Immigration has been in the news recently for all sorts of reasons. Let’s start with the Reserve Bank call last month:
Housing crisis: Reserve Bank calls on Government to curb immigration
The Reserve Bank has told the Government to review immigration policy in a bid to stem rising house prices.
In an unusually direct comment on immigration policy, Spencer told the Government to review the number of people moving to New Zealand, as the impact of high net migration on housing could not be ignored.
Record net migration was a key driver to surging housing demand, he warned. “Like taxation of investor-owned housing, migration policy is a complex and controversial issue,” Spencer said.
“However, we cannot ignore that the 160,000 net inflow of permanent and long-term migrants over the last three years has generated an unprecedented increase in the population and a significant boost to housing demand.” …
Today on RNZ:
NZ visa numbers reach ‘staggering’ record high
More people have been approved to work in New Zealand in the last year than in any other on record.
(About 800 new residents are settling in Auckland each week, the city’s chamber of commerce says.)
More than 200,000 people were issued temporary work visas in the year ending June, almost 30,000 more than the year before. The number of new residents rose 20 percent over the same period to 52,000. A demographer, Paul Spoonley, said the numbers were staggering and it was not clear whether there was any sign of a slowdown in the number of arrivals, or of the government putting the brakes on.
Professor Spoonley, the pro-vice chancellor of the college of humanities and social sciences at Massey University, said New Zealand now had the highest inflow of workers and new residents of any OECD country. “The thing that surprises me is that month on month, and year on year, the numbers of visas given to both residents and temporary workers is continuing to increase, as it is with students. “So there is an important question about when we begin to tail off, either in terms of the numbers of people applying or the government says enough is enough.” …
The Nats and others would have us believe that this rate of immigration is necessary because employers can’t find skilled workers, but with unemployment at 5.2% surely our first priority should be training our own workforce. For an alternative account of why high immigration suits some, see Bernard Hickey: Migrants can keep wages down, and We need doctors, not bar staff.
So call me a cynic, but I think the Nats like high immigration because it helps keeps wages down, it gives the illusion of economic growth (also), and because they don’t much care about the contribution to housing and infrastructure overload.
The knee-jerk response to calls to limit immigration is accusations of racism. Difficult to play that card now that concerns are being raised by a broad spectrum, from economists, the Reserve Bank, political parties, and around 60% of the public. So, until we sort out our housing and unemployment problems it is surely time to reign in NZ’s currently record levels of immigration.