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Migration needed to care for ageing population

Press Release – The Institute of Policy Studies

New Zealand and Australia need to develop low skill migration programmes if they are to care for their growing elderly populations. Two new reports from Victoria University’s Institute of Policy Studies, Low skill temporary migration in New …

Migration needed to care for ageing population

New Zealand and Australia need to develop low skill migration programmes if they are to care for their growing elderly populations.

Two new reports from Victoria University’s Institute of Policy Studies, Low skill temporary migration in New Zealand: Labour market and human rights law as a framework for managing future migration and Ageing New Zealand: The growing reliance on migrant caregivers, identify challenging policy issues for future low skill migration to New Zealand.

Migrants, many from the Pacific and Asia, already form a significant part of New Zealand’s elderly caregiving workforce In particular, in the last two years there has been a sudden rise in migrant caregivers for the elderly from the Philippines. In 2007/08 this group made up just over half of migrant caregivers for the elderly who were issued with temporary work permits.

Both studies argue that policymakers on both sides of the Tasman need to carefully consider where future workers might come from and what models of migration might be appropriate for the host country, the country sending migrants and the migrants themselves.

“Temporary migration is the main avenue for regulating the movement of low skill workers internationally, sometimes as part of guest worker schemes,” says report author Jessie Williams. “However, there are human rights and labour law issues which can be problematic around such migration. Despite the existence of a comprehensive international legal framework on migrant rights, a gap often exists between rhetoric and enforcement of rights.”

“Temporary migrant workers are particularly vulnerable to abuse and exploitation and often their isolation in rural areas or private homes leaves them detached from the normal checks and balances covering the permanent workforce.”

The studies found that New Zealand’s experience with the Recognised Seasonal Employer guest worker scheme has been mainly positive. But this may not be a good model for caring for the elderly or domestic work where the building of longer-term relationships and understanding of cultural norms is desirable.

“Picking apples for a couple of months is quite different to the long-term care needed for vulnerable elderly people in their own homes,” says Ms Williams.

While temporary migration is one option, programmes that provide pathways to permanent migration also need to be considered. The reports suggest that Australia and New Zealand look to the Pacific, including Melanesia, as one possible major source of such labour, given the projected demand for paid caregivers is to treble in both countries. “However, given the difference in incomes between Australia and New Zealand, it is likely that Australia may also see New Zealand as a possible country to recruit caregivers for the elderly.”

The reports also argue that caregiver jobs need to be made more attractive by developing training programmes and establishing improved career structures in the aged-care sector.

This research forms part of a wider project on the policy options for low skill migration carried out by the Institute of Policy Studies.

About the Institute of Policy Studies

Established in 1983 as part of Victoria University, the Institute of Policy Studies (IPS) fosters discussion, research and publication of current issues of domestic and foreign policy. It particularly links academic research and public policy by providing opportunities for independent and detached study, and for neutral and informed discussion of important and relevant issues. IPS’ goal is to engage the broadest possible range of informed opinion, particularly in drawing people together from the universities, the public service, the business community and the wider public community.

ENDS

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