The right immigration mix remains elusive

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The Immigration Policy should be equitable and balanced (Photo by Productivity Commission Report 2021)

Venkat Raman
Auckland, November 14, 2021

It may seem as though our November 15, 2021 Digital Edition, scheduled for publication tomorrow, is Immigration Special, for there are at least three stories, all related to the latest Report of the New Zealand Productivity Commission. Unusual it may seem but the subject will always remain on the radar.

Not just because immigration affects millions of lives but also because it spells the financial health of our economy. As a country that depends on migrants for filling jobs and population, getting the right mix is imperative. And yet, we seldom seem to get it right.

Flawed policy and practice

Dr Ganesh Nana, Chairman of the Productivity Commission has said that our immigration policy is flawed and that for all the success that it has achieved in accommodating a range of skills requirements, the system does not include any guidance on how to prioritise migrants who are likely to make the greatest contribution to New Zealand society.

This lack of prioritisation occurs at the temporary visa level and the permanent residency level, he said. Many temporary migrant visas, including those that attract the highest volumes of migrants (working holiday schemes) are uncapped. The main mechanism for controlling the volume and composition of temporary migrants is through the eligibility criteria for each visa category.

It is easy to get emotional on Immigration for, it involves movement of people, in most cases, immediate members of the family, partners, parents and relatives.

No government anywhere in the world has ever been able to please everyone when it changes rules, practices and procedures.

Benefits of migration

The liberal case for immigration is simply put. Openness to newcomers is morally right, economically beneficial and culturally enriching.

But to remain a multicultural country, our Immigration Policy should be more equitable, widespread and better balanced.

As former Minister Peter Dunne wrote, “Our policy needs to go further and allow all parents of New Zealand permanent residents and citizens an automatic right to short-term entry or residence, subject to the standard health and character requirements. This would deal in one fell swoop to the many cases of parents wanting to make short-term visits to see children or grandchildren or attend family events.”

The economic case for migration is equally compelling. Just as labour mobility is desirable within national borders, so too across them. Allowing people to move from poorer countries to richer ones that have more capital, superior technologies and better institutions boosts their productivity and that of the global economy.

Some are more willing to do jobs that locals spurn, such as picking fruit or caring for the elderly. Others have skills that natives lack.

The Indian community should participate in the policy process as a stakeholder.

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