Skilled Migrant Category Review
It’s the thing about Governments everywhere I suppose. They have to give the illusion of being in control even if they are not.
The announcement two weeks ago of the pass mark increasing to 160 from 100 had an instantaneous impact on the numbers of Expressions of Interest being selected from the pool – it cut them by around 50% which was exactly what was intended. No surprises there.
The demonstration of lack of control came from the fact that the numbers of EOIs sitting in the pool that the computer had to select because ever increasing numbers were claiming 100 points or more including an offer of ‘skilled’ employment was allowed to grow and grow and grow. In the end the Government simply had to act – the ‘tsunami’ of EOIs I have so often written about and spoken about at seminars was washing ashore. Big time.
I still get this picture in my mind of Government Ministers standing in a huddled group on a beach with their backs to the sea wondering why everyone was running away for higher ground. With puzzled looks on their faces they are asking one another ‘What’s the threat? What’s the problem? We can’t see any problem. There’s no problem here’.
Having been told by those that should know less than six months ago the Skilled Migrant Category was not going to be seriously reviewed for some time (policy review priorities lay elsewhere, principally with the Investor and Entrepreneur Categories) all of sudden the Minister announces that it is in fact being reviewed. Nothing to do with the system about to crash under the weight of EOIs, nothing to do with focus groups and polling showing immigration is going to a very hot topic in the run up to next year’s elections, nothing to do with the fact that the ‘quality’ those being selected has been falling for some time, nothing to do with Auckland house prices…..all now seemingly just one of these three yearly reviews ‘we always do’. A ‘tweak here’ and a ‘tweak there’ as you do when you are on top of the situation.
Except this one wasn’t gong to be reviewed for some time yet…and it won’t just be tweaks.
Government released a hastily put together public consultation document this week and has asked for feedback on how the rules might be ‘tweaked’ in order to improve quality. Over about two weeks.
What is clear is that New Zealand is in great demand as a migrant destination and we can choose who we want and likewise who we don’t want when we have so many to choose from.
So who don’t we now want?
The consultation document is interesting in that it essentially confirms everything I predicted it would in last week’s blog.
If the changes which are at this stage (if you can believe it) only talking points you can expect by mid 2017 to see a shift toward:
1. More highly educated applicants i.e. whereas qualifications have not been a pre-requisite for entry for the best part of five years now, they will play an increasingly important role in the future. The days of getting a resident Visa based on your age, work experience and having a skilled job offer are over for the time being.
2. More highly paid applicants – there is clear signal that entry level but skilled job offers are not going to be enough to get younger applicants over the finish line – I predicted last week salaries would come into the mix to both assist with determining skill level of jobs but also to act as a mechanism to prevent younger, less experienced applicants taking places in the programme away from older more experienced applicants.
3. Potentially applying a minimum work experience requirement on all applicants – designed clearly to cut out the young, international student who has studied in New Zealand. This takes a leaf out of the Australian song book which they also introduced a few years ago to deal with the same issue of over promising international students a pathway to residence in order to develop an export education industry.
4. To focus through points on those aged 30-39 as being the ‘optimum’ aged applicants. This shouldn’t mean that older applicants won’t be able to still qualify and I’d suggest for those with higher education, jobs outside of Auckland and higher than median salaries they’ll still be okay.
I made the suggestion last week these rushed changes now and the more considered ones to follow in 2017 is designed to all intents and purposes to solve one problem – when you have a 23 year old who came to NZ to study (on the promise by the government of a pathway to residence) but that youngster is competing say with the 35 year old software developer for a single place in the SMC programme, the government was forced to decide which of the two was of more ‘value’ to the economy.
The answer is obvious to me but it does not bode well for the tens of thousands of international students lured here by Government, less than honest education agents overseas (unlicensed) and a fair number of private and public education providers who saw nothing but fees and commissions at the end of a principally Indian rainbow.
I was invited to a meeting a few nights ago where the Minister of Immigration was speaking to a small group of predominantly white, oldish men in cheap, ill fitting grey suits (bankers and investment types for the most part). Never have I seen a man’s lips move so much without actually saying very much and when he did it was by and large, garbage.
With a completely straight face he laid the ‘blame’ for the unfortunate reality about to confront thousands of international students who will not now get residence firmly at the feet of (unlicensed) education agents.
For the second time in a week I heard him say ‘We (the Government) never promised anyone residence. Coming to New Zealand should only ever have been about getting a ‘world class’ education.’
That will come as a surprise to more than a few students. If this is the case why did the Government offer them all open work visas when they finished their study if it wasn’t designed to provide a pathway into a labour market and from there to a resident visa?
Now that rug has been clumsily pulled from right under their feet, not by agents but by the government, Ministers I guess have to be seen to be controlling the situation as if this was their plan all along.
I’d be interested what a lot of these international students might think about it all given for a great number of them their dreams of settling here have been ripped out from under them and by mid 2017 any chance most have will surely be extinguished for good.
My only surprise about all this is that so far few seem to have cottoned on to what the Government has just done.
What they have done last week is to stick their finger in the dyke to try and hold back this ‘tsunami’ of graduate students looking for residence but the point that appears to have escaped these youngsters is how the government is about to start draining the lake behind the dyke without those frolicking in and on it realising they are the ones about to be drained.
I have to say it is quite a sight to watch the Government try and defend the indefensible and how incredibly well they seem to have done so. Equally how their target appears to have missed it completely (and by and large as has the media).
Whilst they were rapidly losing control of a situation of their own making the Government is doing a jolly good job of making it look they are in control.
First line of attack – blame someone else.
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