The appetite for change to immigration levels is strong among the country’s smaller businesses, even if the economy “clearly benefits” from extra workers.
A survey of more than 1000 owners of small to medium sized enterprises (SMEs) has found 43 per cent believed immigration policies should be tightened.
Accounting firm MYOB’s Business Monitor survey found a third of SMEs thought the policies were just right, while 11 per cent thought they were too stringent.
MYOB general manager Carolyn Luey said concerns about the impact of immigration on public services and housing were likely behind the high level of concern.
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This despite additional workers “clearly” benefitting the economy, she said.
“It’s a very tricky issue for New Zealand.
“Businesses need skilled migrants to bring in the expertise and experience needed to help them grow and to fill shortages, yet a clear plurality of business owners would like to see policy tightened up.”
The attitude of SMEs comes on the back of Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse last week announcing a number of changes to New Zealand’s immigration system, aimed at tackling both the number and quality of immigrants coming here for work.
Changes were announced to the rules for people applying for a skilled migrant visa, which was a points-based system for people who want to work and live here indefinitely.
One of the main changes was the introduction of two “remuneration thresholds”, which Woodhouse said was due to the Government wanting to tackle the number and quality of migrants arriving here.
Labour leader Andrew Little followed the announcement with a claim he would slash immigration by tens of thousands.
Record migration levels have been praised as a strong sign of economic growth, but have come with fears of added pressure on public services and infrastructure.
MYOB’s survey also found fewer businesses were confident in the prospects for the wider economy, dropping 5 percentage points to 41 per cent of those surveyed.
A fifth of SMEs went one further and said they expected general economic conditions would get worse.
Just 36 per cent had seen revenue increase since September last year, down from 39 per cent.
Luey said the numbers were still positive but showed a slight shift in sentiment across the economy, in line with other research.
“What our latest data highlights is the real positivity in some key sectors.
“Given the housing crisis being felt in many parts of the country, it’s no surprise that the construction and trades sector continues to be our best performer.”
More than half of construction and trade SMEs expected to grow over the next year, while the manufacturing sector was growing after being “written off for dead”.
More than 40 per cent of construction, trade and manufacturing SMEs had seen revenue lift in the past year, and many expected to continue to grow.
“What’s particularly encouraging about the performance of these sectors is that not only is it looking sustained, but the gains those businesses are making are being passed on to Kiwi workers in terms of both wage growth and job opportunities.
“The other positive feature of our latest research is that growth is remaining widespread across New Zealand.”