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New Zealand Facing Skill-shortage 'Epidemic'

July 11 2011 - People with skills, qualifications and experience can pick and choose the country in which to live and work and this is leading to an international battle for skills with New Zealand losing out, according to Mike Bell, architect of

While countries around the world are devoting huge resources into attracting skilled workers but also holding on to their best and brightest, New Zealand's .Immigration Minister has cut quotas by 13 per cent and approvals for the most skilled and qualified workers by over 21 per cent. In contrast, Australia and Canada have increased their quotas for skilled migration by 11 per cent and 22 per cent.

Mike Bell says that, as a result, New Zealand is facing a dire skill shortage of epic proportions:

"Businesses don't understand why they can't find good applicants for top jobs but New Zealand has effectively pushed away thousands of the very best in the world."

"The Canterbury rebuild is just the tip of the iceberg - businesses in pretty much every industry and every region are struggling, unable to find key staff. In 2008 we had a good system which was working well, now immigration is a broken and twisted wreck burdened with massive bureaucracy."

"Sadly a lot of New Zealanders are going to lose their jobs as a result of this mistake and probably won't even realise why."

He says that the latest government research on skill shortages dates back to February 2010 and recent requests to fourteen Economic Development Agencies around the country show that little new data is available. According to Mike Bell, there have been savage cuts in the number of immigrants since January 2010 - made without the benefit of up-to-date data on skill shortages. More and more businesses now find that they are unable to find qualified and experienced key staff. Mike Bell said:

"The Minister has thrown the baby out with the bathwater. It's vitally important to protect kiwi jobs, but this is a knee-jerk reaction which has seriously hurt New Zealand. Without good data on where the skill gaps are all this has achieved is to block the people we really need!"

He cites recent statistics confirming this change. During the 11 months to May 2011 applications being approved for Residency under the Skilled Migrant Category (aimed at bringing in workers with the most sought after skills) fell by 5,150 compared to the same period last year - a reduction of more than 21 per cent.

Over the 11 months to May 2011 approvals for temporary work visas from applicants on the 'Essential Skills' programme have also been cut by 7,201 - a reduction of more than 26 per cent compared to the same period a year previously.

Ruth Dyson, the Labour Party spokesperson on immigration concurs with bell:

"The Minister's response seems to be that we have an increasing number of unemployed, therefore we should reduce the number of people coming to New Zealand from overseas. This is an extremely shallow and damaging analysis."

"This is too important for short term thinking. We need to retain and attract the skills that we need to build a strong New Zealand for the future."

"Changes in immigration policy that we have seen over the last two and a half years are helping to keep New Zealand's economy sluggish, rather than helping to lift us out of recession."

Mike Bell believes that like steering a huge oil-tanker, changes to immigration are long term and take time to show an effect:.

"Even if the Minister finally listened to what we have been saying since March 2009 and put things back the way they were, it would take several months for the change to be felt."

Meanwhile, he argues, Australia and Canada will continue to win the international battle for skills while New Zealand struggles to retain our top kiwi workers or make any headway economic recovery.

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