NZ Truck & Driver News

Bits of Bollocks: Immigration
Posted: 13-May-2018 |


Here is the reality of the situation across multiple areas of the New Zealand workforce:

a) There is an immense need for more labour.
b) Employers need to be able to retain their workforce.


The new budget will be announced on the 17th of May and one of the most critical issues facing the government is how they are going to tackle the problem of immigration policy vs economic growth.

Despite existing misconceptions about what types of immigration the promised cuts focus on (ending exploitation of students/residency migrants etc) all we can go on are promises until the hard and fast policy is drafted.

Aside from that, there is urgent necessity to analyse the entire situation regarding the current skills shortage in the road transport industry.

Here is a rundown of the bollocks and no doubt some of this will be complete foot-in-mouth by the time the actual immigration policy is announced.

1. Put transport Jobs on the Skill Shortage List

The idea of pulling drivers from a local employment pool is a fantastic idea on paper, it would help solve the driver shortage and lower employment. The problem is that most operators want to do this, they have been trying to do this, but the workforce just aren't there. Truck driving is a skilled job (more on this later), it is a profession, Joe Bloggs cannot just jump in a truck and drive it. In the current situation (and it is important to stress that this is the current situation) with low new driver numbers, businesses have two options: take trucks off the road or hire migrant workers.

Having truck driving on the skills shortage list will make it easier for foreign nationals to come over to New Zealand and work as a driver and work for longer periods of time. This would at least give businesses some reprieve until the time that there is more interest in truck driving in the emerging workforce.

Truck driving does currently appear on the temporary skill shortage list for certain regions but is not currently on the long-term skill shortage list.

2. Truck driving is a skilled job

One cannot simply walk up to a truck, jump in the cab and start carting goods. Just like Liam Neeson's character in the movie Taken, retired CIA agent Bryan Mills, one must have a very specific set of skills to drive a truck.

However, due to the reasons listed in point one, truck driving is not considered in the 'skilled migrant' category because it is not on the long term skill shortage list despite meeting all the other requiremnets (given the applicant is to be paid over $24.29 per hour).

3. Doing something about the shortage internally

The driver shortage problem has come up at conference after conference, meeting after meeting. Everyone says that something must be done then after spending many hours discussing, leave and do nothing about it.

Yes, placing truck driving on the skill shortage list and allowing it into the 'skilled migrant' category will help solve the driver shortage in the immediate future, allowing employers to hire more migrant workers.

However, is this sustainable in the long-term? In one sense, yes it is, we can continue to import labour from outside the country and doing our best to soak up what scraps there are internally.

Is this ideal in an industry that already has existing public image issues? No,, it isn't. Does it assure high-quality, well-trained drivers? No, it doesn't. For the long-term sustainability of the road transport industry, we need to find solutions to the existing problem and recruit inside near future labour pools. This requires time, effort, and money in the short-term to achieve great benefits in the future (more of this in future issues).

Increasing the ability of New Zealand transport businesses to recruit outside of the New Zealand workforce is a very effective band-aid to the current driver shortage problem. However, it might be just that, a band-aid, a temporary solution to a complex and important issue that will require a lot more than policy to fix. The industry cannot look to the government to fix all its problems, ultimately it is going to take an investment of time and money on the part of business owners


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