New Zealand needs a smart, pragmatic immigration policy

Rahul Chopra

Rahul Chopra
Auckland, September 6, 2022

New Zealand has reopened its borders after the Covid pandemic shutdown, and this is a golden opportunity not only to reconnect with our loved ones overseas but also to rebuild our economy.

Attracting and retaining skilled talent remains a challenge for economies throughout the world. As the New Zealand economy recovers, our immigration policy should attract skilled and productive human capital.

Prejudice against migrants

In devising such a policy and laying out the welcome mat for immigrants, we should not forget that till a few years ago many quarters were viewing immigration and immigrants unfavourably and often wrongly accused them of displacing locals in the professional hierarchy.

There was a loud noise that outlined the pressures that new entrants were adding to the cost of education, housing, and health.

Did the closure of borders during the pandemic change these facts or assumptions overnight? Or were they partially or completely displaced at the outset?

(Image Courtesy: Easy Visa Wanaka, New Zealand)

I believe that the answer rest in the grey zone.

While most of the skilled migrants were contributing to the progress of our economy, there may have been a few trying to fleece the system. The blame for that should be shared, in many instances by employers and citizens who were conduits in this exercise.

What New Zealand needs is quality migrants, not people being forced to work in inhuman conditions after obtaining irrelevant degrees in depleted facilities, as their stay in the country is directly related to their visas.

We must keep in mind that new migrants add amazing things to our societal fabric.

Some essentials

But are our systems strong enough to cater to these demands? Yes, residency to essential category immigrants will make our country a strong competitor in the global race to acquire talent; but a good education system, affordable housing and accessible health care will be the factors that can tip the scales in our favour.

Do we have a pathway that ensures that we produce more professionals in these areas moving forwards? Or are we just passing the buck, to fill in these gaping holes through immigration?

Parent category visas have been a bone of contention for the past few years. Simplifying the category can be an incentive for potential new migrants to look at New Zealand as an option and stop the exodus of talented Kiwi citizens to countries like Canada, where they can possibly reunite with their parents who are still overseas.

Importance of education

International education is one of the most favoured pathways for new immigrants to enter New Zealand. It is a lucrative sector for our economy with an annual turnover of more than $5 billion in the pre-Covid era. But it was also used as a convenient segway to settle here.

This sector, if used more judiciously can be the best arena to capture and retain human resources. Our universities are world-class, but the onus is on the authorities to ensure that all other educational establishments come good on high benchmarks, to still be operational. We all have been aware of institutes operating with less than adequate infrastructure and staff and handing out certificates like a mass production factory.

Those qualifications are an insult to the gullible international students who have spent thousands of dollars to pursue that ultimately irrelevant piece of paper.

Every dark cloud has a silver lining. The Covid years have been tough for all but have possibly provided us with a clean slate to script a successful future for our country, based on the combined efforts of locals, working in tandem with existing and new migrants.

Rahul Chopra works in the public sector. He is passionate about education and the effect that it can have on shaping inter-generational futures. He lives in Auckland.

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