What’s happening with the Labour Market in NZ?- written by Zinnia Manchanda

It’s changing. Very fast. More than 180,000 people are now accessing Jobseeker Support in NZ. If you are a business supporting work visas or a migrant on a work visa- here are some facts on why you need to read this article and understand it well. The future for some maybe bleak now, but knowledge and preparation will ease things for them.

Disclaimer: This article assumes some level of work visa knowledge on the reader’s part.

Essential skills work visa is the most commonly received work visa application by INZ compared to 5 other key categories.

Essential Skill Work Visa

ANZSCO (Australia and New Zealand Standard Classifications of Occupations – yes, I know it’s a mouthful!) Skill Level 3 and 4 roles are the highest % of Essential Skills Visa submitted – based on data for 12 months ending April 2020. ANZSCO 1-3 roles have different advertising rules to ANZSCO 4,5 roles.


This means an understanding of Labour Market Testing (LMT) for Essential Skills work visa is very important knowledge.

Lately, INZ announced they will ask for updated evidence that New Zealanders are still not available for the role on offer? Why have they asked that? 2 reasons:

  1. It is the objective of Essential Skill Policy – Incentivising development of highly skilled workforce, support NZ businesses maintain capacity, not displace New Zealanders from jobs, manage fiscal risk and ensure integrity of NZ immigration system.
  2. Never before has NZ job market changed so much from the time the application is submitted to when its assessed – like it has now, due to Covid19.

And it’s not just that, INZ is also required to be sure that the role on which the visa is submitted is sustainable, genuine. This in turn implies the financial sustainability of the business. A business should be confident in their ability to trade and back it up with evidence.

What’s INZ looking for? Concrete evidence specific to the job. If New Zealanders are not suitable, INZ wants to know exactly why. They also want to know how many people viewed the job ad and how many applied (so screenshots from your advertising platform). They want transparency and clear justifiable reasons why Kiwis have been rejected. If Covid19 has caused issues in the possible recruitment of New Zealanders, INZ wants an explanation on that too. ANZSCO Skill level 4 and 5 will need a favourable Skill Match Reports for approval – no changes there.

There is one thing INZ cannot do – while assessing the application, they shouldn’t anticipate future changes to the labour market and make the decision based on the job market at the time of assessment.

What’s not an issue? That a business took wage subsidy. A business taking wage subsidy to keep people employed is not a reflection on its sustainability. In INZ’s exact words “The subsidy provides support when many employers are unable to operate due to restrictions required to manage public health risks and not due to any concerns about the sustainability of a particular employer”.

This does not mean you must put out a new advertisement right now. But you can. You can also wait for INZ to contact you. They will give you an opportunity to comment (in form a potentially prejudicial information (PPI) letter). They are likely to give you 4 weeks to do so. What also matters is the sustainability story – how is your business recovering from the financial hit of Covid19? Can you continue supporting the role, and if yes, for how long.

This is where advocacy and representation can make or break the case. At this time, visa holders should also have a Plan B in mind – this applies more to some roles than others – the ones with more generic skills required. In some cases, no matter how much an employer wants the visa applicant, a suitable New Zealander will be available for the role. Or the lockdown could have hit a business so hard, that it cannot recover. In both cases, visa can be declined. A Plan B protects you – even if your plan is to return to your country. You don’t want to be left high and dry in this immigration environment!


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