Economic Development Minister Stuart Nash on Monday outlined the Government's proposed overhaul of the immigration system, which includes shifting away from a low-skilled, low-paid labour force in favour of highly-skilled workers, and clamping down on temporary work visas.
Speaking to business leaders in Auckland on Monday evening, Nash - filling in for Immigration Minister Kris Faafoi - said New Zealand must move away from its reliance on low-skilled labour and re-focus on high-skilled workers and wealthy investors.
"Businesses have been able to rely on lower-skilled labour and suppress wages rather than investing capital in productivity-enhancing plant and machinery, or employing and upskilling New Zealanders into work," Nash said, adding temporary visas should be reserved for genuine skill shortages.
He announced The Skilled Migrant Category will be reviewed, however, details remain scarce.
The speech, described as a "scene setter", has largely been panned by critics, with mounting concerns over what the proposed changes will mean for New Zealand's existing migrant workforce and temporary visa holders stranded overseas.
Migrant Workers Association president Anu Kaloti told The AM Show the speech did not go into sufficient detail, while Infometrics senior economist Brad Olsen told RNZ the announcement provided more questions than answers.
Kaloti is concerned about the potential impact the changes will have on migrant workers, many of whom call New Zealand home.
"People would obviously try to go to other countries. A lot of these people can't go back home, they've got huge debts," she said.
"Then there's the social shame side of things. They can't return."
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