Immigration New Zealand has updated the Essential Skills work visa and Skilled Migrant Category resident visa remuneration thresholds as part of its annual review. The new thresholds are based on the New Zealand median salary and wage rate of $25 per hour and can be found here.

The increase caused some initial confusion, with Immigration New Zealand showing the level 1-3 classifications as the lower paid roles and 4-5 as the higher paid roles when the reverse applies.

“There should have been a quality assurance process take place before the information was published on the INZ website.  Thankfully, the NZACA did pick it up,” says New Zealand Aged Care Association chief executive Simon Wallace.

Does the glitch signal confusion or ambivalence with the ANZSCO system on the part of Immigration New Zealand?

Wallace disagrees and says he believes ANZSCO is understood well by Immigration New Zealand at policy level.

In fact, last week the NZACA hosted an industry coalition meeting between Minister of Immigration Iain-Lees Galloway and a number of chief executives of peak bodies from a range of other sectors, to hear about how the Government plans to support industries with labour shortages and its ability to recruit and retain migrant workers. It was reportedly a “useful” meeting and the Minister intends to engage extensively with the sectors involved.

The aged care sector is hopeful this engagement will lead to changes in immigration policy that could see migrant care workers better supported to work in New Zealand rest homes.

Part of the sector’s frustration is that the ANZSCO classifications are outdated and in urgent need of review. Caregivers are listed as level 4 on the system, which means they are subject to the immigration laws that have 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 change to level 3 – which the sector argues would be a more accurate categorisation – would mean many caregivers on migrant work visas would be exempt from the stand-down period.

Making changes to ANZSCO is difficult as the system is co-owned by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) and New Zealand Statistics (Stats NZ). The ABS announced in August that they will not be reviewing ANZSCO at this stage and will reconsider its position after the 2021 Australian Census.

In the absence of a major review, there are limited options around what can be done by Stats NZ, says Becky Collett, Senior Manager, Data Standards and Design at Stats NZ.

In September Stats NZ had begun work on an internal options paper. Collett says this has now been drafted for consideration by Stats NZ management. One of the recommendations is for a targeted review of some of the skill level statements, in the immediate future.

If accepted by Stats NZ, this targeted review could potentially lead to an amendment to the classification of healthcare assistants, which in turn could help resolve the situation for migrant workers.

Change cannot come fast enough for many aged care providers who rely heavily on migrant caregivers.

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