New Zealand changes immigration rules for workers
New Zealand will make temporary changes to its immigration rules seeking to hire thousands of extra workers to plug a labor shortage, Immigration Minister Michael Wood said on Sunday.
Wood said the government was aiming at temporarily doubling numbers under the working holiday visa scheme.
The visa scheme allows people to enter and work from New Zealand for a period of up to 12 months, or sometimes even more, if they're from select countries like the UK or Canada.
By throwing open more working holiday visa slots, New Zealand is hoping for 12,000 extra workers over the year.
"These measures are about providing immediate relief to those businesses hardest hit by the global worker shortage," Wood said in a statement.
New Zealand announces measures to plug labor shortage
Michael Wood said there would be relaxation of wage rules for skilled migrants in key sectors like aged care, construction, infrastructure, meat processing, seafood and adventure tourism so these businesses are slowly able to build necessary skills in the country.
Wood announced a temporary extension of working holiday visas by six months and an opportunity for those who previously held the visa but didn't travel to New Zealand because of COVID.
“COVID brought the world to a standstill," Wood said, adding that a workers' crunch was being felt most by New Zealand's hospitality and tourism sectors that traditionally rely on international workers.
While COVID had a major impact on international travel around the world, New Zealand's response was unusually draconian by global standards. The isolated and remote islands closed their borders almost entirely during the pandemic, hoping to keep the virus out altogether, but ultimately failed in this goal. It finally reopened on July 31 this year.
Unemployment rate at record low, wages high
New Zealand's unemployment rate remains at record lows, at around 3.3% in the second quarter which runs from April until June, according to Statistics New Zealand.
Annual growth in private-sector wages increased at the same time to 3.4% in the second quarter, their most rapid increase in 14 years.
The Reserve Bank of New Zealand last week lifted the official cash rate by 50 basis points to 3.0% in a seventh straight hike to rein in inflation.