Aged care providers are frustrated that an apparent softening of the new immigration rules proposed earlier this year has not gone far enough for their migrant workers.
Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse yesterday confirmed changes to the temporary work visa conditions. The changes come after an extensive consultation process following push-back from affected sectors – including aged care – when the initial policy changes were introduced in May.
Aged care providers were aghast at the prospect of having to send their workers back to their home countries for one-year ‘stand-down’ periods, which was one of the proposed changes to temporary work visa conditions.
Minister Woodhouse confirmed that as a result of the consultation, the remuneration band for mid-skilled workers will start at 85 per cent of the New Zealand median income, which is currently $41,538 a year, instead of $48,859 as initially proposed.
He said that any migrant earning between $41,538 and $73,299 a year in an occupation classified as ANZSCO Level 1 – 3 will be considered mid-skilled.
The lowered salary threshold means that most caregivers will now fit into the mid-skilled income bracket, thanks to the pay equity settlement which has increased caregiver wages.
However, caregiving as an occupation is classified as ANZSCO Level 4. This means that despite meeting the income criteria, caregivers are still not deemed to be ‘mid-skilled’ as their occupation falls outside of ANZSCO Levels 1-3.
Subsequently, caregivers on temporary work visas are still subject to the one-year stand-down period, despite the widened income parameters. Minister Woodhouse’s office has confirmed to INsite that migrants in an occupation classified as ANZSCO Level 4-5 will be subject to the stand-down period, unless they earn above one and a half times the New Zealand median full-time wage, which is currently $73,299.
New Zealand Immigration’s website states that as of May this year there were 11,214 Essential Skills visa holders in occupations at skill levels 4 and 5.
“While a small number may earn above the higher-skilled threshold we expect the majority to remain lower-skilled under the new definition,” it states.
A ‘small number’ is not an accurate reflection of the number of aged care migrant workers in New Zealand who will now earn above $41,538. Immigrants on visas make up a third of New Zealand’s 22,000 caregivers working in aged care.
The aged care sector has been lobbying hard to have caregiving reclassified by ANZSCO as Level 3, bringing them in line with technicians and trade workers in the construction, manufacturing, and other services industries.
Concerns over ANZSCO classifications will be addressed in Phase Two of the review of temporary migration settings.
Minister Woodhouse’s office has informed INsite that aged care is one of the sectors highlighted for priority review during Phase two.
“The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment will engage with stakeholders from the aged care, and a number of other sectors, and present proposals for sector-specific responses for Ministers to make decisions on by December 2017.”
The changes to temporary work visa conditions will not be applied retrospectively for those workers already in New Zealand. The three year maximum duration will start from the date their next lower-skilled Essential Skills visa is granted after the new conditions are introduced on 28 August.
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