NZ Aged Care Association: migrant workers are key to future viability

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The Association’s Chief Executive Simon Wallace has hit out at the NZ Govt’s immigration policies in an impassioned op-ed for the NZ Herald.

Around one-third of NZ’s aged care workforce currently holds a work or residency visa and Mr Wallace says this number isn’t likely to decrease given future demand forecasts, with not enough local workers available to meet demand.

The NZ Govt has recently introduced immigration changes that include remuneration limits and a three-year contract period for holders of an essential skills visa – measures Mr Wallace predicts will make it difficult for aged care providers to recruit and retain migrant staff and have certainty of supply.

“Trained and committed caregivers will be having to leave New Zealand after three years as well as going through an annual renewal process,” he said.

Getting aged care workers is tough. He cites the example of one Association member received 138 expressions of interest, but resulted in just one suitable New Zealander being employed.

He also refers to the 180-bed Not For Profit St Andrew’s facility in Auckland. About 40 of its 90 caregivers are on essentials skills visas and of the remaining 50, only 10 per cent were born in New Zealand.

Mr Wallace says NZ’s aged care sector is heading into “a perfect storm of unprecedented demand, workforce shortages and a funding system that is outdated and inadequate.”

As we reported here, NZ recently passed legislation that secured a substantial pay rise for the country’s 55,000 aged care workers – an issue on which the NZACA fought “long and hard for”, Mr Wallace says.

“We advised the Government of what would happen if the settlement was not fully funded. And it’s happening, with more than 100 members of the New Zealand Aged Care Association facing possible closure or restructuring and redundancies.”

He says those have suffered the most impact are the rural, faith and welfare-based Not For Profits that provide care options where others might not exist.

Now these new policies will make it even harder for them to find and keep workers.

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