Proposed immigration changes could help stabilise the aged care nursing workforce including improving wages and encouraging upskilling, says NZNO aged care industrial advisor David Wait.

Wait said the changes had widespread implications for nursing as New Zealand had the highest rate of internationally qualified nurses in the OECD at 27 per cent of our nursing workforce.

The proposals announced by Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway this week include introducing a new framework for assessing all employer-assisted temporary work visas. The new framework would be employer-led, rather than migrant-led, and will include checks for:

  • Employers – where approval will be granted to an employer to enable them to hire a migrant
  • Jobs – to ensure no New Zealander is able to do the job
  • Migrants – to ensure they meet character and health requirements.

“The new employer checks will help combat migrant exploitation by lifting the requirements on all employers and enabling the Government to put tougher tests in place for higher risk employers and employers looking to hire multiple migrants,” said Galloway.

Wait said one of the intentions of the proposal was to reduce New Zealand’s reliance on workers from overseas. “And that’s great, but it will also encourage better workforce training for both the domestic and migrant workers we do employ,” said Wait.

“It will also put upwards pressure on wages and this is a really good thing. Aged care workers earn significantly less than their counterparts working in district health boards and have been for a number of years. Unfortunately previous immigration policies have allowed some employers to undercut rates of pay for both New Zealanders and migrant workers.”
He said the proposal to review the requirement for low skilled migrant workers to have a one-year stand down period after they have worked here for three years is also welcome.
“This just makes good sense and will add stability for both migrant workers and employers. It will reduce the need for further recruiting and training and will lead to better quality care.”

The New Zealand Aged Care Association has been lobbying hard for changes to migration laws as one solution to aged care nursing shortages and chief executive Simon Wallace said the Lees-Galloway announcement this week was a step in the right direction.

Wait said migrant workers in aged care made an incredible contribution for which “we should all be grateful”.

“NZNO is all for employing migrant workers where New Zealanders can’t be found, but when we do employ them, they should receive fair wages and conditions.”
Lees-Galloway has indicated that aged care was one of two sectors in which he wanted negotiations for industry agreements to begin. Wait said this was good news considering the heavy reliance upon migrant workers within aged care in New Zealand.

Consultation runs until 18 March 2019. Details can be found here.


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