Mike's Minute: It's simple: Our economy needs migrants

Mike Hosking,
Publish Date
Friday, 19 July 2019, 10:02AM

In our enduring quest to argue matters based on fact, it looks like a good thing the government hasn’t kept its promise to slash immigration. Net migration is running at a bit over 60,000 a year. Down a bit on its highs of 70,000 and there is some suggestion that a surge might be back on. Either way, it's nowhere near what Labour and New Zealand first promised they would do to it.

Labour said they would cut by up to 30,000. NZ First wanted a cut of up to 60,000 on the numbers at the time, down to a net gain of 10,000. The fact they haven't is an indication - yet another indication - that they weren't expecting to win the election so basically could say what ever they wanted, knowing immigration is inflammatory. They are economically naïve and failed to grasp that in simple terms we have a bunch of work that a lot of locals simply don’t want to do and so foreign labour is your only answer.

As a result of that realisation, the numbers are basically unchanged. Now for those who still argue this is all bad news and foreigners are no good, and they steal jobs and take our houses, let me refer you to this week's work by CEDA: The Committee for Economic Development for Australia. They too are a nation of migrants, and they too have their share of the economically naive who don’t quite get the role migration plays in a growing economy. There are two million temporary visa holders in Australia doing everything from being cooks to university lecturers. 

They mainly come from India the UK and the Phillippines. Not dissimilar to our story, most of them are in Victoria and New South Wales. And what the work concludes, is basically they're all good news. They do not displace locals in work, they do not harm the earnings of anyone else. In other words, they don't come in cheap and undercut. They don’t basically do anything other than contribute to the growth and success of the economy.

The conclusion of the work was simple: We need to make it easier for business to import the best global talent and expertise. Where we are falling down, is this government, every time I ask, says the same thing: we need to prioritise New Zealanders. Which in theory, of course, is fine. But they look like they're starting to do it at the expense of common sense. They talk of upskilling young people. Brilliant. Yet upskilling generally is not the sort of work that brings in visa holders and its not the sort of thing you do in half an hour, which is when employers want their workers.

So what was a glaring issue is becoming an even more glaring issue. We need people and we need skills, sort of like we need foreign capital, another thing they're not particularly keen on. When you join the dots on this, you have a picture fairly clearly painted as to why we are no longer growing the way we were. And why sectors are screaming out for talent and why things are slowing down. And as a result, and here's your irony and why the number of jobs ads has shrunk dramatically this year.

So it may be, that in tanking the economy they solve their own issue. No jobs = no need for migrants. But at least let's use the work out of Australia to see that the xenophobia around the whole subject was, and is, completely misplaced.   

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