“Labour’s overly bureaucratic immigration system means that only a fraction of the employers trying to navigate it are successfully bringing in employees,” says ACT’s Immigration spokesperson Dr James McDowall.

“Earlier this week I asked Immigration Minister Michael Wood in Parliament about the difficulties New Zealand businesses are having filling job vacancies due to immigration settings. He boasted that the Government had processed over 55,000 job checks since the border opened on July 31. That can’t be the whole story, why does practically every business in Zealand face chronic staff shortages if Immigration NZ are doing such a good job?

"The problem is only 5,000 of those checks have actually led to work visa applications. That’s one out of every 11 processed labour market tests leading to a successful work visa. The 55,000 figure was an irrelevant smokescreen. In reality, only 5,000 visas have been issued in two months.  

“5,000 work visas have been issued with a massive backlog to clear, but it wouldn’t be an impressive figure in normal times. 2,500 a month is only 30,000 a year. In 2019, the Government issued 248,907.

“They’re only processing about 12 per cent of the work visas they were prior to lockdown.

“Despite the Minister’s protestations New Zealand is still experiencing a net outflow of people, with a provisional net migration loss of 12,400 in the year ended July 2022.

“Until we turn this around the crippling labour shortages will continue. To do this the Government need to cut through the bureaucracy and make it easier for employers.  

“Getting accreditation and undergoing labour market tests is a costly exercise for employers, if employers are paying for them then they’re serious about getting employees. If so few are resulting in confirmed work visas that shows how significant the processing backlog within Immigration NZ is.  

“With New Zealand’s labour shortage at crisis levels, there is no reason to even have labour market tests in place. Unemployment is low and the need for workers is high. These rules aren’t ensuring Kiwis don’t miss out on job opportunities, they’re ensuring there is no one to fill the vacancies at all.

“ACT would abolish labour market tests, wage rules, and make it easier for migrants to move between accredited employers. We’d also provide all occupations on the ‘Green List’ a fast-track to residency by removing the ‘work to residence’ divide.

“We need to allow workers to get the workers they need now. We need these changes to make our society productive again and to let businesses thrive.”

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James McDowall