According to New Zealand's Department of Labour (DoL), migrants coming to New Zealand need significantly less benefits from the government today than in recent years. They are attributing the decline to a strong economy and changes to immigration policy.
A report issued by the DoL shows a very dramatic reduction in immigrants who received benefits. In 2006 only 2.3% of immigrants received benefits, down from 6.7% in 2001. Immigration Minister David Cunliffe believes that recent policy changes are a contributing factor.
"Some migrants, particularly refugees, need financial support while they build their new life in New Zealand. However, it is vital skilled people coming here contribute to our workforce straight away. That's why immigration policy has shifted focus to selecting migrants who are more likely to be employable," Mr. Cunliffe said.
He cited the Skilled Migrant Category (SMC), introduced in 2003, as an example of policy changes that contributed to the downward trend in migrants needing government statistics. SMC is roughly the New Zealand equivalent of the United Kingdom's Highly Skilled Migrant Programme (HSMP).
"Policy changes like this are working. The rate for skilled and business migrants receiving a benefit during their first two years in New Zealand has dropped from 1.3% in 2001 to just 0.4% in 2006."
"This is much lower than the average across the whole population and indicates the skilled people we're selecting are getting jobs and keeping them, contributing successfully to our labor market."
Earlier this year the DoL found that 94% of skilled and business migrants who gained residence in 2004 were working for pay or profit. The new report supports these findings and Cunliffe's belief that migrants "are benefiting from our strong economy and the buoyant labor market."
New Zealand has been pushing to bring in more skilled migrants from overseas for several years, competing strongly with Canada, Australia, the United States and other nations from the European Union. The country recently launched an ad campaign targeted at Australians and expats living abroad who have skills that New Zealand needs.
The government also introduced a policy change last month that increases the amount of time a migrant has to find a job in New Zealand, from six months to nine.
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