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  • Sectors such as agriculture, construction, and hospitality, where New Zealanders don’t want the jobs can’t seem to find enough workers.

    Sectors such as agriculture, construction, and hospitality, where New Zealanders don’t want the jobs can’t seem to find enough workers. | Photo: New Zealand Immigration

Published 27 May 2019

The New Zealand central bank forecasted on May annual net immigration of working-age people to fall to 29,000 in 2021 from 40,000 in 2018.

A plunge in net migration of working-age people is intensifying New Zealand’s labor shortage and starting to hurt the country’s growing economy to the point that its central bank has singled out the issue this month, three years after warning the same issue. 

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“Migration has been an extremely dominant feature of our economic cycle and we do think it’s easing and that is contributing to the slower growth profile,” said Australia and New Zealand Banking Group Limited (ANZ) Senior Economist Miles Workman.

The New Zealand central bank forecasted on May annual net immigration of working-age people to fall to 29,000 in 2021 from 40,000 in 2018. This plunge is mainly due to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s tough stance on migration policies and overall delays in the designation of work visas. 

The liberal politician came to power in 2017 promising to reduce migration by tens of thousands and restrict foreign homebuyers. Nowadays specific sectors such as agriculture, construction, and hospitality, where  New Zealanders don’t want the jobs can’t seem to find workers to fill much-needed positions. 

“We are struggling to find people,” New Zealand pub owner Chris Dickson told Reuters. Addressing labor shortages on Monday, Finance Minister Grant Robertson said the government was focusing on migration for high-need regional areas, while also imparting vocational programs and improving the skill level of local citizens. 

A seasonal labor shortage was declared on May in the Bay of Plenty region, which will impact the US$782 million kiwifruit export industry. The construction sector says will require over 50,000 skilled workers by 2023 to meet industry demands.

However, Ardern’s government continues to hold its position on the fact that migrants are not needed. “This doesn’t mean they can’t employ migrants, it just means they have to satisfy a labor market test before recruiting migrants,” Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway said. 

In the last decade, New Zealand has almost doubled its gross domestic product (GDP) from US$111 billion in 2006 to US$206 billion in 2017, with an expected growth of 2.8 percent in 2019. While unemployment rates are at a decade low at 4.2 percent in May 2019, according to New Zealand's official data agency.

Yet many believe that a lack of workers in key areas of the economy will largely affect overall growth expectations. 

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