With no signs of a review of the skills classification system ANZSCO getting underway any time soon, the new immigration settings continue to make life difficult for aged care providers. Many providers are reliant on migrant workers with around a quarter of New Zealand’s aged care workforce working on some form of visa.

Last year’s immigration laws introduced a one-year stand-down period for migrant workers after three years working in New Zealand, before they are allowed to apply for a new visa. A later revision of the immigration policy did little to relieve providers. Despite changing some of the pay settings, the rules stipulate that any migrant classified by the skills classification system ANZSCO as being Level 4 or over is still subject to the stand-down period.

The caregiver role is currently classified as ANZSCO Level 4. A change to level 3 would mean many caregivers on migrant work visas would be exempt from the stand-down period.

Before the change of government last year, the former Minister of Immigration Michael Woodhouse said that Phase 2 of the immigration policy overhaul was to review the ANZSCO system. Last year the Ministry indicated to INsite that Phase 2 would be completed by the end of 2017.

However, fast-forward to March 2018 and it appears an ANZSCO review is no closer to getting off the ground, leaving those aged care providers relying on migrant workers to grapple with the new immigration laws and the associated upheaval of their workforce.

New Zealand Aged Care Association chief executive Simon Wallace says the ANZSCO system is in need of urgent review.

“The ANZSCO classification system is completely outdated – and not just for our sector.”

However, changing the ANZSCO system is not straightforward. It will involve cooperation with Australia, as the system spans the skills classification across both countries.

The New Zealand government does not appear to be pushing particularly hard for the review to get underway.

An Immigration New Zealand spokesperson said responsibility for a review lay with Statistics NZ and the Australian Bureau of Statistics, but that their understanding was that “any review will not start until later this year at the earliest”.

A spokesperson from Statistics New Zealand said simply that a review for ANZSCO was being considered, but INsite was unable to glean any further information at this stage.

Wallace is keen to see the immigration settings changed for the residential aged care sector. He says there are caregivers who have been continually granted extensions to their initial Essential Skills visa and have now been working in New Zealand for over 12 years.

“The loss of these caregivers would be devastating to the sector, as it would not be possible to replace such skill and knowledge easily,” he says.

However, the Government has not indicated any likely changes to the immigration settings that are hindering the aged care sector. This is despite tweaks to immigration policy were signalled for the construction industry, allowing more migrant ‘tradies’ into New Zealand during the building boom.

“The Government’s priority for the immigration system is to begin by reviewing both the Labour Market Test and the Accredited Employer Scheme,” says Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway. “After that, officials will work on options to develop regional skills and labour shortages lists. Any further work on the Essential Skills visa, including responding to sector-specific issues, will be considered alongside looking at the needs of regions once other work on manifesto commitments is complete.”

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