An Immigration NZ sample of 600 live Skilled Migrant Category applications in March shows 57% were for jobs offering less than the new median wage threshold

An Immigration NZ sample of 600 live Skilled Migrant Category applications in March shows 57% were for jobs offering less than the new median wage threshold

A majority of applicants for New Zealand’s Skilled Migrant Category (SMC) visa were set to take on jobs offering less than the government’s new $48,859 wage threshold, according to an Immigration NZ snapshot of live applications last month.

An Immigration NZ spokesman told that the department undertook a random sample of more than 600 live SMC applications on 1 March. All applicants were claiming for employment at skill levels 1, 2 or 3 under New Zealand and Australian classifications (ANZSCO).

Of the sample, 57.5% were for roles offering less than the new threshold of New Zealand’s median wage, the spokesman said. That meant 42.5% were for roles with wages above $48,859. Meanwhile, 14% earned above $75,000. The results were given a margin of error of plus or minus 5%, the spokesman said.

The top occupational groupings for the whole sample were: Registered nurses, chefs, retail managers, café/restaurant managers, ICT professionals, and ICT support staff. You can see all roles classed at ANZSCO levels 1, 2 and 3 here (first spreadsheet, fifth table).

The Government on Wednesday announced changes to the Skilled Migrant Category visa, alongside changes to how long temporary visa holders could remain in the country and a residency path for certain temporary workers in the South Island.

The SMC changes – from mid-August this year – mean applicants for jobs at skill levels ANZSCO 1, 2 or 3 will only be awarded points for employment under the SMC’s points-based assessment system if the wage offered is above the median threshold.

Changes also include that SMC applicants for roles not in the top three ANZSCO levels will be considered if their offered job pays a wage above $73,299 per year. “Bonus points” will be awarded for roles at or above $97,718 per year.

However, the details, for example on just how many extra points will be awarded, are thin on the ground. The Government has only said more detailed information would be made available in June 2017.

Political room as Labour gears up on immigration policy

The decision to not include the full details this week gives the National Party extra room politically to tighten or loosen the proposed changes, in particular given that the Labour Party is yet to announce its own immigration policy.

As reported by on Wednesday, Labour is understood to be taking a closer look at the path foreign students in New Zealand must take towards residency once they have finished their studies here.

This is based on Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment documents from last year released under the Official Information Act showing migrants transitioning from work and student visas to the SMC category consistently have lower wages than other SMC migrants who were not in the country previously on other visas.

Government changes this week did tweak some educational requirements. Available points – again not yet detailed – will increase for SMC applicants with Master’s degrees and Doctorates. An SMC applicant’s partner’s qualifications will be taken into account for points if they have a recognised Bachelor’s level degree or higher, or a recognised post-graduate qualification.

Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse on Thursday told Radio NZ that the qualification changes “may result in a small reduction in the number of people seeking an international education here, although it’s possible they’ll transfer to higher grade courses.”

Labour to cut immigration 'by tens of thousands'

Meanwhile, the politics of the debate was at the forefront again on Thursday, with Labour Party Leader Andrew Little saying Labour would look to cut annual net migration numbers, currently above 70,000, by the “tens of thousands” by way of changes to New Zealand’s working visa scheme.

Woodhouse warned that setting arbitrary limits on the number of people coming in would be a “quite different conversation” to the one National is holding now. While the changes announced this week “will probably result in a reduction in the net migration numbers,” he would not put a number on this, going as far as to say he had not been provided estimated figures of what impact the changes might have.

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Labours policy will be interesting. Hopefully it is more than just wishful thinking like a lot of their other policies.

I was watching Garner this morning, and while Jacinda usually comes across as nothing more than a bit of babble, in my opinion she really showed Collins up.

National look like a cooked goose, and what's more they know it.

so what ?? 100% application will be over $48,859 from Aug

I do reckon they'll need to put in place some pretty strong disincentives for gaming the thresholds, in the form of harsh penalties on both parties.

We can hope, but history shows NZ isn't the best at enforcement or deterrent.

Students coming to NZ have some big up front costs, agent commissions, education fees, accomodation.
To benefit they need the prospect of residency and they understand the points system backwards.
The proposed changes are tilted towards mature well qualified post grads, away from younger undergrads.
Some will gamble but the stakes are high and they can try another country.
In other words, i believe the changes will have effect.

King hit knockout punch

The new rules will be the death-knell of the dodgy PTE's

Couldnt have put it better myself...

One can only hope

the problem is other countries are lifting the bar too. US is changing H1B, australia is cutting 457, NZ will still end up the easiest place to get PR because NZ simply doesn't have the same leverage for attracting better quality ones. It's always a two way street


Shouldn't the primary objective of an educational institution be to bridge skill gaps and act as a gateway for high skilled migrants?
It seems like more people are concerned about the short term benefits of export education over any long-term social gain of a skill-oriented education system.
We have narrowed down a complex issue to the likes of running a mom-and-pop stores; if we do not match the 2-for-1 deal offered by the Australian and British universities, the customers will buy the commodity from the store across the street.

education didnt used to have anything to do with immigration, its a new idea, so i guess not.
We bought heaps of new arrivals in after the war and it worked out ok.

Bit of a stupid headline as you would expect the figure to be around 50%. Everyone I speak to says massive shortage of workers in construction and other jobs the locals aren't preared to do.

It worth more discussion on things locals arent prepared to do.
In the latest round of dairying in Southland I recall some locals wouldnt work for the farmers, hours were ridiculous, pay was ordinary, and they knew them too well.
So they bought in Fillipinos...
Whose fault is that?


If people are not prepared to take up a job with ridiculous hours and ordinary pay, then that means that the employers haven't met the market.
By bringing in cheap labour, this is interfering with the market. If we let the market decide (as National party supporters should advocate), then we would see a proper market equilibrium, and perhaps businesses that rely on cheap labour might realise that they don't have a business at all, and are therefore not contributing to society like they may claim they are.
So in my opinion, the fault lies with the government allowing a distortion in the market, and not allowing market dynamics to play out.

Maybe we could learn new ways of managing a labour pool In the way that seasonal work is arranged, or the shearers for that matter
Teams of skilled workers moving around the country and the employers learn to plan for that.

The goal is not zero unemployment. You always need some slack.
But however we manage seasonal workers, I'm not sure that this needs to be in the skilled migrant worker discussion, or even in a discussion around immigration at all for that matter.

I havent met many people I would describe as as slack, just misunderstood.
The reason employment arrangements ends up in immigration discussion is we use labour shortage stories to justify immigrants and seasonal workers.


Positivelywallstreet - seasonal workers including shearers already shift around the country now and have done so for years.......

They get themselves organised and carry out seasonal work, mostly Nz's, sometimes with good degrees or working on them.
So why are the othere seasonal tasks not filled on the same basis, picking, pruning, planting.
We have our cost structures wrong? Better to have them on a benefit?

The other seasonal tasks you mention are done on the shifting around basis. Some gangs might start in one crop area and then slowly move through other crop could be tying up raspberries and other berry cane crops to pruning and thinning many other crops. Some tasks have to be completed within an appropriate time frame for pest and disease control etc.....can't put workers into sprayed areas and sprays have to be targeted to whatever weed or pest is occurring and this can be temperature dependent.......machinery has also taken over many roles.........these seasonal tasks require hard workers who don't mind working in all weathers, and a high level of commitment to understanding the crop they are working attitude and work ethic are two prerequisites.......Many NZ'ers seem to want the city life and point blank refuse to work in rural areas.

If we remove the lazy cheap option of immigrants for farmers, they may be they will be forced organise themselves so that they can offer more attractive working conditions that will attract Kiwi staff. Further the agricultural export industries may be motivated to be more productive and or aim further up the product valuation tree so that higher wages can be supported and the work executed with less staff.

Chris M - my best advice to you is to become a farmer. See how things actually work. When you're looking over the fence, you can only see so far, and relying on what you're hearing is not always right either.

If farmers cannot pay decent wages for the conditions or improve their productivity to do so, then the economics of farming do not support the very high prices that farms sell for. I.e artificially low wages are being used to under pin high farm values and thereby, indirectly the banks.

For some kiwis it is farm location that doesn't appeal. It has always been harder to attract kiwi farm staff in Southland than say Waikato.

Looking back there was always well paid seasonal work in Southland, factories and fishing. a permanent job on a farm may have interfered with the white baiting or any other secondary job.

I don't agree and considering the numbers of Kiwis working in the social, cultural, sexual and actual deserts of Western Australia it seems to me that we are prepared to work hard in places far less pleasant than rural New Zealand.
I don't disagree we have something wrong as a country when, as we are being constantly told, we seem unable to operate without importing workers (and capital) from abroad. What's going on; other places don't need to do that.

Good point, the NZ's were working hard where I worked in Sydney, but they said the NZ's that didn't work hard choose to stay in NZ
Got to laugh

NZ'ers in Sydney and Western Australia HAVE to work hard
They have no other choice
Otherwise they might as well go back to where they came from

NZ'ers in NZ have choices not available to them in Australia

Other countries in the Western world do in fact rely on migrant workers. USA - Mexicans, UK - Eastern Europeans, Australia - Kiwis and others.

Western Australia is hot and dry and wages can be high. Southland is wet, cold and not everyone wants to be a farmer. ;-)

Yes I know that but is it true, as claimed, that we (Kiwis,collectively) are somehow unable to not just harvest our crops but build our own roads or houses or or look after our elderly and need to have a steady inflow of immigrants to do these things. What are we Kiwis actually doing then, it didn't used to be like this; what has changed?
I suspect that it has a bit to do with the fact that certain jobs are poorly paid and not well respected, clearly folk are OK to work in dirty, dangerous jobs in isolated places provided the pay is good. Another factor is poor work ethic thanks to our dripping wet welfare system.
When I started work in the early '70s you could earn a decent income at the meat works or on the farms or forests, enough to raise a family and buy a house. How come we can't pay people a decent wage for that type of work yet there's, for example, 59 on over a $100K pretending to work at some non job at ATEED.
How come the non trade-able sectors, year after year are getting higher pay while the real wealth generating workers get a smaller and smaller share. Seems to me there is something fundamentally wrong in the way we value (in all it's meanings) work and our workers.
I'm not looking for an argument, just trying to work it out.

what has changed?

Excellent question

Have you ever seen any academic research asking and answering that question?

One would hope so, but I doubt it, The academic elites are too busy being bankrolled to put out tomes posing the FACT that immigration is good

I may have missed your point. Are you saying their are NZ gangs of pickers etc moving around the country, Im only aware of overseas work gangs and students heading for the Bay of Plenty work.

In Central Otago there is usually a steady stream of kiwi pickers of the semi retired variety that come down in their camper vans and stay for the picking season and many then move up north for the kiwifruit season. Friends (baby boomers) travelled the country for about 7 years in their camper van just working as casual/seasonal labour. Springtime saw them working part-time/casual in the dairy industry - relief milkers, calf rearers, AI technicians etc. I was surprised at the number of like minded people they met along the way. The arrival of grandchildren saw them evenutally settle down and give up their nomadic lifestyle. But there seems to be others to take their place.

so they are hired directly by farmer/orchardist?
not a bad existance.

Usually direct hire. Once they start on this road they usually ended up returning to the same employers year after year. Work opportunities can be word of mouth - someone giving up may know someone else who would be interested in taking up their job etc. In CO they were part of a core group of kiwis who worked for a particular vineyard. Every year they all returned (as a group) to the same vineyard.

Not far from us is a large vineyard who uses 90+% locals as their pickers. Many, but not all, are semi-retirees or younger mums of school aged children, who look to do seasonal grape picking to supplement income. Likewise folks who come here to retire find there are casual opportunities for horticutlure viticulture work as tractor drivers, sprayers, jack of all trades etc. This year our orchard will require approx 35 people per day for approx 14 days to pick over a 6 week period. But as it won't be 14 consecutive days it is easier to use the services of a group such as this:

That group situation in the grape picking is interesting.
I suspect the overseas pickers, students or not, are working as a community as well.
I had wondered if that sense of belonging is what makes it difficult for us city dwellers to participate/ survive in seasonal or any work. And Im talking about the despised unemployable 5% specifically.
But it is friday, have a good weekend.

There are both local and overseas workers who move around. Often times there is plenty of work for gangs in one region like Nelson, Marlborough or the BOP. You can move from crop to crop rather than region to region. The overseas workers coming in are a necessity.........There are usually plenty of local people who rely on seasonal work in most regions. There is simply not enough workers during peak work flows and urban people are not prepared to fill the gaps.

Got it.
Thank you



Exactly - if orchardists say they can't employ Kiwis and bring in cheap labour then they are living on borrowed time. Their model is not working and they should be in some other business. The BS about drug testing results on kiwis is simply a smoke screen to hide the bleeding obvious and this is perpetuated right up to the PM level to try and fool the public - not that that is a hard task.

Smalltown - it has very little to do with their model.......have you ever done any orchard work? Crops have optimal time frames for completing can't prune, spray, thin, or harvest etc when you feel like it....these jobs have to be done at the right time....the industry needs large numbers of workers at specific times and NZers are not willing or able to meet the criteria and most people would not have the necessary skills and expertise.

Are these people hired directly by an orchardist or contracted in from, say, a contractor or gang boss?
Is it task by task or for the duration?
i apologise for my ignorance

There is an enormous mixture......depends on crops and volumes.
Some orchardists will have a team of locals but top with outside contractors etc. Other orchardists will use contractors all the way and then each contractor will vary in size and capability. If they have numerous gangs working there will be someone who is experienced who is the gang boss.

Size and scale of operation will determine the actions also the contracts for supply can be very different. There is also huge variation in crop types and specific needs so not one glove fits all approach.

Neccessary skills and expertise..... cmon bro in Australia this work is done by young backpackers for gods sake. Lets cut to the chase shall we - its all about the miserable wages and conditions that the NZ orchardists budget for.

its about work styles and the communities that Casual Observer and Notaneconomist among others describe ,that may match the Despised 5% needs for a workspace
They have my support

I use to do that work as a student, hay, pumpkins, kiwifruit, grapes, onions, strawberries, mowing lawns anything I could lay my hands on.

Took no skill but it was hard graft for very little money. Hay was the best, hardest work, especially in the shed, but best money plus beer and food afterwards. Better when I worked for my friends parents. The beer would last all night. Marinated steaks as well.

It was how I survived my holidays, and trying to keep up with my mates who were working.

I picked strawberries in Auckland, Albany to be exact for the owner named Murray Jardine. All the land is now a housing estate. This was 37 years ago now and was possibly the highest paid job I have ever had in relative terms. Over the 6 weeks of work in the summer holidays I was earning up to $100 a day, pretty good when your 13 years old but then I was the second or third fastest picker on the patch and it was very physical work on the lower back. Compared to my friend who was doing a paper run, the money was crazy but even that has gone to the dogs now.


Why would you expect 50%? This is the skilled migrant category. You should expect 0% to be paid under the median wage level, given they should be skilled people.
In other words the system has been abused, and these people are not skilled at all, rather we are importing low-skilled labour.

I suspect it is nowhere near 50%, why a random sample. They would be able to extract an exact figure with relative minimal effort.

Big changes to Labour immigration policy compared to the open liberal Clarke years , when immigration into New Zealand was like a game of Bullrush.

The question is :- Is this for real or is it political opportunism to win votes ?

We need to bear in mind that one of the the easiest and quickest ways to increase GDP is through immigration .

I think our politicians are susceptible to rash opportunism that you get from drinking too


I agree. That is the exact reason the Nats loves to beat their chests on nominal GDP numbers but dodge questions about our failure on every other measure of social and economic progress.
Wage inflation in NZ has been bouncing around 1.5% per annum over the past three years (US - 2.9% & UK - 2.6% which is what full employment and recruitment shortages actually look like). This clearly shows how the fruits of a "good" GDP growth are not being shared with the average Kiwi worker.


I see you are still hard out building your wall of justification - as to why you will carry on voting National
The ongoing cognitive dissonance required must hurt your brain - I certainly hurts mine.

We also know the easiest way to increase GDP per capita is to decrease immigration

You withheld that little snippet

Boatman has snookered himself
He is on the record stating "he" will vote for the party that comes up with a serious plan to address housing

Labour does exactly that and Boatie complains it is opportunistic

Well Boatie - tough - thats politics - you're trying to weasel your way out - get your voting paper ready

How "skilled" can some one be if they earn under the median wage? Looks to me like the system is a bit broken and really just used as a way to get cheap labour in to undercut local market rates. We do need to attract skilled people but genuinely skilled, well paid professionals. As mentioned the student visa system also needs similar reform.

Student working rights should be linked to the education level and limited to their field of study. I don't see why business management students are allowed to work as summer fruit pickers, a traditionally Kiwi job where less-than-minimum wage is now the new normal.

That is a good question so I looked.
Of course everyone has skills, our parents ensure that. I hope the tem unskilled only refers to someone inexperienced at the task in hand.
Anyway, heaps of skilled people earn less than the median wage.

The definition of skill is quite broad but it comes down to the amount of training, knowledge and experience required to carry out tasks in a particular job. Skill in itself is incomparable unless you consider certain levels of skill.
Can most computer scientists work on cleaning jobs- yes, would it work the other way round- absolutely not. This is how the skill level is defined.
Most people get this bit wrong when they think every skill shortage can be bridged by training and recruiting locals. In advanced level jobs, you require the right blend of experience, training and talent to qualify for the job.

Could we add aptitude to that list, its missing out of competency based education but explains why im an indifferent cleaner regardless of how much i have observed good cleaners,
Theoretically any nuclear physicist could clean bathrooms, but probably not very well.

I read a lively debate on a Facebook thread from this article (how credible these are is questionable but there was an underlying theme), if some comments are correct and he's paying his staff 16.50 an hour which is morally criminal in itself driving 44ton units, get them driving between 60-70 hours every week comes to around $50k.

If they earn more than $49,000 for a job in an area that has a skills shortage, they get a Skilled Migrant Visa and a possible pathway to residency.

Boom, change truck driving to a 'skills shortage', these guys get over the line and watch wages tank

No easy answer but in the Q&A they quote a figure of $24.39 in brackets, nots sure if that is a minimum hourly rate, it should be.


he underpays the going rate by $6 an hour then moans that he can not get drivers.
what is brillant is he says he brings in experienced stock truck and trailer drivers from fiji. really do they have a big pool of them on that tiny island nation when a nation our size can not supply any.
its all about the money plain and simple

Why not tie the wage people need to get to comfortably survive in NZ, to a percentage of the medium house price in NZ? Even rent is tired to house prices, hence why they are currently rising rapidly.

But that said many professional professions don't pay over 50k

Skilled does not necessarily mean highly paid. We don't really need skilled accountants and lawyers we need skilled tradies, farm hands etc.
I was speaking to a guy with a window business the other day. Due to raising the points system to 160 it means he now can't get any half decent employees.
We all know that 3-4% of the population are unemployable.

Speaking of funny stories I have heard of work schemes that drag their employees out of bed and get them to work and home again, but they do work.
Exaggerated I know...

Is he a half decent employer?
I know those 160 pointers quite well and they are highly motivated, if they fail there is no safety net.
Is that the kind of society we want, no safety net?

When getting job letter for residency now the applicant will ask for salary above $50000 - only difference is that will have to pay more tax to be reimbursed back to so called employer.

After doing diploma, can anyone earn $50000 but now will see jump in higher wages to satisfy immigration condition only.

After Little Andrew stated his party posistion on mmigration yesterday now national is going all out to prove that even their policy change will reduce substantially.

Election year.

57% less than $48,859. This much be the strong immigration that's keeping the million dollar property market so buoyant.


Before august so many will lodge their PR with job title in ANZSCO list especially being managers in restaurants,pizza shop,dairy shop, petrol station . If private investigation is done for this applications most of them would be working as waiters with a job title as manager .If the employers want them they will definately help with fake documents which will look genuine. Also so many will move to remote areas for PR and once they get it they will straight away move back to auckland.

I don't have a problem with seasonal workers coming in from the Islands particularly. We have a duty to them as it is in the form of aid, but I reckon allowing them to do a lot of this work should possibly be put into that category, way, way better than just handing money over. All I ask is that it all be done absolutely above board and that no-one and I mean no-one is able to rip them off when they are here.
We could make this work very, very well, with a different way of looking at it and goodwill.

The abusers will continue abusing the system and win. They will find a employer and offer money in return the employer will give them job offer with job title as manager post and pay them the threshold amount. The documents will look genuine though they are not a manager in the shop, what can immigration do? This is how so many india students got PR through indian employers in pizza shop, restaurants, dairy shop, gas station with job title as manager . Also the indian boys find a girl from here with PR and apply under partnership and they get PR though their relationship is not genuine because they pay money to the girls.This is happening and will happen .What can immigration do ?

I think it is a good move to strict the rules before Auckland turns into mini India.

No thanks to this racist comment.

The issue of immigration is about over burdening infrastructure, suppression of wages, pressure on rents and house prices NOT ethnicity. If NZ immigrants contribute to NZ positively, speak good English and bring educations, skills, ideas, innovation that should be welcomed regardless of ethnicity. The fact that many don't and that the government has done nothing about it for years is the issue.

I think you are being a bit harsh on PrasadS19 there gingerninja. It sounds as though he knows what he is talking about and it is a legitimate fear I have heard expressed from Indian immigrants I know who have been here awhile. They came here for the NZ way of life after all.

The name is Prasad, one can but assume from it where his origins lie

Hardly a racist comment when one offers an assessment of his or her own countrypeople

It's perfectly possible to hate your own race. But that is besides the point.

What is the issue? Too many Indian people in Auckland or poor immigration policy leading to downward pressure on wages, upward pressure on house prices and over burdened infrastructure? And if the latter, why is race relevant?

I would seriously doubt he hates his own race, but I will lay odds that he doesn't like some aspects of the culture.

Well, no one wants Auckland to become a "mini-India", even Indians so I took the comment to be a lifestyle criticism. It's an interesting observation really as in the old days we fully intended NZ to be a little Britain and did a pretty good job of making it so.

Interesting comment Zac,
The Indian students told me that the cleanest streets in In India are in Pondichery, which was a french enclave.
Our streets arent that clean by the way, we should learn from the Spanish, we thought on our last visit to UK that while Westminster was clean the rest was variable.

Which retail outlet is giving $24 per hour in NZ. Please advise. Still people who wants residency gets job letter of high wages - How ? Median as per national is about $24per hour but how many - as most are between $16 to $20 and few if lucky may be $21.

I understand that people in transport like bus and train is also about $20 to $22 and also tellers in bank (except managers). In farms also do they pay $24 or minimum wage's

Many business are after immigrants as can get for less than minimum wage. Is it that kiwis are not ready to work or is it that they do not want to be exploited and business are finding excuse together with government.

My take on the comments from the students is they have realised they have just been screwed, they have my sympathy.