Government to research temporary migrant worker exploitation; Stays quiet on election promise to 'take a breather on immigration'

Government to research temporary migrant worker exploitation; Stays quiet on election promise to 'take a breather on immigration'
Iain Lees-Galloway by Jacky Carpenter.

The Government is sticking to its word and making moves to prevent migrant workers from being exploited.

However it isn’t any closer to reducing annual net migration by 20,000 to 30,000 people a year, as it estimated it would before the 2017 election. 

The Immigration and Workplace Relations and Safety Minister Iain Lees-Galloway has directed the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment to set up a working group to research temporary migrant worker exploitation.

“Migrant exploitation takes many forms, including workers not getting paid properly, working excessive hours or in unsafe conditions,” he says.

“Crucially, far too many migrant workers do not feel empowered to speak up or seek help when they are being subjected to unfair conditions.”

The review will be done with Auckland UniServices and will see migrants, businesses, workers, academics and international students consulted with.

Lees-Galloway says the research will take some time to complete, so he’ll only make decisions on it in 2019.

To date, the only tweak he has made to immigration settings are around post-study work rights.

As of November 26, it will be harder for international students who have graduated with lower level qualifications to stay on in New Zealand.

They will however no longer need to be sponsored by an employer to stay under a post-study work visa – the idea being for this to reduce the likelihood of employers exploiting them.

When Lees-Galloway made this announcement in June, he said around 12,000 to 16,000 international students would be affected.

When he said “affected” he meant the changes would deter some international students from coming to New Zealand and see some leave sooner than they may otherwise have. However they might also encourage some students to do degree level courses.

So all-in-all, the change wouldn’t necessarily see annual net migration fall by 12,000 to 16,000 people.

Lees-Galloway’s office has told there is other work underway in the temporary work visa space, so we can expect to see an announcement on this before the end of the year.

Annual net migration has come off its July 2017 peak of 72,402. It’s now at 62,733.

The fall is the result of a modest drop in the number of people arriving in New Zealand on a long-term basis; the biggest decline in new arrivals being from China.

The number of people leaving the country is also up, with China also recording the biggest change in departures.

Furthermore, New Zealand citizens continue to leave the country in greater numbers than those who return after an extended stay overseas.

Net long term migration

Select chart tabs »

The ' Net long term migration - annual 12-16' chart will be drawn here.
The 'Net long term migration monthly gain or loss 12-16' chart will be drawn here.

We welcome your comments below. If you are not already registered, please register to comment.

Remember we welcome robust, respectful and insightful debate. We don't welcome abusive or defamatory comments and will de-register those repeatedly making such comments. Our current comment policy is here.



Election promises are just that: lips moving, lies emitting, votes being harvested (or, in the case of Free Tertiary, Purchased).

Lees-Galloway is walking wounded, and Yet Another Working Nomenklatura is a YAWN.....but one intended to kick for touch while the Optics are Finessed....


To be fair Mr Lees-Galloway admits there is a problem. Nobody other than 'The Human Trafficking Research Coalition', some foreign media (Phillipines and India) and almost every low paid immigrant from a 3rd world country admit there is a problem. Too many interested parties looking for docile minimum wage workers rather than training new Zealanders.
I like your phrase 'lips moving' - I will borrow it. The entire issue is a national disgrace.

Yeah. The latest labour shortage? Cafe managers.

For goodness sake...All this clamouring to be exempt from the labour market supply/demand dynamic.

I don't rate him, I think he's a lightweight. And it took his office a ridiculous 4-5 months to respond to my correspondence.


""The Immigration and Workplace Relations and Safety Minister Iain Lees-Galloway has directed the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment to set up a working group to research temporary migrant worker exploitation.""
Could somebody tell him it was done by Prof Christina Stringer two years ago in an Auckland University publication entitled 'Worker Exploitation in New Zealand: A
Troubling Landscape'. When the Herald reported it two years ago she expressed surprise at how common the exploitation was. Herald had as a memorable headline the remark made to a 30 year old female Indian "No sex, no visa".

For heavens sake do something.

Why ILG doesn't need a study group. From Prof Stringer's report (2016):-

"" There are questionable practices by some PTEs in terms of education standards. At one PTE, students could pay money and be marked as attending class or for handing in assignments. A number of international students work in excess of the number of hours permitted under the conditions of their visa. Some will work 40 to 60 hours a week and are paid less than the minimum wage. Prior to coming to New Zealand, prospective students from India and the Philippines were informed that the student visa is a pathway to residency. ""

Another quote:

"" An investigation into sexual exploitation and forced prostitution of migrant workers revealed an incident involving a temporary migrant worker lured to New Zealand with a cash payment and paid airfares. However, on arrival in New Zealand, the migrant was forced to repay the costs associated with her relocation to New Zealand by working at a brothel. Until these costs were repaid, she did not receive any remuneration. She had her passport confiscated by the brothel owner to prevent her from leaving without paying back the ‘debt’ she owed. ""

So now they need a working-group to report next year! Why do they go into politics if it isn't to fix grievous abuses immediately?

The real point is that we really do not need the people that are being exploited. and they are desperately accepting this exploitation in the hope that their "needed" employment will qualify them as immigrants.
As for fixing the exploitation, easy, as most of the exploiters are recent immigrants themselves, deport them after a guilty verdict.
This whole immigration mess is so stupid and unnecessary and is just basically part of the National ponzie scheme to boost housing prices and artificially boost the economy.


Reduce immigration and they might be able to scrap Kiwibuild.

Well the article says ""Stays quiet on election promises to slash annual net migration"". Note the word 'net'. Maybe Labour was promising to increase the number of exploited foreigners in NZ and use their low-wages to force middle-class Kiwis to Australia. If so their problem is not enough emigration.

As of this week there will be no departure cards so the stats will be less reliable and because they are no longer detecting who are tourists and who are work visa the accurate stats will be delayed by over a year which is INZ definition of when 'visitor' becomes 'resident'.

No departure cards.. but still need passports matched with tickets out, and passports still scanned on the way back in. So short term holidays will cancel themselves out in a few months. Immigrants inbound still have arrival cards.

Thanks for the info about arrival cards; good to hear. But a Kiwi going to live in Oz will register as an emigre after 12 months? And if like friends of mine they return to NZ to visit family regularly how will NZ stats distinguish between long holidays and emigration?

It seems like a deliberate plan to not ruffle the feathers of the 'all immigrants are always good' brigade - mainly academics and journalists and of course the businesses that fund political parties and demand 3rd world workers: fruit picking, dairy, care-givers, bus drivers, restaurant staff, petrol stations, adult entertainment, etc.

With Kiwis going to Aussie (and vice versa), we have a pretty good relationship with their govt.. pick up the phone. "Hey Johno, how many kiwis arrived in Oz in December marking long term intentions on their arrival cards.. we had 563 Aussies coming in intending to stay."

Of course between NZ and Oz its only as good as the arrival card, and what was intended to be a short holiday can become permanent quite easily.


Kiwibuild is for migrants funded by NZ taxpayers.
There was an article in the herald a couple of days ago about pensioners not being able to afford houses. Everyone has been affected by the housing crisis and its a disgrace that consecutive governments over the last 20 years have abandoned born and bred NZers who are now reduced to a population with the highest homeless rates in the OECD.
If you can't put a roof over your own people then you shouldn't be bringing more people into NZ. They should be telling people that they have to go home.


18 Kiwibuild homes for 62,733 new residents? Let me see now, that's 3485 people per house. My sums must be wrong, but overcrowding somewhere seems an arithmetic certainty, on top of the extra people that National brought in, and the people that Auntie Helen brought in. No one seems to mention this.

Politicians, people who think they are very clever because they can organise low wages, overcrowding and expensive houses.

ILG cunningly shifted his migration agenda from reducing strain on resources and infrastructure to exploitation of foreign workers. It feels like his goal is to secure a job with the UN post-retirement.
Changing visa requirements from employer sponsored to open won’t change much since these vulnerable migrants don’t have the skills to quickly secure a new job when facing exploitation at current employment. Most Asian migrants take on large loans to fund their education in NZ and can’t survive a for long without work.

Hi Roger

A fair comment but I don't think our current government quite understood what a 'credit created' debt bubble was before they got elected.... the previous mob didn't either and the current opposition have no chance...

we have a choice... a big bust,,,, and lower prices on everything, houses being the big one, the only alternative is that we import another 1-2 million people to increase GDP.... which won't be productive but will be a measure that the money markets won't slaughter us with...

Auckland is already an armpit. sweaty with little space to breathe and getting grubbier by the minute... so choices are we have much lower house prices and suffer a short term recession (which may mean a drop in living standards for a while so that our own kids can have a future or we turn the city of sails into Mumbai?Zhangshou...

That's the reality of our policy decisions now,,, we will possibly have banks go bust if we chose the former,,,, a future for our kids and grandkids though may be worth the sacrifice!.

The UK is an example of where the credit in 2008/09 ruined the future of the UK, not because of the debt but because 3-4 million people arrived to boost GDP...............

The Gummster crew have just returned from a European vacation ... and staggered we were , to pick up real estate mags in Paris and in Brussels , and to realise that converting from Euros back to $NZ , many of the apartments and stand alone houses we saw were no more expensive than most around Wellington , Tauranga , Queenstown , or Orc Land ...

... which would you prefer , a " Kiwibuild " house in the back blocks of the south pacific , or a regular property bought on the market , just minutes walk from the Champs El'ysee ... slap bang in the middle of all the action , central Europe ...

... just sitting back now , awaiting the Kiwi Bubble to burst ... a matter of when , not if ...

Welcome back, GBH. Godzone must feel like Paradise after kicking around in the zones urbaines sensibles...

Most would prefer to live in the South Pacific I imagine. Every now and again we get mad comments like this. Why not buy a place in Estonia? Even cheaper.

Or San Francisco. Higher pay and more opportunities, cheaper food, similarly-priced (and in some cases even better valuable available) housing close in.

"Most would prefer to live in the South Pacific I imagine"

Not according to the statistics - 117 permanent residency applications from France last year.

My family has a French component and judging by my visits there is an element in France that feels its multi-culturalism has not worked with its reputed no go areas in Paris and other cities. Probably many of the 117 are wanting to get away from France rather than falling in love with NZ.


I think politicians should try living in a station wagon like a lot of other homeless kiwis. This is a problem that they they created. NZ has no land borders, they do not have people caravan hordes from the third world flooding across the boarders, NZs problems are policy problems.
To fix the problem they need to start telling people that they must go home and are no longer welcome.

Or you can be an immigrant if you build a new house and move into it.

hmmm 67K of new houses built each year solely for migrants?
That must be kiwibuild funded by NZ taxpayers

My proposal implies a probable reduction in immigration but with more money transferred to NZ instead of foreign agencies and foreign owned PTEs. However even now many immigrants arrive as families so maybe only 25K new houses or apartments.


Fire Galloway get someone with a back bone who can do what was promised/voted in on reduce immigration.

And where prey tell are you going to find him/her.


Labour do seem to care about identity politics and virtue signalling much more than their promises to cut mass immigration.

NZFirst are very also very quiet. Is it even worth voting or is our country lost?

ILG is gently stealing NZF's thunder. Permanent resident visas are down a modest amount. If he isn't sacked over the Czech criminal affair then he could win the next election for Labour and certainly steal many NZF votes. He is walking a tightrope between a rational immigration policy and activists noticing and shouting 'racist'. As Fritz points out he is handicapped by the most incompetant government department that has trouble answering simple letters or issuing Visitor Visas in a timely manner.

Deport the "activists" and kill two birds with one stone.

Reduce immigration now. No more than a few from those two third world countries that are overrunning us and destroying our standard of living.

We need immigration..just the people that will work and will enhance our country. We need teachers and construction workers ASAP.

If our economy was booming maybe but it is standing still as country after country overtakes us. Choose any country that is succeeding and check on their immigration - for example Taiwan - they seem to find teachers and construction workers without immigration.
Immigrants have bigger families on average than native born Kiwis so there is a growing demand for more schools and more teachers. Your argument might just work as a short term fix but NZ has tried high immigration for about 70 years; from when we were no1 country economically to now when we are no 36 and sinking.

You are right. Countries like Taiwan and South Korea solve talent shortages because they identify and solve the socioeconomic issues instead of resolving to quick-fixes like immigration.
Voting for political candidates based on their background and merits instead of a killer smile and an affable personality has its perks in the long run.


BTW - despite my comments I do believe in immigration; I can't hate foreigners since I am an immigrant with 'visible' immigrant family. A healthy immigration policy that brings the best people from all over the world to NZ would do little harm and might do some good. Healthy for NZ means it must not impact on training nor wages and especially low wages. Numbers greatly reduced from our world leading legal immigrants per capita. Does anyone know why other countries are not copying our level of immigration?

Unless we offer policy incentives to high value industries to set up shop in NZ, we will neither attract top talent from overseas nor retain our homegrown talent from emigrating. I’ve come across electrical engineers who teach their children not to go down the STEM route and take up commerce papers instead as it is more rewarding to push paper around than to be hands-on with work in NZ. Oh, how hard automation will hit us!

Lupun you make the mistake of confusing those who are now rightfully here with those that want to come. if you are rightfully here, in my mind you are no longer an immigrant. The fight against our excessive immigration should not be seen as an assault on yourself and others who have immigrated.

It is a fight against the continued excessive rates i.e those that want to come.

Totally agree. I'm an immigrant and proud Kiwi with Kiwi born grand-children. The last thing I want is any retrospective attack on immigrants. But I am not the only immigrant who wants the system reformed. All immigrants have had to deal with the mess that is INZ with its random policies. Immigrants choose to be here so are usually prouder to be Kiwi than native born Kiwis who seem sadly lacking in patriotic pride.

Importing 3rd world work practices is evil; if the exploitation was happening to Kiwis then our govt would be acting. They only ignore the exploitation reported by Prof Stringer because 'they are foreigners' - so it really is govt approved racism!

You can't discriminate against different types of immigrants. It breaks some sort of human rights law.

The poor folk line up with their families and you're like standing there pointing your finger at them saying, "You and you can work, you better work hard too, but you,you bugger off back back to your crap hole country and take your old folk and mentally ill children with you, see if I care".

I'd be like there pointing only at the beautiful nubile girls and suggesting we only let those ones in. I'm thinking this may solve our "incel" problem.

Someone else will have the bright idea that we should bring in just the ones with IQs over 140 so that our own kids will have to compete against their kids at school and get smarter somehow...

Others will want just low level manual labourers to do the work that we don't want to do like toilet cleaning.

It's all a bit dodgy tbh.

"You can't discriminate against different types of immigrants. It breaks some sort of human rights law."

Except we do, as does nearly everybody. Points scoring, age, there are all kinds of metrics which are nominally used to determine eligibility. Alas the bar is set comically low, and the loopholes are myriad. So I din't think the issue is that we can't filter for 'desirable' immigration, but that we don't.

Only because of all the immigration, ergo we did not need it at all

a bit ironic. We need to bring in immigrant construction workers - to build houses for the immigrants. And we need to bring in immigrant teachers- to teach the immigrant's children
It's all so stupid it's unbelievable.
"look at our GDP" "Aren't we clever!" say the politicians.
And what is the total bill for extending and upgrading our overwhelmed infrastructure? Billions and billions of dollars

Plus they drive down wages

Immigration is not the solution to the problems its the cause of the problems, we need to be telling immigrants to go home so things can be fixed up.

Perhaps there will be another political party that enters the fray in the future that will actually represent us, THE PEOPLE. Once the majority realise that most of our current politicians are simply charlatans and career politicians that are passing through on their way to extravagant pension schemes, holidays and UN gravy train jobs, we might hopefully get some honest people with integrity running for parliament. With a bit of luck, they won't be lawyers and others who have never worked in a real job before...

There was another political party, it was/is called TOP - NZ decided not to vote for it.

TOP didn't represent the people, it represented Gareth Morgan.

As a non-lawyer who met many when supporting their computer systems do not write off lawyers as never having worked. Law can be a tough job and a naive lawyer will never survive. They are the ideal people to be in parliament - good lawyers draft documents that are wriggle-proof - just what is needed for laws.
However (a) my Mum said never get mixed up with the law and she was right and (b) among the lawyer MPs we do need a good mix of people who have done a real job. Parliament would be better with Bill English in it - he may have been 90 politician and 10% farmer but it was a solid 10%.

Well, one would think the easiest way to end migrant worker exploitation would be to end migration altogether. Employers would have to pay the New Zealand market price for labour and not the international market price.

Or copy other countries with a large work permit fee. When I worked in 3rd world my work permit was the equivalent of paying for two teachers. You can be certain my employers did everything they could to train natives to replace me. Work permit fee has to be much larger than a training cost;. Benefits are: fewer immigrants and the costs they impose, money for the govt, strong incentive to train locals.


Immigrants are important as many of us are also immigrant but anything in extreme is bad.

Our infrastructure does not support so first invest and develop infrastructure before.........

Also the ecenomy boom by national was based on speculators / foreign buyers, money laundering and education scam and immigrants. Will it sustain on long run.

Unfortunately like virtually every aspect of how this country operates, immigration is poorly managed and in the longrun, unsustainable. Done well it could really be a game changer for NZ but all we are doing is giving our sunset industries a short term shot in the arm via access to low wage low productivity workers when we should really be gently euthanasing them and erecting high value industry in their place. We really still haven't come much further than Mike Moore and his lamb burgers have we?

So what are the sunset industries T4E and what are the high value industries taking their place?

No more third world waves coming in disguised as students. NZ is a western nation.

NZ is a Pacific Island nation.

I am an immigrant myself. Being an immigrant, I know quite a few other immigrants from my home country. They include civil engineers (especially earthquake experts), chemical engineers, software developers and other IT professionals, medical professionals, geologists, university lecturers, special effect designers to name a few. These people change jobs very frequently (except for those who are working for Weta for obvious reasons) as employers in NZ compete fiercely for competent employees. They are all young, NZ has not spent a cent on their education or health, they are all paid good salaries and pay about 30-40% of all their earning in taxes. They are all young and healthy, so not a drag on NZ health system. They all have brought some savings from their original home country, do not have student loans etc.

The issue is NZ cannot get enough really skillful immigrants (the obvious reason why the main immigration route to NZ is called skilled immigration) AND it lets in a scary number of low-skilled, unqualified people. Work visas granted to chefs and retail managers is mind boggling. NZ will be fine with fewer number of Burger Kings and Subways. That what needs fixing. Because anyone knows that NZ needs real skilled immigrants as a) it fails to train enough at home (something that is easy to say to fix, but extremely difficult to do) b) it loses its most promising skilled people to USA, UK, Canada and Australia (something that NZ can do very little about).

This is the frustration..70k or so immigrants, yet we still have skill shortages, but no shortages of sock sellers, liquour store mangers and taxi drivers.

Rest assured that despite being unable to live in a functioning country you will be well catered for in those 3 essential catagories!

I spent a few weeks at a friend's in Graz, Austria. The city was dotted with numerous small but high-functioning businesses mainly catering to the wider region's automotive industry. The enterprises and their employees acknowledge the threat of redundancy, which drives them to keep looking out for better way to do things constantly.
I feel the culture of researching new ideas and adopting tech developments usually embodied by small, developed countries is rather missing in NZ and the "she'll be right" attitude is a drag on our socioeconomic growth. As a result, NZ unfortunately is just seen as a training ground by locals and migrants who wish to move to greener pastures for a better career.

I spent a few days in Switzerland (that place with limited natural resources but average wages roughly double NZ). I was at the border and many Germans and French came in to work in Switzerland but all the people who served food, all the staff on the railway, all the bus drivers and tourist guides etc were Swiss. They keep the bottom jobs for their own nationals and then pay them well. They don't mind foreign competition for top jobs.
Compare with NZ and just think for a few moments about what you would do if your salary doubled!

I know. That's because strict policy settings have made it really hard for immigrants to take up bottom jobs unlike here in NZ where major "employers" like Burger King can sponsor work visas and even residence permits under "skilled migrant category".
A significant number of new bus drivers in Wellington are Indian migrants who secured residency through hospitality jobs. This has led to an oversupply of heavy vehicle drivers in NZ, which has in turn allowed bus operators to negotiate lower pay for drivers.


The corruption that has arisen from the immigration scams is a cancer on our country. It could kill it. You don't deal with cancer by forming a committee. You act and act fast and decisively.

KH: More than thumbs up. You have summed up all my comments on this subject. Wish you had written it earlier.

The longer this corruption continues and is condoned it becomes a "new" accepted kiwi way of life

BIG Talk by Labour before the election and after the election Commitee and NO action.....Do not worry election not far away but than whom do you vote........Any alternate idea or party.

How many honest businesses have gone under while corrupt ones thrive? How many more while the ministers work group drinks tea?

Time we put total immigration into net negative. Keep the low skilled menials out. Wages at the bottom end would have to blossom to get the staff. No need then for minimum wage, naturally it would be much higher. Folk would have money in their pockets to spend, business would thrive, Winz would near go out of business. House prices will drop.
I could never see the point in increasing "the economy", when the method was keeping New Zealanders poor.

I could never see the point in increasing "the economy", when the method was keeping New Zealanders poor.

Basically a nice easy way to enrich many of those born at the right time.

How about actually doing some Governing , instead of setting up Working Groups with all the bias in their findings, to run the country ?