Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: Every option has costs, every lever pulls on something else

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  • 81stcolumn,

    But international education is a significant export earner for New Zealand. And if you're talking about high-value immigration, already-settled people with tertiary degrees would seem to fit that bill.

    Mmmm yeah I'd like to see the real numbers on this, I suspect that a lot of the export earnings in this area come at diploma level, not degree.

    Nawthshaw • Since Nov 2006 • 790 posts Report Reply

  • Matthew Hooton, in reply to 81stcolumn,

    Agree. Also, I think we fool ourselves if we think Chinese, Indian or Saudi parents send their beloved (maybe only) children to New Zealand as a first choice. The kids we get tend to be those who couldn't get into an English-language university in the US, UK, Canada, Australia, Singapore or Hong Kong. We are wonderfully patriotic in New Zealand but it also means we overestimate how others perceive us.

    Auckland • Since Aug 2007 • 194 posts Report Reply

  • simon g,

    One of the problems with our immigration debate is the lazy comparison with developed nations in the Northern hemisphere, for no better reason than the easy copy'n'paste availability of international media coverage. A simple example: this opinion piece - perfectly valid in itself - is illustrated by Stuff with two imported images, unrelated to NZ. It feels as though every discussion of immigration here has to include a reference to Trump/Brexit.

    But ... nobody is arriving in NZ by sea, or being plucked from it. Nobody is freezing to death in a truck moving across borders. Nobody is swimming a river or climbing a border fence. Nobody is rioting in a squalid camp. The great moral dilemma of the first world - how to help the poor, persecuted and desperate, while preserving both our humanity and security - has barely touched New Zealand.

    The gov't had to be dragged kicking and screaming to increase the refugee quota from a pitiful level to slightly less pitiful. We do not say "Give me your huddled masses", but "Give me your educated and trained, so we don't have to educate and train ourselves". When a boat heads for our shores, even thousands of miles away, our (previous) PM wasted no time in insisting the door was closed. So much for the welcome mat.

    Immigration policy in NZ is a cash cow. It's not "anti-racist" - it's a policy that ignores the poor and welcomes the prosperous. And the government and its business cheerleaders should not be given a free pass to when they cynically invoke a "diversity" that is highly selective. When they give a damn about the people at the bottom (often brown, BTW), then they can get their anti-racism badge.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 1319 posts Report Reply

  • Matthew Hooton, in reply to simon g,

    It's not "anti-racist" - it's a policy that ignores the poor and welcomes the prosperous.

    I'm not sure it welcomes the poor or the prosperous, but more those at the poorer end of the middle class who want to emigrate and can't get into Europe, US, Canada etc. I also (like you I think) see refugee policy as distinct from immigration policy - even doubling, trebling or quadrupling the quota would still mean our intake was a drop in the ocean both as a percentage of global refugees (obviously) but even as a percentage of our total net immigration.

    Auckland • Since Aug 2007 • 194 posts Report Reply

  • linger, in reply to Matthew Hooton,

    If you're talking about China, it's the poorer end of the upper class who end up in NZ. The airfares and the living expenses in Auckland are beyond the means of the middle class. So, yes, it favours the prosperous. Period.

    Tokyo • Since Apr 2007 • 1886 posts Report Reply

  • Kumara Republic,

    I do think there's a strong case for at least temporarily taking the heat out of record net migration trends. Indeed, so do all Parliamentary parties with the exception of Act (so long as the leafy lanes of Epsom are left undisturbed, presumably) and possibly United Future. It's hugely incumbent on them in election year to do so by forming, as Keith noted, actual policies – and not via confusing statements about slashing numbers or empty headlines about arbitrary ceilings.

    Every option has costs, every lever pulls on something else. And that includes doing nothing new at all. The more we can be honest and precise about that, the better we deprive racists and xenophobes of the initiative.

    For ACT, immigration is really about how many Russian oligarchs & Trumpnik tycoons with Swiss accounts can park their tax-free dosh here. People have a right to kick up a stink when the financial benefits of immigration don't trickle down to them. On the other hand, a pissing contest to out-do Winston Peters - who's basically on Brexitrump power pills - serves no-one's interest. Migrants aren't the problem, rent-seeking dogma is the problem. Sadly it's far easier for politicians to target migrants than rent-seekers.

    The Clark Govt awarded bonus points for migrants settling outside Auckland, which was a worthy measure but futile in the absence of a proper population/regional development strategy.

    We do not say "Give me your huddled masses", but "Give me your educated and trained, so we don't have to educate and train ourselves".

    Especially when those in the most dire need of a skills upgrade are the ones least able to afford it, or otherwise aren't suited to traditional tertiary study. And ignoring the problem has fuelled the Brexitrump bushfires. It's a sad state of affairs when it takes raising the drawbridge to force an increase in company-based training such as apprenticeships. Still, even before Trump pledged to restrict the number of H-1B's, Obama implemented a tech apprenticeship programme that was paid for with a levy on H-1B visas:

    "The tech industry relies heavily on candidates with four-year college degrees, and if we continue to rely entirely on those candidates, we're never going to close the gap," Mazur says.

    Among the fastest growing tech apprenticeship programs in the U.S. is Apprenti. Under the Obama administration, the Department of Labor in 2015 provided the funding that was used to create this pilot apprenticeship program through a grant that draws its money from fees paid for H-1B visas. Apprenti works with notable Washington tech companies, including Amazon and Microsoft, to get workers like Farrow into the industry.

    New Zealand needs a programme like Apprenti. Yesterday.

    The southernmost capital … • Since Nov 2006 • 5415 posts Report Reply

  • Kumara Republic,

    Further to my previous post, NZ is probably down there with the US on investment in labour market adjustment. Or if it is actually better, then such programmes are fragmented and not widely known.

    This Chart Helps Explain Why People in the Rust Belt Are Fed Up

    The southernmost capital … • Since Nov 2006 • 5415 posts Report Reply

  • poop poop,

    >I think New Zealand could do with a larger population in the longer term

    Why?

    Don't you think NZ is great because it has a small population? Our big cities are practically land locked. and greater populations just mean increased density, more pollution, and reduced quality of living. The 1/4 acre dream is already dead.
    In addition because our major export is dairy, that is a land restricted activity which won't increase with population. As a result an increased population means we all get poorer. Dairy farming is becoming more intensive and our land is becoming slowly polluted by fertiliser because the production required to support our lifestyle at current population levels is already very high.
    Secondly as AI gets better this century and production becomes ever more automated, the need for people only reduces.

    So I think the opposite is true. We need to reduce our population to improve our lifestyle.

    NZ • Since Apr 2017 • 1 posts Report Reply

  • Kumara Republic, in reply to poop poop,

    In addition because our major export is dairy, that is a land restricted activity which won't increase with population.

    And NZ has struggled to monetise its local innovators who could reduce the nation's dairy industry dependency, because most of the local investment capital has gone into the housing bubble instead of the productive sector.

    The southernmost capital … • Since Nov 2006 • 5415 posts Report Reply

  • 81stcolumn,

    Especially when those in the most dire need of a skills upgrade are the ones least able to afford it, or otherwise aren't suited to traditional tertiary study.

    I think it is worse than this. Many of those who would most benefit from higher education are unable to attend in full the courses that they are paying for. They are busy trying to work at the same time. It is very difficult to succeed let alone excel under these conditions.

    Nawthshaw • Since Nov 2006 • 790 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to poop poop,

    In addition because our major export is dairy

    Hold the phone:

    New Zealand's tourism boom has propelled the industry past dairy as the top export earner as the number of visitors increased by one million in the past six years.

    For the year ending December last year total exports of dairy and related products were $12.05 billion, accounting for 17.2 per cent of all exports. Over the same period, tourism (including air travel) was worth $12.17b or 17.4 per cent of exports, according to analysis by the ASB.

    These compare to 18.2 per cent and 16.9 per cent respectively for 2015,

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22744 posts Report Reply

  • Moz, in reply to Russell Brown,

    New Zealand's tourism boom has propelled the industry past dairy as the top export earner

    So, is that better or worse for global warming and the NZ environment? And is tourist excrement in our picnic areas better or worse than cow excrement in our rivers?

    Sydney, West Island • Since Nov 2006 • 1193 posts Report Reply

  • Kumara Republic, in reply to 81stcolumn,

    I think it is worse than this. Many of those who would most benefit from higher education are unable to attend in full the courses that they are paying for. They are busy trying to work at the same time. It is very difficult to succeed let alone excel under these conditions.

    Couldn't agree more. It's what happens when a public good like tertiary education is reduced to a perishable good. I found that out the hard way after throwing away $25k, and now I have the scholastic equivalent of a bad credit rating. My best if not only hope now is a Scandi/German-style vocational plan that the current lot in power will likely dismiss as "reds under the bed". I hope they realise such un-thinking is what fomented Brexit & Trump in the first place.

    The southernmost capital … • Since Nov 2006 • 5415 posts Report Reply

  • TracyMac,

    NZ has nearly 1/3 of the average population density of the occupied landmass, and is in the bottom fifth of the world's countries in density.

    Sure, Australia and Canada are less dense, but they are HUGE countries, full of desert in the one and tundra and ice in the other.

    NZ is less dense than any of the evidently vastly over-populated Pacific nations (hah) , and is about 6.5% the density of the UK. And yet the UK (and Japan, 18 times denser than NZ) manage to have significant agricultural sectors (not like NZ's in scale, of course) and some pretty damn bucolic countryside.

    Do I think we should aim for 15-18 times the current density? No, I do think agriculture (and green space) is important, although I do think NZ could smarten up farming practices (don't build feedlots, cash in on "grass fed", and don't sell off iconic brands like Anchor, ffs).

    But NZ can afford to take more people, especially to offset any whinging about falling birth rates affecting future pensions. The refugee quota is shameful, especially since Australia is better (not counting the offshore concentration camps) . NZ can't continue to build sprawling McMansion-style housing in the same fashion as Sydney's outer suburbs. Nor should shoddily-built Hong Kong style shoeboxes a la upper Albert St become the norm, not to mention leaky "townhouses".

    I don't know what the rules are on non-resident landowners are at present, but if they're allowing people who do not reside in the country and offshore companies to own residential property, then that should be limited. No mortgage lending to non-residents, ditto.

    Oh, and the rental "warrant of fitness" to make a career of slum landlordism less appealing.

    Capital gains tax, ffs.

    Crack down on overstaying poms and the like - I dobbed in a couple of Brit flatmates nearly 30 years ago who bragged about earning plenty of cash with full time bar work while not paying taxes, and that got right up my nose. Still don't regret it.

    Step up Labour Dept (whatever they're called now) inspections of businesses for underpaying temporary visa holders, employing people with the wrong classes of visa, and foisting effectively zero-hour contracts on people they know don't have the correct visas for employment. And make not checking residency a more serious breach of employers' legal obligations than it is now.

    Crack down on dodgy "educational" institutions. Some are outright for visa scams, and plenty more are effectively committing fraud on people who think they're getting real qualifications. And yes, you'd need your Mandarin and other language speakers to monitor overseas media where that garbage is advertised.

    Withdraw residency and deport people with PR status who offend in those ways repeatedly or seriously - I detest people who rip off those who unfortunately trust exploitative employers and landlords that happen to share their country of origin/language.

    Anyway, that's just a start. I think a lot more could be done with policy tweaks and better enforcement of current regulations (was Thiel really resident for ALL those days he should have been during his amazingly fast acquisition of citizenship?)

    Certainly more constructive than Labour brainfarts about "Chinese sounding names" with no real stats, or National with their rich foreign mates and underpriced labour imports.

    Canberra, West Island • Since Nov 2006 • 701 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to 81stcolumn,

    Mmmm yeah I’d like to see the real numbers on this, I suspect that a lot of the export earnings in this area come at diploma level, not degree.

    Fair call. You may well be right.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22744 posts Report Reply

  • Jim Cathcart,

    It’s not only prices – and let’s be real, Auckland’s housing unaffordabilty has multiple causes – but supply. The numbers are striking. According to Statistcs NZ, Auckland’s new-dwellings shortfall versus poulation growth is running at around 5000 a year. The cumulative shortfall from 1012 to 2016 was more than 20,000.

    Demand and supply side factors are all shaped by a political economy that is firmly fixated on rent seeking as the key driver of national wealth and consumer spending. Which is more harmful to house prices and infrastructure: immigration or a retail banking sector which is an extension of Australia’s massive mortgage factory that relies on implicit taxpayer guarantees and monetary frameworks that are ideal for our reliance on perpetual current account deficits and household debt?
    Because you cannot quantify each independent variable and model the impact, then the media and the general populace will focus on what they think they intuitively feel is the driver. Personally, I feel that immigration is part of a bigger strategic objective: the transfer of savings from productive efforts in other parts of the world.

    Rent seeking is pernicious, even though it is now the foundation of NZ’s national wealth and general aspiration. It is also a virus that afflicts political ideologies on both the right and the left. Economist Cameron Murray’s ‘Game of Mates’ addresses.

    http://www.smh.com.au/comment/james-ruse-the-man-that-always-wins-australias-game-mates-20161128-gszlq6.html

    And NZ has struggled to monetise its local innovators who could reduce the nation’s dairy industry dependency, because most of the local investment capital has gone into the housing bubble instead of the productive sector.

    Commercialize would be far more apt than monetize. But your point is important: The economy is geared towards rent seeking over productive activity.

    Since Nov 2006 • 228 posts Report Reply

  • Ben Smith,

    Attachment

    "The UK is the largest source of work visa migrants, while China and India account for only a small proportion."

    Not true. India is the largest source, by work visas approved, for calendar year 2016. From data on the Statistics NZ website (the same that Andrew Little got his notorious labourer stat), the totals are below for work visas approved in calendar year 2016...

    The NZ herald describes "arrivals". I am guessing their figures entirely exclude people transitioning off another kind of visa, e.g., someone who entered NZ on a student visa and transitioned to a work visa. So they are right in saying that the top 5 "arrivals" on work visas are "not Asian" countries, but as you see below, India, China, and Philippines are all in the top 5 total work visas approved.

    India 34630
    Great Britain 23686
    China 21904
    Germany 17660
    Philippines 14213
    France 12567
    United States of America 9522
    South Korea 6230
    Japan 5577
    Fiji 4841

    Since May 2017 • 1 posts Report Reply

  • Peter Davis,

    Here are some comments that occur to me in reading this post and the responses.
    (1) What has really changed on the migration stats? The key thing is people (rightly) mention "net migration". We are not necessarily getting a whole lot more people flooding in. The big change is that fewer NZers are leaving and many more are returning. So, the net figures are up. The target is therefore not necessarily those coming in (e.g. "foreigners"), but rather the fewer who are leaving (or returning).
    (2) Working holidays visas. There are a lot of these, but I cannot see how these are anything more than tourist visas for young people who are allowed to work part of the time. These are not serious migrants in the sense of being "new settlers", although some may become so. This should not be part of the debate.
    (3) To my mind the key thing is what proportion of the NZ population is foreign born, not necessarily the absolute numbers. It is currently about 20%. I think that is likely close to a tolerable threshold, particularly since it is 40% in Auckland, which is more metropolitan, and thus "shields" other parts of the country that could be more worried about large numbers of migrants. So, yes, let us be a larger population, but keep in mind that there is likely a social and cultural threshold in reaching it.
    (4) International students. The number of scams in this area is embarrassing to NZ's integrity in education and immigration. Most students in my experience are not necessarily wishing to migrate or, if they do wish to get a job, it is often to get work experience before returning home or migrating to Australia. International students should not be used as a soft growth option or a veiled migration scheme. They should come in on their own merits, as they mostly do. This should not be part of the debate. Just maintain professional standards, and we will be fine.
    (5) Role of the state. Part of the "problem" we are having is a much more laissez-faire attitude to the role of the state under this government (although this is generally a more benign one than most conservative administrations). This means that we are getting less money in health, a less active approach to social housing and the whole housing sector etc etc. This is more than a legacy of the GFC but rather also the (quite legitimate) workings of a right-of-centre government intent on reducing the role of the state. But it is arguable that this laissez-faire attitude to the various pressures on our social fabric which has exacerbated the impact of more migration. Again, yes, we should seriously be addressing migration issues, but also we should be attending to fundamental social infrastructure issues rather than just letting them slide and leaving it to the most disadvantaged to carry the adjustment costs.

    Since Mar 2016 • 7 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Ben Smith,

    I'm surprised to see Germany and France so high. People on holidays, working in the meantime? Students? Au pair workers? I confess to being quite shocked at some friends who employ au pair girls, all of whom have been from Germany. There's something not quite Kiwi about that.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10629 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    FWIW, Uber drivers are entirely under the radar. Uber is not an official employer in NZ at all. Drivers can, and do, have their income directly deposited into foreign accounts, and the origin is an offshore company. The passenger payments are all directly to Uber BV, so there is literally no way at all that our systems can track how many people are employed as Uber drivers in NZ, nor how much money they are making, unless they entirely voluntarily file tax returns. Since their employment as passenger drivers is illegal in most cases anyway (since Uber don’t concern themselves with the laws of NZ and don’t require drivers to have any of the correct licenses or training or keep any of the required work time records), there is little reason to think they would go out of their way to pay taxes that they can easily avoid. Not even GST is being paid, unless you do it voluntarily.

    These are not good things about Uber.

    ETA: Unless, of course, you think that having an extremely cheap and efficient service is the only consideration here.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10629 posts Report Reply

  • Lynn Yum, in reply to simon g,

    I agree. Employers keep demanding overseas migrants to fill jobs because a) they don’t want to pay higher wages and b) they don’t want to train up staff, they want off-the-shelves solutions. It is the growth-at-all-cost-damn-the-consequence mentality.

    I was listening to a RNZ Checkpoint segment on Friday, talking about how Auckland eateries can’t find enough qualified staff. Their argument for more migrant work force is that the Auckland taste buds will be the loser if they don’t get more migrant workers. I thought it was BS. If you don’t bother to train up people, or pay higher wages, of course people are going to leave. Or the eateries can try something new, like giving their most valued workers a small ownership stake to tempt people to stay.

    If it is to choose between eating more fish-and-chips but better paid workers, and more exotic meals but with lower wage workers, I would rather choose the former.

    Auckland • Since Dec 2016 • 38 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Peter Davis,

    (1) What has really changed on the migration stats? The key thing is people (rightly) mention "net migration". We are not necessarily getting a whole lot more people flooding in. The big change is that fewer NZers are leaving and many more are returning. So, the net figures are up. The target is therefore not necessarily those coming in (e.g. "foreigners"), but rather the fewer who are leaving (or returning).

    That's not really what the Herald figures on permanent long-term arrivals and departures show. For all countries, arrivals from NZ citizens have risen slightly in the past few years, while long-term arrivals from non-NZ citizens are trending up sharply. NZ citizen departures are down significantly though.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22744 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Lynn Yum,

    Their argument for more migrant work force is that the Auckland taste buds will be the loser if they don’t get more migrant workers. I thought it was BS.

    The worst part is that it's probably true. I remember my favourite Indian restaurant for ages had stunning quality at insanely cheap prices. Then they got busted for exploiting their staff badly and it brought home that there's no magic trick to making a high quality low cost things - you just have to turn up the exploitation index massively. Is that really how we want our country to work? Perhaps we could go for "high quality fair cost", on the way to "high quality high prices because we're all well paid enough to afford it".

    But it's easy for me to preach about how I wouldn't mind higher prices, considering I also have reasonable income. The worst part about the idea of forcing work standards is that it can certainly enforce a lot of suffering directly onto the poorest people in the short term. WOFs for rentals would almost certainly increase homelessness in the short term. We should, of course, never have let it come to this.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10629 posts Report Reply

  • Alfie, in reply to BenWilson,

    These are not good things about Uber.

    I was disgusted to read the Herald on Sunday editorial suggesting that the Uber driver who added a return Akl-Wgtn trip at the END of his shift should be treated as a hero. I wonder if they'd maintain that attitude if he'd fallen asleep at the wheel and killed someone?

    As an aside, I'm disappointed that RB closed the main Uber thread because there are a number of ongoing Uber stories which deserve a mention, especially in terms of our government's attitude towards multinationals deliberately breaking NZ law.

    Dunedin • Since May 2014 • 1377 posts Report Reply

  • simon g, in reply to BenWilson,

    I remember my favourite Indian restaurant for ages had stunning quality at insanely cheap prices. Then they got busted for exploiting their staff badly

    Living in Auckland's CBD I'm very happy to eat cheap takeaway food and drink cut-price alcohol, served by workers below the minimum wage. Occasionally the media ruin this feeling of contentment by reporting on the exploitation that makes this possible, but then my guilt is eased by the latest "statistics" which tell me that this isn't really happening much. Unless you read more closely, such as the accompanying footnote to a Stats NZ table on the declared occupations of new arrivals:

    * About half of all arrivals either did not state an occupation or their response was outside the scope. Occupations are not necessarily indication of employment in New Zealand.

    If you're an engineer, you say "Engineer". Nobody ticks the box marked "Kitchen Slave". So everything's fine on paper, it's only reality that sucks.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 1319 posts Report Reply

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