Speech to the NZFEC Employment Conference

  • George Hawkins
Ethnic Affairs

Good morning ladies and gentlemen.

Today we are here to explore the issue of employment opportunities for skilled migrants job seekers in the Waikato region. I am here this morning, in my capacity as the Minister for Ethnic Affairs, to discuss this important matter.

Migrants who come to New Zealand face a variety of issues that may impact on their ability to come to this country, settle down, and earn a living.

The problems associated with finding employment frustrate migrant job seekers.

I have met many migrant job seekers that have previously visited my electorate office to tell a familiar story.

They have done their training, they have got their qualifications, they have attended interviews, they have submitted a strong resume backed up by good references.

So often what is the outcome? "Thank you for your application. We regret to inform you that you were unsuccessful".

That is the tragedy that faces many migrant job seekers. Worse still it is a tragedy that is often repeated over and over again.

What has gone wrong that the qualified and highly-skilled job seeker misses out on the position? Why are the barriers put up?

The answer, I think, is that there is a great deal of ignorance and mis-information that influences our labour market.

Perhaps it because a migrant job seeker has a name that may sound unusual to the employer, does not have a degree, diploma or certificate from a place that we are use to getting a qualification from, or maybe he or she is not well known in that particular community.

Maybe these are some of the reasons why migrant job seekers often have such a difficult time obtaining employment in a job that reflects his or her professional qualifications and/or experience.

Perhaps it is because so many good new migrants come to New Zealand and then get told "we're not sure about the validity of your qualifications. I don't think we can accept you sorry".

All of a sudden skilled migrant job seekers are faced with the prospect of paying for and passing expensive tests and examinations to get new qualifications.
I often think back to the plight of an Assyrian gentleman who came to New Zealand during the early 1990s. He had many years of experience practicing medicine. In fact he was a specialist obstetrician in a hospital overseas.

He came to New Zealand and could not get a job practicing medicine. He told me of his personal circumstances. He had a family that he was trying to support.

That Assyrian medical doctor, with years of experience as an obstetrician, was instead working in a fast food restaurant in Manurewa. He was working alright. But he was employed in a job far below his qualifications and experience.

He like so many migrant job seekers, had a strong work ethic and I have no doubt that he could have made a significant contribution in a hospital or health centre somewhere in New Zealand. But he was confronted with the tragic reality of barriers to job opportunities in this country.

The plight of migrant job seekers in New Zealand is not lost on the Labour and Alliance coalition Government. On the contrary I am very proud of the advances that we are making to encourage economic growth and job creation.

Economic growth is the key ingredient to job creation in New Zealand. It is therefore heartening to see the economy growing steadily. That is a very positive trend.

Another very good trend is the continued reduction in overall unemployment.

Employment rose 2.1% during the 2000 calendar year. That means that 1,818,400 people were enjoying employment in this country.

The (seasonally adjusted) unemployment rate during the December 2000 quarter fell yet again to 5.6 per cent, which compares with 6.3 per cent for the same time in 1999.

What is particularly pleasing about employment growth during the December 2000 quarter was an increase of 14,000 full-time jobs. I am very encouraged by that positive employment growth.

What is also particularly pleasing is the downward trend in unemployment rates across all Ethnic groups since the December 1999 quarter.

The Labour and Alliance coalition Government was formed in December 1999. Since that time we have been firmly committed to advancing policies that encourage economic growth and job creation.

The result is a decline in unemployment rates across all Ethnic groups.
That is good news and I'm pleased that the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate among (other) Ethnic New Zealanders has decreased by 1.6 per cent from December 1999 to December 2000.

But make no mistake about it. This Labour and Alliance coalition Government will not let up. We will continue to work to address the problem of unemployment. We are investing in regional development and encouraging job creation.

This government is also directing resources to improve support services for new migrants.

I was delighted to recently announce, along with my Labour colleague Lianne Dalziel, the allocation of more than $674,000 over 18 months for piloting support services to help new resident migrants settle in New Zealand.

Ethnic communities will benefit from more resources designed to improve existing services such as access to information, employment and business support, and community learning.

I was rapt with the new funding to support the contributions of new migrants. It is good to see the support being made available to help us to drive down unemployment even further in the future.

I would also like to make special mention of the Budget package announced last year that is designed to retrain hundred of migrant medical doctors.

My colleague Health Minister Annette King announced a plan to spend $11.8 million to help retrain doctors so that they can register and commence practice in this country.

That sort of initiative illustrates the commitment that this Government is making to helping migrant job-seekers. We are working to design and implement well thought out strategies that will assist migrant New Zealanders to train and find employment in this country.

I am proud to support the strategies that we have been developing.

New Zealand is enjoying economic growth, increasing employment and falling unemployment. That is good news for New Zealand families.

More jobs are being created and that is positive. The task ahead is to build on the economic growth and job creation. We are focussed on creating the conditions for our talented people and enterprises to prosper.

That's good news for all New Zealanders, including Ethnic New Zealanders.

We live in a time of hope and transformation.

This Labour and Alliance coalition Government is supporting growth and reducing opportunities.

We are now building on the good work that we have previously initiated so that we all New Zealanders, including Ethnic New Zealanders, have an opportunity to find employment, and improve their standard of living.

I thank you all for your consideration this morning. This is an important forum. I appreciate the opportunity to address you today.

Ladies and gentlemen, thank you very much.