow pay the tax without actually working and earning, then I'd say good luck and thank you for the money...)

So I'd see a scheme where employers had to have been in business employing people for 2 years (also easy to check) and if more than 1 or 2 work permit holders left without a good explanation then they'd go on a blacklist.

Nothing would totally eliminate fraud, but I think it would make it difficult and pointless. I think the IRD could work harder to catch people who systematically violate minimum wage laws (whether with immigrants or locals). IRD people can sus if a business isn't paying the right GST for it's size and location - they should be able to work out expected wages the same way.

Posted by Rich : 3/21/2006 03:37:00 PM

I came to NZ over 15 years ago (arrived a week before the Bolger government was voted in, so it was hardly for the economic opportunities) to join my partner. It took 4 years to get residency although I was permitted to work, but not vote or be a drain on the taxpayer despite being required to pay tax on my wages.
Bottom line: if my partner had been Australian I would have thought much longer and harder about making the move and probably not emigrated at all - regardless of the much more liberal gay immigration laws in NZ.

Posted by Hans Versluys : 3/21/2006 05:25:00 PM