THE HAPS

It wasn’t hard to look good last week, but ACT is looking great. We have never heard media praise a politician like Kate Hawkesby’s editorial on David Seymour. With a policy paper on crime coming this Tuesday, ACT remains focused on representing New Zealanders who want better policy.

IMMIGREAT

There’s a labour crisis in every area of the economy. From milking the cow to steaming the milk for a flat white, the now hiring signs are out up and down the country.

One impact is that businesses can’t produce as much stuff. Less stuff plus more money printing means higher prices. Half the reason we have a cost of living crisis is because we have a labour crisis.

The question is why? How are there suddenly fewer people around? What has created this labour crisis (other than Labour)?

The biggest news last week should have been Stats NZ reporting that more people left the country than arrived for the 16th consecutive month. In the year to June, 11,500 more people left than arrived. About half the loss was New Zealand citizens, and about half were non citizens.

For 20 years New Zealand has averaged 30,000 more people coming than going. Now there’s more than 11,500 going, there’s really 40,000 fewer, mostly working aged, people.

There’s some other reasons for the labour crisis. ‘Work Ready’ beneficiaries are up about 35,000 since COVID hit. The Public Service (non-frontline Government employees) has gone up 17,000 since Labour took office.

Businesses are missing at least 100,000 people. At the same time Adrian Orr has been printing money like there's no tomorrow. No wonder the help wanted signs are out and prices are rising.

Immigration is the thing that’s changed permanently though. Five years on from Labour talking about ‘Chinese sounding names’ and campaigning to slash immigration, the immigration world has flipped.

It wasn’t so long ago that New Zealand had a slightly snobby attitude about immigration. Everyone wants to come here y’know. Thing is, they clog up the schools and roads and hospitals. So, we have to think really hard about how many we should honour by admitting them to our walled garden.

That was then, this is now. Nearly every other country realises its population is ageing. The robots still haven’t taken over (a few wealthy households have autonomous vacuum cleaners, that’s about it). The upshot is every country is waging a war to attract working aged people.

Our Prime Minister’s been finding this lately. Everywhere she goes, Government’s give concessions for Kiwis to move to their country. Spain, the U.K, Australia, Singapore, all their Governments gave Kiwis more rights when Jacinda paid a visit. Some people conclude it’s because they love Jacinda. If she was smart she’d figure out they’re after her citizens.

We know she ain’t smart because her own Government still has a 2017 attitude to immigration. It’s still obsessed with its Immigration Reset, which seems to just mean confusing the folk at Immigration New Zealand with constant changes of direction, making them even slower.

The reality is that no country in the world with a population of five million has a closed labour market. Denmark, British Columbia, Colorado, all about five million people, all integrated into a way larger labour market like the E.U or Canada or the U.S. Singapore is very open to migrant workers.

New Zealand just has Australia, but that doesn’t help. It actually absorbs people, because the average wage there is 40 per cent higher.

Yet, somehow the country with some of the lowest wages, longest distance to travel, and one of the worst labour crises, also manages to have the least welcoming immigration department.

The solution is not complicated. The next Government needs to set out that New Zealand’s economy never has and never will work if companies can only hire from the people already here. There’s no working model anywhere that’s anything like it.

There is now a war for talent where immigration needs to act like a recruitment agency for talent. Right now it’s like a police force assuming all foreigners who want to come here are probably criminals.

The next step is to put a rocket up Immigration New Zealand. Issuing a visa to come and work here can’t be more complicated or high-stakes than issuing a mortgage.

There is an applicant, there are a set of criteria. A worker needs to verify that the applicant meets the criteria. Then the applicant gets the mortgage.

The next Government should ask top bank CEOs, for the love of the country, for their top business process improvement leaders to be seconded to Immigration New Zealand for a month.

Of course we should also fix welfare, public service bloat, and make sure kids go to school, but those have always been good advice.

What’s changed is that the war for talent is in full swing, it’s a migrant’s market out there, and New Zealand’s Government doesn’t even seem to know there’s a war.

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