Thursday, January 11, 2007

Send us your workers yearning to breathe free

New Zealand doesn’t have a large green statue of a lady standing in any of its harbours, so we don’t have any ignored poem welcoming immigrants. But welcome them we do, according to government figures just released.

In the year ended 30 June 2006, New Zealand issued nearly 100,000 temporary work permits, up 21 percent. Part of this increase is attributed the expansion of working holiday schemes New Zealand has in place with several countries.

The numbers of long-term immigrants (those intending to stay 12 months or more) is also up, as are permanent residencies. However, even tourist visas are expected to be up in the coming year.

Overall, the increased numbers of immigrants, both short- and long-term, is related to the government’s attempts to plug skills shortages. New Zealand has record low unemployment, among the lowest in the world, and has trouble filling many positions with local workers.

This is how I originally came to live in New Zealand: I had a sponsored work permit that allowed me to live and work in New Zealand a year at a time. Eventually, I applied for (and was given) permanent residence as the partner of a Kiwi. Similar programmes still exist, and unlike the US, New Zealand includes same-sex couples in immigration programmes.

New Zealand is, as I’ve said, a great place to live. Apparently, more people have decided to find out for themselves, and I, of course, think that’s great news.

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