The Labour Government must start allowing more migrants in. New Zealand doesn’t have enough workers to run the country.
Plunket cancelled appointments this week blaming a lack of staff. Auckland Transport cut nearly 1000 bus services. Fullers suspended ferries between Auckland and Coromandel.
St John is shifting ambulances around regions weekly because of a shortage of paramedics. Southland hospital stopped admitting high-risk orthopaedic patients requiring surgery because of a shortage of medical staff.
After 40 years, Steve Nuich Panelbeaters in Auckland is shutting shop. They can’t find the workers.
Meatworks can’t process all the carcasses they should. Restaurants and cafes aren’t opening every day they normally would.
Prisoners can’t have visitors because of a shortage of Corrections guards.
We’re short of up to 8000 truck drivers, 4000 nurses, 400 prison staff and 20,000 construction workers.
Unemployment is 3.3 per cent. The Reserve Bank says this is unsustainable. Pretty much everyone who wants to work is working and yet we still have tens of thousands of vacancies. Most of us are working harder to cover for colleagues’ empty jobs. That can’t go on for much longer. Burnout is a risk.
It’s true that this is a global problem. Every developed country is struggling to find workers. Which is why Labour shouldn’t make it worse.
And yet they are. Labour’s deliberately keeping migrants out of the country through their Immigration Reset, in a bid to drive our wages up. The theory is that bosses are forced to pay us more if they want us, rather than going overseas to get cheaper migrants.
Five years ago, that might’ve been a good idea. Back then, we had too many migrants. Now we don’t have enough. In 2022 it’s a terrible idea.
It’s also true that even if Labour abandoned its Immigration Reset right now it wouldn’t solve our problems. The message is out there globally that New Zealand is closed to migrants.
One recruitment boss this week went public with the lack of international interest. He says he attended a job fair in the UK and couldn’t find a single person interested in moving to New Zealand for work.
The facts back up his anecdote. In the first six weeks of the new residency visa, only 18 nurses applied. The new millionaire migrants visa has attracted only one applicant.
Labour seems to have realised the problem they’ve created. Bit by bit, they’ve started conceding ground. They’ve lifted the number of Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) workers and doubled the number of working holiday-makers. They’ve rushed to reopen the old Skilled Migrants visa before making any of their planned changes. Immigration Minister Michael Wood has even floated the idea of bringing in foreign bus drivers.
To be fair to Wood, he’s cleaning up a mess left behind by his predecessor Kris Fa’afoi, who checked out months before leaving the job. But what’s less forgivable is Wood’s insistence on sticking with the near-ban on migrant workers.
Not only is it killing businesses that are forced to close, but it’s creating a wage price spiral. Bosses are fighting over the workers we have. It’s driving up pay. Hourly earnings are up 7.4 per cent, according to data this week.
As great as that is, there is a downside. It means inflation is becoming more and more embedded in our economy. That means the Reserve Bank will have to hit us harder with more interest rate hikes. Which means mortgage rates will climb even higher. It also means businesses will just put up prices to cover those higher wage bills.
It may be that Labour’s strategy is to ignore the economic damage of keeping migrants out and aim to keep pushing our wages higher. That way they’ll at least be able to point to our bigger pay packets at the next election and tell us they’ve delivered something.
If that’s the plan, it might not work. There’s no point having higher wages if it only means higher grocery bills and mortgage payments. That’s exactly what’s going to happen.
The only chance of a circuit-breaker now seems to be to bring in more workers.
Heather du Plessis-Allan Drive, Newstalk ZB, 4pm-7pm, weekdays.