Immigration Minister Paul Swain announced changes to the skilled migrant category yesterday after saying the economy was booming â€“ growth averaged 3.5%/year from 2000 and was 4.4% in the year to June.
Within 24 hours the Government of the Reserve Bank, Alan Bollard, had raised the official cash rate â€“ because resources don’t match the demand for economic growth, a fine example of how the two hands of government have got together to smack us over the head instead of pulling together to support a larger economy.
Said Mr Swain: “The labour market has just about surpassed all expectations during the last 3 years. We now have one of the highest job growth rates and one of the lowest unemployment rates in the OECD. More New Zealanders than ever before â€“ over 2 million â€“ are now in work and the unemployment rate at 4% is the lowest since the mid-80s. Even more startling is the drop in Maori unemployment from 18.25% in 1999 to 8.8%. “But strong economic & employment growth has raised an issue that we have not experienced for decades: too many jobs & not enough people. Labour market policy is now a critical government focus. If the economic growth is to be sustainable, we mustn’t allow labour & skills issues to strangle the growth we are enjoying. A labour shortage is now the main constraint on output for 34% of firms and a net 29% of firms reported in the household labour force survey an increased difficulty finding unskilled labour in the June 2004 quarter â€“ an all-time high.”
Mr Swain said the enhancements to the skilled migrant policy, which come into effect in December, included:
Â· increasing the level of points allocated to skilled employment, qualifications & work experience in areas of absolute skill shortage
Â· expanding & clarifying the definition of skilled employment to enable a broader skill mix to qualify for residence
Â· clarifying the ability to grant permanent residence upfront where an applicant has high potential to contribute & settle (rather than in “exceptional circumstances”)
Â· recognising a broader range of qualifications where they meet industry needs
Â· clarifying the definition of contract employment, and
Â· including points for having close family support in New Zealand.
Reserve Bank story 28 October 2004: Official cash rate hits 6.5%
Policy change release: Enhancements to key immigration policy
Minister’s speech: Changes to the skilled migrant category