National did their typical thing yesterday and belatedly and half-heartedly moved vaguely in the right direction when put under enough pressure; hoping to go just far enough to keep enough people on side. Raising the refugee quota to 1000 wasn’t enough and it was good to see them called on it. (It’ll be interesting to see if they give some sop towards Paid Parental Leave to excuse themselves when they – in an unprecedented & undemocratic move – veto Sue Moroney’s Bill before it’s read on Wednesday.)
But what about immigration in general?
I love migrants, and the diversity they add to our country (and we’re all migrants from not that far back…), but we need to slow it down to a rate that we can cope with, that we can build infrastructure for.
We’re at levels unknown in the rest of the OECD. Net 1.5% of our population arrived last year. Britain is feeling stretched and complaining with less than half that rate!
We’re adding 800 Aucklanders each week to a housing crisis. Huge amounts more cars each week to Auckland’s transport problems. Auckland Council is groaning under all the newly needed development cost (putting water, roads & drainage ever further out) – and, as central government keeps power and purse-strings closely held, the Council wonders how to pay for it.
To National, they see the housing crisis as no problem – how many (paper) millionaires have they created through the Housing Bubble?! Surely those newly ‘wealthy’ Aucklanders will vote for them?! (If this fails, blame Auckland Council! Central government may hold most of the levers, but surely it’s the Council’s fault for not freeing land fast enough?)
Last year our GDP growth was near top of the OECD, another thing for them to crow about. As long as no-one digs too deep and realises that the GDP growth was pretty much entirely population growth, and wasn’t making any of us richer per capita. (Indeed with inequality growth, a lot of us were poorer…).
So National feel no need to slow the flow of migration, it makes them look good. We have a points system that is easily adjustable to control how many we have coming in, but, unlike all previous governments, this is yet another lever this laissez-faire government refuses to put its hands on. Like Housing, employment, etc “the market will sort it out.”
Bernard Hickey’s piece on Sunday was excellent.
Here we learnt that a large chunk of our migration is now short-term “essential skills” visas, and students. But what are those “essential skills”?
• Chef 2283
• Dairy cattle farmer 1596
• Cafe/restaurant manager 975
• Retail manager (general) 924
• Carpenter 901
• Dairy cattle farm worker 806
• Retail supervisor 797
• Aged or disabled carer 731
• Truck driver (general) 401
• Registered nurse (aged care)372
So it would appear Andrew Little’s remark about training our own chefs wasn’t so silly… And how can we need to be importing dairy cattle farmers? It’s what we do!
Cafe/restaurant & retail managers and supervisors? These are not essential skills. We surely can source them here.
Aged care, farm workers and truck drivers are being imported to keep Kiwi workers’ wages down. Aged care pays just above minimum wage and it should pay a lot more. If you’re one firm though, you’ll see it as: import foreign labour, or not be able to compete on price with other providers. If the Government makes you employ Kiwis… well, wages will rise. But this government’s quite happy to skew the market against the workers.
Carpenter – well we need carpenters and there may well be a shortfall in skills. But then this government’s been in power for 8 long years and really could have turned out quite a few apprentices in that time. Remember that earthquake in Christchurch? You’d have thought they’d make a big push for upskilling Kiwis in the trades after that, but, well… Y’know, the market will provide…
Y’know, that market that’s working so well for Auckland housing right now…