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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  • Lynn Yum, in reply to BenWilson,

    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.

    I don't buy this argument, especially not as it stands right now. Because right now, the minimum wage isn't a living wage, especially in Auckland. Raising wage up to the living wage is simply a necessary cost to pay for a humane society.

    It is like the aged care workers finally getting a pay rise. Sure, someone has to pay for it (and in this case the government, not the employers so the nominal price of aged care won't rise), but it is absolutely the right thing to do, because aged care is hard hard work, and the workers deserve to be paid decently.

    The Masala case you mentioned is just the tip of the iceberg. I heard migrant workers being exploited often enough, but they simply don't know their rights, or don't know who to complain to, or they are afraid when they complain they will lose their jobs (even though in principle, minimum employment conditions apply to every worker on any kind of visa, no ifs no buts.) So NZ employers get away with it. It angers me that for some poor souls, visiting New Zealand isn't a pleasant but horrifying experience.

    Auckland • Since Dec 2016 • 38 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    Attachment

    Bloomberg gets onto the story: Kiwis Get Twitchy as Foreigners Flock to New Zealand and Don't Leave.

    An unprecedented influx of immigrants is exacerbating a housing shortage and stretching infrastructure such as schools and hospitals, sparking heated political debate around the issue ahead of this year's general election.

    "Now, more than ever, we need to pause and rethink our current settings," said Andrew Little, leader of the Labour Party, the main opposition, who noted that half of the new arrivals decide to live in Auckland. "We can’t continue to bring so many people into our biggest city, which is already suffering from traffic congestion, overcrowded schools and soaring house prices."

    Migration statistics continue to defy forecasts of a slowdown, having climbed continuously over the past four years. A record 129,518 people moved to New Zealand in the year through March. That coincided with the lowest number of Kiwis relocating abroad in more than 30 years, resulting in a record 71,932 net gain.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22747 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    And from RNZ: Foreign student numbers jump

    A jump in enrolments from China and the Americas will push the number of foreign students in New Zealand past 130,000 this year, Education New Zealand says.

    The government agency responsible for the international education sector said the students would spend about $4.5 billion on fees and living costs this year, making it New Zealand's fourth largest export earner.

    Education New Zealand analysis of study visa figures showed universities, schools and polytechnics had more students at the start of April than at the same time last year, but private institutions had fewer.

    It said there were 18 percent more Chinese students than at the start of April last year - an extra 3700 .

    The number of students from Latin American nations was up 31 percent, and the number from south-east Asia was up six percent.

    However, there were 4199 fewer Indian students at the start of April, a drop of 24 percent.

    Education New Zealand chief executive Grant McPherson said the increases more than offset the decline, which had happened in the private tertiary sector as a result of changes to the rules for testing students' English.

    There had been big increases in the number of new visas issued to first-time students from some of the smaller source countries.

    "These are off relatively small bases, but the United States in terms of student visas grew by 46 percent, Vietnam 115 percent, Brazil at 40 percent and Chile at 100 percent," he said.

    $4.5bn is a lot of money.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22747 posts Report Reply

  • Rosemary McDonald, in reply to BenWilson,

    I’m surprised to see Germany and France so high.

    No surprise for those of us who spend most of our time travelling and sharing campsites with this group.

    These are the Young People, often doing a 'gap' year between secondary and tertiary education, who arrive here with the intention of working in between doing the tourist thing. They will often purchase a vehicle (Honda Odyssey of Toyota Estima), kit it out for basic camping and head off. Many land in the Far North where they will get temp jobs in horticulture. (These temp jobs are not the best option for locals due to the hassle of getting back on the Jobseeker Allowance when the work dries up.)

    The vast majority of these YP are German. Like, seriously, they are bloody everywhere. So much so that when there were Dotterels nesting inconveniently on a beach in the very Far North last year I wrote a warning sign in Deutsche.

    This is maybe not the place for a discussion about the impacts of budget tourists and their vulnerability to being exploited by employers and campground owners alike but they do love it here. We spend quite some time engaging with them (after a few lessons about not shitting in the sand dunes) and they are often doing the budget and working holiday now....and very often returning years later with their kids for an actual holiday.

    The ones we've met looking to live here permanently are often from the UK....they often already have jobs here and try to get in as much tiki touring in their time off to check out places to live long term.

    One thing that the Government should be mindful of is that these folk are noticing two major aspects of life in Godzone. Firstly...the cost of food produced here is often more expensive than what they pay at home, and secondly....all the "Do Not Swim / Collect Shellfish" signs all over the show. 100% Pure?

    Waikato, or on the road • Since Apr 2014 • 1344 posts Report Reply

  • TracyMac, in reply to Ben Smith,

    That's work visas. How many white Europeans are overstaying and working without the correct visas? I bet it's into the thousands.

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

  • Rich of Observationz,

    Some years ago I had a startup in London. We needed people to do a fairly low level data entry job, and we found that NZers and Aussies were best for that job, mostly because it wasn't going to be their life, they were just earning money to be in Europe.

    When we hired UK people for that, they were usually hopeless in some way.

    Talking to people who own bars and the like, it's often a similar thing here. People who aren't lifers are more likely to have a positive attitude to the job, precisely because they wont be doing it forever.

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5550 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz, in reply to Russell Brown,

    And our primary competitive advantage in "educating" foreign students isn't that we have better teaching, or we're cheap, or we're such an amazing place to study in.

    It's that we aren't assholes and we try not to treat paying customers as criminals (as our principal competitors in the Australia, the UK and US tend to).

    It's not a bad crop. We can pasture students in less space than the equivalent herd of cattle or sheep, and the income per head is a lot larger, I suspect.
    They even don't need to be fed and watered - they buy their own noodles and beer.

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5550 posts Report Reply

  • linger, in reply to Rich of Observationz,

    isn’t that we have better teaching

    Well, some ESL programmes would probably beg to differ on that :-). But certainly, for my students, study abroad in NZ is no cheaper (and depending on the wildly fluctuating exchange rate, has sometimes been significantly more expensive) than comparable programmes in Australia or America.

    The difference you mention is most obvious during visa application procedures and at border control. By contrast, once students actually reach their host institution, they generally have a positive experience whichever English-speaking country they go to (because the institutions have a very high motivation to ensure that is the case). The administrative hassles beforehand generally aren't an important factor when students select destinations, except in the extreme case that a student visa is actually refused. (Which used to happen fairly often about 10 years ago for Chinese nationals heading from Japan to the US; but it's rare now.)

    Tokyo • Since Apr 2007 • 1886 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Rich of Observationz,

    Talking to people who own bars and the like, it’s often a similar thing here. People who aren’t lifers are more likely to have a positive attitude to the job, precisely because they wont be doing it forever.

    Yeah, that's exactly what I was getting at in the post.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22747 posts Report Reply

  • Sam Bradford,

    I'm an ESL teacher, so maintaining high incoming numbers is in my best interests, but I don't think it's sustainable.

    The standard of most educational institutions (not mine) is a lot worse than Russell imagines, I think. They will pass anyone to keep the numbers up. There are students who are just there to get a visa who don't give a shit, and even worse, there are some who have spent a small fortune believing they'll get a decent qualification, who are ready to work hard, who get a worthless certificate because the course is designed to pass anyone. Some institutions are excellent of course, but there's no way for students to know which are scammy before they get here. (Tip: the more grandiose the title of the institution, the worse it will be. Zealandium Professional International Business College will be a shipping container in Penrose that hands out student visas in exchange for doing a word-find.)

    I suspect the overall effect will be to widen inequality too, as if that weren't already a problem. The large number of 'students'/work visa holders desperate to find a job pushes down wages, and at the same time their presence raises rents and reduces rental standards. As others have mentioned, it also reduces the incentive for employers and govt. to invest in training, and we're already horrible at that and getting worse. (Try, as a building apprentice, to find a builder in Auckland who will pay more than minimum wage, not expect you to work 60-hour-weeks, and who is not literally on crack. Try it.)

    I also second those who say we shouldn't overestimate our own appeal. Among the wealthier students I teach (mix of PR and work visa), about half genuinely like NZ and the other half are just waiting til they can legally move to Australia. If our economy suddenly declined for some reason (like a mass realisation that we have no industry except selling houses to each other) I think the speed of the exodus could surprise some.

    New Zealand • Since Jul 2014 • 30 posts Report Reply

  • Jim Cathcart, in reply to Rich of Observationz,

    Talking to people who own bars and the like, it’s often a similar thing here. People who aren’t lifers are more likely to have a positive attitude to the job, precisely because they wont be doing it forever.

    Actually it's not explicitly stated, but many small businesses actually rely on "cheap labor" too, regardless if they're from emerging economies or from self-actualizing Europe. That is not unusual in high-cost bubble economies economies. Australia is no different.

    Since Nov 2006 • 228 posts Report Reply

  • linger, in reply to Sam Bradford,

    Try […] to find a builder in Auckland […] who is not literally on crack

    Ooh. Hadn’t realised builder’s crack was quite that serious a problem —
    thought it was just something you got with plumbers.

    Tokyo • Since Apr 2007 • 1886 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Lynn Yum,

    I don’t buy this argument, especially not as it stands right now.

    It's not an argument for things to stay as they are, just an acknowledgement of where we are.

    Raising wage up to the living wage is simply a necessary cost to pay for a humane society.

    It's an end I agree with. The devil is in the path to get there.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10631 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Rich of Observationz,

    People who aren’t lifers are more likely to have a positive attitude to the job, precisely because they wont be doing it forever.

    Awesome though that sounds for any employer, it's harder to see it as good in the social balance.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10631 posts Report Reply

  • Lynn Yum, in reply to Russell Brown,

    Just looking at the graph, the obvious question to ask is what happened in and since 2013-2014 to cause the migration figures to go completely out of whack? Brexit and Trump can't explain the trend that started in 2013-2014.

    Auckland • Since Dec 2016 • 38 posts Report Reply

  • richard,

    Speaking of dodgy places with fancy names ....

    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11840377

    How this "Cornell" is allowed to operate legally with this name I have no idea, but it is a pile of sleaze in the middle of our "education precinct".

    Not looking for New Engla… • Since Nov 2006 • 268 posts Report Reply

  • Katharine Moody,

    Most of them are also not from the places that come to mind when we talk about immigration. The UK is the largest source of work visa migrants, while China and India account for only a small proportion.

    I’m not sure where that data came from, as Micheal Reddell does a lot of blogging on immigration issues, and his chart here regarding outstanding work visas by country of citizenship suggests Asian countries are by a reasonable margin the largest cohort;

    https://croakingcassandra.com/2017/04/26/work-visas-outstanding-a-simple-chart/

    And in another blog, he makes this comment;

    The UK is still important, but it is swamped by people from India, and China and the Philippines aren’t far behind the UK.

    and provides another chart/list with numbers;

    https://croakingcassandra.com/category/immigration/

    Wellington • Since Sep 2014 • 798 posts Report Reply

  • Katharine Moody, in reply to Rosemary McDonald,

    all the “Do Not Swim / Collect Shellfish” signs all over the show. 100% Pure?

    Yes. the ptb of Maoridom have had enough;

    http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/92110692/iwi-leader-makes-foreshore-and-sea-bed-claim-on-behalf-of-all-maori

    I hope they do well.. as frankly it would be hard for any alternate governance model to do worse.

    Wellington • Since Sep 2014 • 798 posts Report Reply

  • simon g, in reply to richard,

    Yes, "Cornell" has been prominent on Queen St for years, and just illustrates the difference between a lovely budget spreadsheet in the Beehive and the sordid reality on the ground. To say this is a sound industry is like producing knock-off Louis Vuitton bags and claiming to be a centre of fashion and design.

    I worked in the field for years, and I know many good people in it - and they're all sick of being tainted by association with the cheap n' nasties, and sick of a government that (until just recently) saw no difference ... only cash. Steven Joyce has a lot to answer for.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 1319 posts Report Reply

  • Katharine Moody, in reply to Sam Bradford,

    Yes, all good and valid insights. The percentage of 'good' vs 'dodgy' PTEs would be an interesting study;

    https://www.immigration.govt.nz/new-zealand-visas/apply-for-a-visa/tools-and-information/education-quals-study/pathway-education-providers

    But not necessarily in the government's interest to do in an objective and honest manner.

    Wellington • Since Sep 2014 • 798 posts Report Reply

  • James Littlewood*, in reply to poop poop,

    Don’t you think NZ is great because it has a small population?

    Reckon. Sort of. It's also what makes us kinda suck.

    If there's a magic number that balances the need for in-demand labour categories against growing infrastructure costs, I'd really like to see it.

    Auckland • Since Mar 2008 • 410 posts Report Reply

  • James Littlewood*, in reply to Lynn Yum,

    what happened in and since 2013-2014

    For one thing the govt released the handbrake. And about that time the Christchurch rebuild would have been kicking into top gear.

    Auckland • Since Mar 2008 • 410 posts Report Reply

  • Katharine Moody, in reply to James Littlewood*,

    If there’s a magic number that balances the need for in-demand labour categories against growing infrastructure costs, I’d really like to see it.

    I follow a lot of local government issues - and my pretty sound impression is that the infrastructure deficit in NZ is a massive, massive problem - here and now. Most/many LGs are already at or exceeding their earlier self-imposed debt limits. Needed wastewater treatment plant upgrades and stormwater system upgrades are the most common of the capital project under investments. These infrastructure deficits are causing serious environmental degradation. Neither are we very good at solid waste management.

    Our urban areas are big polluters. We have exceeded the environmental carrying capacity in most of our urban areas already, based on our existing infrastructure, notwithstanding our roading/transport problems.

    We really are fouling our own nest at an alarming rate. We are simply not geared up in a modern, technological way for the present tourist and resident population.

    You know the old saying, 'somethings gotta break' - well it is breaking daily, right in front of our eyes, but we just aren't mature enough to admit it. Yet, as Rosemary points out above - visitors do notice it, along with our growing level of visible poverty.

    Wellington • Since Sep 2014 • 798 posts Report Reply

  • Simon Grigg, in reply to linger,

    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.

    I had a conversation about this with my HK accountant (his clients are primarily Chinese, HK Chinese, Australians - he has an office in Melbourne too – and a few New Zealanders). His take was that NZ was the affordable educational option for upwardly moving Chinese who can no longer afford the private schools in China or elsewhere. Canada is the first option, then Australia, with NZ the budget option.

    Just another klong... • Since Nov 2006 • 3283 posts Report Reply

  • Kumara Republic, in reply to Rich of Observationz,

    When we hired UK people for that, they were usually hopeless in some way.

    Would they have been British Leyland workers in a previous life?

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

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