Home and Community Health Association chief executive Julie Haggie tells INsite she fears the recent immigration policy changes will discourage migrant workers at a time when the home and community support services (HCSS) sector is facing serious workforce shortages.
Haggie says that she has heard anecdotally that there is increasing reliance on migrant labour in main centres due to workforce shortages.
“It has been a challenge in the past attracting migrant staff because up until this year we haven’t been able to offer them guaranteed hours of work. Also they need a New Zealand driver’s licence and their own vehicle.”
For Haggie, the big issue for the HCSS sector is future labour supply.
“We know that our employers will need to recruit many more staff because of the increasing ageing population and because of our ageing workforce.
“There seems to be an assumption that current or future unemployed New Zealand citizens – a large proportion of these in the 15-24 category – will suddenly discover that support work is their future career,” says Haggie.
“We need to attract and retain good employees and the increased wages and guaranteed hours will help. But we are not as confident that there are enough willing and reliable New Zealanders to fill the demand or the client need. Whilst the work doesn’t demand high qualifications, it is not low skilled. Our employees need both skills and attributes to work in a one on one support role with clients.”
In that context, HCSS providers need to look outside New Zealand to find staff. However, Haggie says the latest changes to the immigration policy will be a disincentive for migrant workers.
“The requirement for family to qualify for visas in their own right, the need to have a one year break after three years and the relatively high threshold of income required will be major hurdles,” she says.
Haggie also thinks more could be done to assist Pacific migrants to work in New Zealand.