Nurses, midwives, Plunket call Government's immigration reset 'absolutely sexist'

Sexist, gender-based discrimination - that's how a number of organisations have described the Government's immigration reset.

They say female-dominated jobs like nursing and midwifery have been treated as second-class while male-dominated roles are fast-tracked. But the Immigration Minister completely disagrees.

New Zealand is so desperate for midwives that Jill Ovens can hardly keep up. There's a large number of vacancies in the sector. 

"The midwives themselves are describing it as freefall," says Ovens, co-leader of midwifery union MERAS. 

Yet neither midwives nor nurses are on the new fast-track pathway to getting residency.

It's not just midwives frustrated.

"It's very disappointing," says Family Planning chief executive Jackie Edmond. 

"Frankly we wonder if it's a mistake," Plunket chief executive Amanda Malu says.

"I don't understand it," says New Zealand Nurses Organisation President Anne Daniels. 

They all say it's not just an oversight, but sexist.

"Women are seen to be treated as second-class citizens and the idea that we're equal in this society doesn't seem to be played out in the evidence that is in front of us," says Daniels. 

There are 56 jobs that qualify for residency straight away, and in that group are 17 different types of engineers and construction specialties.

"The fact is they're historically male-dominant and that's one of the sources of their privilege," says Ovens.

Whereas among the 29 jobs who have to wait for two years are registered nurses, ECE teachers, and midwives

"It does seem slightly sexist I have to say," says Malu.

"It's absolutely sexist," says Ovens. 

It's not just that they're female workforces, but it's who they care for.

"The women. It's the women who suffer," says Ovens. 

"I certainly think there should be some gender analysis of how these decisions were made," says Edmond. 

But Immigration Minister Kris Faafoi disagrees. 

"What we're doing is making sure we are adding 12 other categories of nurses to what was in place previously."

The minister defended his decision, saying he asked the sector and it's what they wanted.

"It would not be good if we attracted nurses here, gave them residence then they went off and did something else because we need them in those positions because of the health position we're in."

But National's immigration spokesperson Erica Stanford says nurses and midwives may look elsewhere. 

"In Australia, they are on the direct pathway immediately to residence. If you were a nurse or midwife, why would you choose to come to New Zealand?" she says. 

The sector is urging the minister to change his mind

"Prioritise nursing like they have many other professions," says Edmond.

To get them here in the first place before worrying about how to keep them.