Straits Times

NZ implements tougher immigration rules while SG continues to welcome “Foreign Talents”

Last week (26 May), NZ Herald reported that tougher immigration rules implemented by the NZ government have precipitated more migrants leaving NZ to go back to their home countries (‘Tough rules see migrants give up and go home‘).

Frustrated migrants are reported to be giving up and going home because they say new immigration rules make it harder for them to work and stay in New Zealand.

In the year to April, more than 30,000 foreigners on a permanent or long-term basis were reported to have left New Zealand – up 23 per cent from the year before. As a result, annual net migration is down 4800 from a high point a year ago. Immigration policy changes introduced last year have made it harder for temporary migrants to gain NZ residency.

Donny Lai, 50, a former HK university lecturer will be returning home with his wife and young son after three years of struggling to secure a decent job. Lai described himself as a “highly qualified IT professional” and moved to New Zealand in April 2015 because he believed the education system was better for his 9-year-old son Justin.

But after sending out hundreds of job applications, the only work he could find was as a low-paid teacher in a private training establishment. “We still love New Zealand, but it is just simply not possible to settle here when you cannot find a proper job,” Lai said.

He added that most employers would not give migrant workers who did not have local work experience a chance.

In Singapore, we have a peculiar situation where it’s easier for foreigners to obtain job than for Singaporeans. Then Manpower Minister Tan Chuan Jin revealed in Parliament few years ago that there have been cases where foreigners are hiring “their own kinds”, discriminating Singaporeans. As such, MOM came up with the Fair Consideration Framework to encourage companies to consider hiring Singaporeans first before hiring foreigners. But the scheme is still fraught with many loopholes.

Harder for foreign students to work in NZ after graduation

NZ Herald also reported that another person from Hong Kong, Kary Chung, has already returned to Hong Kong because new NZ rules made it impossible for her to meet visa requirements under the skilled migrant category.

Chung first came to New Zealand as a student and later graduated with a Bachelor of International Hospitality from AUT. She had been in the country for almost seven years but was still rejected. In contrast, Singapore gives heavy subsidies to many foreign students studying at our local universities. They are also “bonded” for 3 years, enabling them to work here easily after graduation.

NZ policy changes, which came into effect on January 15 this year, meant migrants must be paid at least NZ$24.29 per hour (or about NZ$4000 a month) to be considered in skilled employment. For Singapore, the minimum salary for “skilled migrants” on S-Pass is only S$2,200.

In an interview, NZ Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway commented, “What we’re seeing here is a significant cohort of temporary migrants and those on student visas with post-study work rights leaving the country as their visas expire.”

“I don’t accept that immigration should necessarily fill shortages in industries like hospitality and retail when the underemployment rate remains high at around 12 per cent, meaning there are plenty of New Zealand workers looking for more work,” the NZ Minister added.

But he said that his Government “remained committed” to making sure the immigration system works for New Zealand.

Singapore wants to hire more foreign PMETs

In contrast, the Singapore government said they wants to enable more foreign PMETs to work in Singapore.

Early in Jan this year at a public forum organized by IPS, Managing Director of MAS, Ravi Menon, said Singapore should hire more foreign PMETs.

“There is scope to improve the quality of the foreign workforce,” he said. “We should increasingly be concerned about the skills of the foreign workers that we take in, rather than just the numbers.”

“In fact, more skilled foreign workers will mean that we will need less of them,” he added. That is to say, Mr Menon thinks that by hiring more skilled foreign PMETs, it will help Singapore to reduce the need for unskilled foreign workers. “The trend of improving quality in our foreign workforce has already begun,” he commented.

“The proportion of work permit holders has declined by about 10 percentage points over last 10 years, while the proportion of S-Pass and employment pass holders has increased by around 10 percentage points.”

And he wants this trend, that is, the hiring of more foreign PMETS, to continue as “we restructure our economy towards higher value-added activities, seek deeper skills, and undertake more pervasive digitalisation”.

While Mr Menon’s views may sound to be “politically correct” to want a country to accept more “talents” but local PMETs driving taxis or Grab cars may not necessary agree with him.