Review: Going Places: Migration, Economics and the Future of New Zealand
- Julie Fry and Hayden Glass. 2016. BWB Texts
Sir Paul Callaghan, a world renowned scientist and 2011 New Zealander of the Year, maintained that New Zealand should aim for an economy based on science, technology and innovation. He talked of New Zealand as a place ‘where talent wants to live’. While New Zealand has plenty of jobs in the service industry, especially in hospitality, these are low wage jobs and will not lift our economy. Sir Paul died in 2012 but the authors of this book echo his views and suggest the future economy of New Zealand would benefit from encouraging the right kind of immigrants.
The opening chapter asks what kind of a country we want and the authors answer their own question by saying we need our country to be smart, creative, ambitious and connected in trade. We have one of the highest rates of immigration in the OECD but we focus too much on migrants who have a job offer and this is too limited. Some jobs like café manager do not require a high level of skill. We also allow international students to transition to PR if they find a job but many of those students have low level qualifications from a PTE. Immigration at the moment is bringing us only moderate economic growth. We need people with big ideas. We need people to establish new industries with jobs and export earnings.
For decades now, we have been losing many of our talented people in what we call the ‘brain drain’. Many of our tertiary educated people leave New Zealand, to Australia mainly but also to the UK, USA and Canada. There are possibly as many as 1 million ex-New Zealanders – the diaspora – living overseas. These people could be an economic asset. They could contribute to projects here or mentor young New Zealanders in another country. Although new trade possibilities are limited in Australia and the UK where most of our diaspora live, a bigger diaspora in China and other Asian countries in the future would help develop trade opportunities.
Of course the brain drain from other countries to New Zealand has meant we have a large number of tertiary educated migrants; however, very few of them have qualifications in the STEM subjects – Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. Those who do, find it hard to get a job here because we do not recognize their overseas qualification or because employers are looking for New Zealand experience. The authors of this book believe that there are talented migrants who would prefer to be self-employed. There are also some high value international students such as those studying for a PhD here, who could be encouraged to stay here. We are missing these opportunities.
The authors suggest we have a Start-Up visa as some other countries do or negotiate a Bilateral Business visa with other countries. It would be a bit like the Working Holiday Scheme but allow a much longer period. Christchurch city councillor, Raf Manjit, suggested an ‘Open Visa’ to attract young creative people. The visa would expire when they hit 30. Some other countries provide financial support to entrepreneurs for a period of a few years. While New Zealand may not be able to compete in that way, we can offer a beautiful country, world class institutions, an open business culture and a New Zealand life style.
- by Pat Syme
She is a ESL teacher, who also has a podcast website eslnews.org.nz to help newcomers with their listening to English and to understand more about New Zealand.