Changes announced

To some this will be good news and to others, a shift in the goal post.

Minister Kris Faafoi announced the following policy changes and their effective dates:

  1. For Essential Skills work visa holders, new applications will be assessed against the updated median hourly wage rate of $27.00 effective 19 July 2021.
    • This pay rate will determine whether jobs are treated as higher or lower paid. 
    • The median wage increase will apply to Essential Skills work visa applications as well as Skilled Migrant Category residence applications and the Other Critical Worker border exception category.
    • Employers paying under the median wage can still access migrant workers but will need to check with the Ministry of Social Development to see whether registered job seekers are available.
  2. Essential Skills work visas will not be extended again but the duration of Essential Skills visas for jobs paid below the median wage will increase from six to 12 months as per previous settings.
    • The implementation of the stand-down period for these jobs will also be further postponed until July 2022.
    • The stand-down period requires people on lower-paid Essential Skills work visas to leave New Zealand after a certain amount of time before they can apply for another lower-paid work visa.
  3. Some 10,000 Working Holiday visas and Supplementary Seasonal Employment (SSE) work visas due to expire between 21 June 2021 and 31 December 2021 will be extended for another six months to help manage ongoing labour shortages while New Zealand’s COVID-19 border restrictions remain in place.
    • SSE visa holders will also be given open work rights, allowing them to work in any sector, for any employer.
    • Immigration New Zealand will contact all visa holders eligible for the Working Holiday or SSE visa extension by 25 June 2021.
    • Anyone onshore who has previously held a temporary work visa will still be able to apply for a SSE work visa. New visas granted under this category will be restricted to work in the horticulture and viticulture sectors.

The move is to ensure employers have access to migrant workers in much needed sectors so that current roles can be filled by those onshore. The visa extensions and deferral of the stand-down period are temporary measures and reflect the Government’s commitment to support employers and sectors facing workforce shortages while border restrictions remain in place. The government remains firm on training New Zealanders and recognises that lack on investment by New Zealand Employers to attract New Zealanders in these roles by improving wage conditions.

In our opinion, this again buys time for the government to work out the areas where there are skills shortages and to ready themselves for the new Accredited Employer Work Visa scheme. At present, skills shortages are reported in the Engineering, ICT, Supply Chain and Health (mental health and support services) sectors. The government continues to focus on the skills needed over the medium to long-term while looking at a staged re-opening of the border.

There is less uptake of new roles in the Professional Services and New Graduate sectors. SEEK reported at increase in job advertising. However, due to covid, there has been salary freezes of around 24% in the private sector and 8% in the public sector.

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