Many in the aged care sector are concerned by the Government’s proposed changes to immigration settings. The announcement, coming hot on the heels of the pay equity settlement, spell disaster for many aged care providers who rely heavily on the migrant workforce.

The Government is pushing a “Kiwis first” approach to immigration and wants to see New Zealanders in care giver roles. In October last year it pushed up the number of points required to gain residency under the Skilled Migrant Category and put more stringent requirements for English language proficiency in place. And now it is proposing that migrant workers earning less than $49,000 only be allowed to stay in New Zealand for three years. They would then have to go through a 12-month stand-down period, before reapplying.

Aged care and home care providers want to employ New Zealanders too – the problem is there are not enough wanting to do the work.

“The reality is that we don’t have New Zealanders lining up to take the jobs that are available, we just end up with vacancies and major gaps that need filling. Caring for the elderly requires a special disposition, the job can’t just be handed to anyone, and certainly not everyone is cut out for this work,” Brien Cree, Managing Director of Radius Care has previously told INsite.

Many providers have voiced their frustration at having to spend hours satisfying the Ministry of Social Development’s criteria and trying to find employees through Work and Income New Zealand, only to find very few who are willing and able to take on the roles that need to be filled.

The recent pay equity settlement announcement is expected to make caregiver roles more appealing to New Zealanders. With better pay linked with training and qualifications, caregiving is likely to be a more appealing vocation for Kiwis who might have overlooked it previously.

However, the New Zealand Aged Care Association (NZACA) believes that some of the proposed immigration changes are likely to have an “enormous negative impact” on the aged residential care sector, regardless of the potential positive impact of the Equal Pay settlement on the recruitment of caregivers.

The problem is that with an ageing population, we are going to need more caregivers than ever before, and New Zealanders alone are not going to be able to fill these roles.

“These changes that the Government’s announced will have a significant impact on our ability to recruit labour into our sector at a time when we’ve got an ageing demographic, and we’re going to need more caregivers to look after those older people who are increasing in number,” NZACA chief executive Simon Wallace told Radio New Zealand.

Public consultation on the changes to temporary migration settings closes on 21 May, with implementation planned for later this year.

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