English: Working foreign students 'good for the economy'

  • 22/09/2015
Finance Minister Bill English (Simon Wong/3 News)
Finance Minister Bill English (Simon Wong/3 News)

Allowing foreign students to work in New Zealand is good for the economy, Finance Minister Bill English says.

A surge in student numbers was a main reason why another migration record was set in the year to August, when there was a net gain of 60,3000 migrants.

NZ First's Ron Mark says because they're allowed to work they take up low-paid jobs to the detriment of young Kiwis.

He also believes allowing them to work is a Government tactic to keep wages down.

Mr English says the change in the rules that allowed students to work has been "very positive" for the international education industry.

"Students come here, they get work, and they're paying quite big fees for their education which is good for the economy," he told reporters today.

Prime Minister John Key says he sees record immigration as a vote of confidence in New Zealand, and those coming in bring skills and capital.

He says the job participation rate is going up, and whether immigrants keep wages down is debatable.

"I haven't seen enough research to argue that one way or another."

Mr Key says the Immigration Department and Work and Income decide what skills are required.

"That's the best way of doing it... it's important to manage it, and we do," he said.

"There's plenty of times when we've said certain skills were no longer required."

Labour leader Andrew Little says he doesn't think there's an issue with immigrant numbers.

"Looking at the figures, and knowing there are a lot of Kiwis returning and foreign students coming in, I don't see it as problematic," he said.

"A lot of education institutions depend on foreign students to keep themselves viable."

Mr Little says there's plenty of research that shows good immigration policies are good for the economy.

"But we should be alert to the possibility that we may end up pushing locals out of work and therefore driving down their wages."