The film industry may be up and running in New Zealand but other industries are crying out for workers trapped overseas by the country's tight border controls. Hollywood film crew and executives have been allowed into the country this week to film the Avatar sequels and another as-yet-unnamed blockbuster.
But the exceptions that allowed their entry don't appear to apply to many other industries, including IT, construction, farming and manufacturing, all desperately short of staff. And that is going to make the country's recovery from Covid-19 all the more tougher, say experts.
Net migration is expected to fall sharply as a result of border closures but was already declining before Covid-19, Infometrics senior economist Brad Olsen said. At the same time, New Zealand is expected to see a rise in unemployment - due to peak at 9.8 per cent in September but expected to drop to 5.7 per cent by 2022. Before Covid-19 there was an inflow of around 50,000 a year, but that was expected to drop to 30,000 by 2025.
"We are still expected to hit 30,000 in 2025, but now we are having to rebuild from nothing," he said.
"Immigration has been a driver of economic activity. That is going to be quite a big change."
New Zealand had brought migrants in to do jobs Kiwis either didn't want or weren't skilled enough to do.
"Migrants 'stealing jobs' doesn't happen," he said.
The challenge would be whether to bring in skilled workers from overseas, or train local people. "We have got a very tight timeframe to train people up to pick this work up," he said.
Simon Park, director of the Immigration Trust, said Immigration New Zealand was challenging visa applications to see whether jobs could be filled by the local labour market, which was adding to delays.
But the ''Kiwi first'' approach made filling high-skilled roles more difficult.
"Low-skilled jobs can be filled by unemployed Kiwis. It's OK to challenge low skilled jobs, but if it can't be filled by Kiwis we might have to look at fast processing applications," he said. High-skilled roles included work in the IT sector, he said.
National Party spokesperson for economic development Judith Collins said she had heard of engineering and construction businesses struggling to find employees from the local labour market.
"A lot of businesses are suffering for not being able to bring in people that they had already contracted for, or people working in New Zealand from before lockdown."
Highly-skilled workers could be brought into the country "sensibly" with quarantining, she added.
Council of Trade Unions director of policy Andrea Black said many migrants worked in sectors that were shrinking as a result of Covid-19, including tourism and hospitality.
But work should be allocated to people already in the country, and out-of-work Kiwis.
"We really call on the government to invest in the labour market policy for people who are out of work," she said. That included increased job security and pay in low-skill work.
*To read the actual article please click here.