Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Heather du Plessis-Allan: New Zealand needs migrant workers more than we think


I don’t blame you if your first reaction is to like the sound of the government’s plan to cut right back on migrant workers. 

For a while there has been frustration at our high levels of migration, and the pressure migrant workers have put on our resources; roads, schools, houses and so on.

So we have just done an experiment of what it’s like without that. 

We’ve now had more than a year without migration.  

So what’s your assessment?  Is it an improvement? 

I figure there are two ways of looking at this.

The first is to think it went well.  The government subscribes to this point of view.  They point to the kiwifruit industry and they say look how well the kiwifruit guys adapted: they moved from a mostly overseas based workers to mostly domestic work.  

They’ve made their shifts more flexible, they hunted out students to come work, they lifted their wages, and it was brilliant. If only all the other industries could do that. 

Then there’s the second way of looking at it.  Even though they adapted, the kiwifruit guys couldn’t pick all their fruit, some of it ended up rotting because they still didn’t’ have enough workers. Apple growers pulled out trees because they can’t make it work anymore, their fruit has rotted.  Courgettes have rotted on the ground.  

Matt McLaughlin, who owns Panhead bar in Wellington, says he’s considering shutting his bar a couple of days a week because he can’t find staff to run the place.   

There are 800 vacancies for chefs advertised on Trade Me Jobs apparently.  We’re not going to train 800 chefs in time for all those restaurants and bars, so presumably some are going to have to close.  

And yet, the expected windfall of losing all those pesky migrants hasn’t arrived.  Roads are still congested, house prices have shot up at record rates, even when it’s just us Kiwis competing for them, and has your child’s class size decreased? 

And look at the place that complained the most about the overcrowding; Queenstown, always too congested.  What would they give now to get those people back? 

I don’t know about you, but for me, a year of this experiment hasn’t convinced me we’re better off without these migrant workers. 

Heather du Plessis-Allan is a journalist and commentator who hosts Newstalk ZB's Drive show.


CXH said...

For those with a healthy life and a nice income still being able to go out to the in places and splash out on that special coffee, losing your favourite barista is possibly the worst thing that could happen.

We have fostered a society that rely on cheap, temporary visa holders. One where many of these workers accept pitiful conditions in the hope of a passport in the future. As close to indentured workers as you can get. But we need them so the latest restaurant can serve up its pretentious food to the pretentious lovelies. The very ones that look sneeringly down their noses at the poor,as they are served by those they despise.

kateem said...

The real problem in my thinking is that we have a large number of people (dont have a percentage) are on the dole which has exasperated the shortage of available workers.

Unfortunately we have almost reached the point of no return as many of these people are lacking in the skills required. The time necessary to train them up is critical and at present the need for skilled workers is great.

Another point is that many of these largely unskilled people are now quite comfortable on the dole to the point it has become generational. Another factor is that some are wanting to get jobs but cannot afford the training and have families dependent on them.

Its a mess in other words.

R Brady said...

The USA quickly found out after their Wuhan lockdown, if you pay someone not to work they don't return to work when they are able. We have had the same problem for decades and the politicians have ignored it. Many unemployed deliberately stay or move to area's where they know there are limited jobs.
Some European countries solved the problem by allowing the unemployed beneficiaries to turn down up to 3 jobs before they lose their unemployment benefit.
Importing cheap labour doesn't resolve the underlying problem, an extravagance the taxpayer can no longer afford to carry.