Immigration reset entrenches discrimination towards low-waged migrants

Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand

Proposed immigration changes by the Government fail to guarantee pathways to residency to workers in the types of jobs deemed essential throughout the pandemic, by prioritising high income earners – instead of focusing on the wellbeing of workers and enabling migrants to put down roots.

“The Government is effectively entrenching a two-tier immigration system: one that rewards high-income migrants while keeping low-waged workers on a precarious and temporary status,” says Ricardo Menéndez March, Green Party spokesperson for immigration.

“The Greens are calling for an immigration rebalance that is centred on workers’ rights and the wellbeing of our communities. This announcement fails to provide certainty for the types of job many low-income and essential workers who we congratulated throughout the pandemic.

“This needs to include genuine pathways to residency for migrant workers, decoupling work visas to end exploitation, an amnesty for overstayers, and an end to the ableist policies that discriminate against disabled migrants.

“Migrants aren’t just economic units to support employers make a profit. It’s grossly unfair to continue to rely on the fruits of migrant workers’ labour, and at the same time deny them the opportunity to put down roots in their community.

“The Government conceded that hospitality, aged-care, and tourism aren’t high-wage industries, but denying pathways to residency for migrants working in those fields does nothing to address low-wages. The way to improve the conditions for all workers should be via Fair Pay Agreements, increases to the minimum wage, and open work rights.

“This will particularly impact migrants from India and the Philippines who make up a large proportion of migrants earning less than double the median wage, which is the requirement for the Work to Residency Pathway for roles not on the ‘Green List’.

“Restricting working rights for partners of temporary migrant workers risks creating hardship, dividing families, and creating perverse power dynamics where the partner of the primary applicant won’t have financial independence. This opens the door to exploitation and illegal under-the-table work for people to be able to make ends meet. Adequate family reunification for partners and parents is missing in this package, ignoring that this is an important factor in the wellbeing of migrant workers.

“We welcome the move to require employers to become accredited in order to hire migrants on open work visas. This needs to be coupled with a move to completely decouple all work visas from single employers to reduce instances of exploitation. This has been echoed by the Productivity Commission and by migrant communities in the Education and Workforce Select Committee inquiry into migrant exploitation.”

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