New Zealand's Minister of Tourism, Stuart Nash, announced the country has reevaluated immigration policies after examining the economic effects resulting from a 98% decline in arrivals. Much like what is happening in other countries, the pandemic has continued to be a time of reckoning. Immigration-driven population growth is unsustainable in so many regards, yet, like in the United States, it was viewed as a necessary and vital component for New Zealand's success. This pandemic forced officials to take a step back and rethink what is best for their country. As Stuart Nash said, “Our immigration system, as we knew it, was brought to an abrupt halt."
Despite one out of every six New Zealanders relocating abroad, the country's population has been growing. Since the 1990s, 30% is attributable to immigration policies. It has been a challenge for New Zealand to keep up with their increasing population, which has resulted in housing shortages, overcrowded cities, and rising home prices. In his speech, Nash noted the country's dependence on migrant labor and the pressure it has placed on housing and infrastructure saying that "we need to get ahead of population growth."
Further complicating the issue is the impact of a low-wage workforce driven by immigration. Nash said this diminished "incentives for employers to employ and train New Zealanders." By doing so, wages were suppressed, and it meant that businesses were able to overlook " investing capital in productivity-enhancing plant and machinery, or employing and upskilling New Zealanders into work."
The country's new post-pandemic approach is that employers will be expected to "hire, train, and upskill more New Zealanders." The government is assisting through emphasising vocational and training opportunities available for free to those who are interested, which has already been taken advantage of by over 100,000. While Nash clearly asserts that while immigrants play a vital role in society, the focus is on "getting our immigration settings right," which he described as a "balancing act."
Governments should be expected to put the welfare of their citizens first, and this "immigration reset" is in no way saying or implying anything negative about immigrants. In reality, immigration-driven population growth creates hardships for everyone when it is allowed to overwhelm a country's resources. It's refreshing to see other countries acknowledging this, and taking real, decisive action despite potential backlash for not being politically correct. Nash said, "When our borders fully open again, we can't afford to simply turn on the tap to the previous immigration settings. That path is a continuation of pressures on our infrastructure, like transport, accommodation, and downward pressure on wages." It would certainly be encouraging if our own government pursued a similar course.
Amy Boylan is the Content Writer for NumbersUSA's Sustainability Initiative
Updated: Thu, Jun 10th 2021 @ 6:20pm EDT