NZ dilemma. Labour led coalition promised to tighten work rules for into students but they know that “As soon as you strip the work rights then nobody is going to come.”

A recent article details the current dilemma pertaining to International students in NZ quite well. Not just for NZ but this is true around the world that “As soon as you strip the work rights then nobody is going to come.”

I am quoting the relevant sections below from the article that is on this link.

One important disclaimer: Most of the reference to abuse and also the type of students in the article seems to be the students with lower academic intent and those who have only used the student visa to reach NZ. Such students often chose private colleges offering lower level diploma programs. It is not the experience of students who choose University degrees or ITP diplomas or certain specialised private qualifications.

The connection with international students

However, fixing the problem of migrant abuse will be difficult for both the international education industry, which has estimated it creates economic value of $4.5 billion, and many small businesses, which are effectively subsidised by either underpaying their workers, or by receiving money from their workers.

Auckland migration lawyer Alastair McClymont said the Government needed to look at the close connections between the international education industry and the incentives for migrant abuse.

“They’ve got to look at the intrinsic connections between study and work and they’ve got to look at the particular vulnerabilities of students who have indebted themselves to come here, and you’ve got to look at what Education New Zealand are doing when they’re marketing education overseas, and what they’re basically promising people before they come,” he said.

“As soon as you strip the work rights then nobody is going to come.”

Work rights and a pathway to residency were often marketed by international educators as a feature of studying in New Zealand. Students often get themselves and their families into debt in the hope of earning from work and then getting residency, with the plan of eventually bringing in family behind them.

“The bigger problem is the huge number of students who are bought into the country, not to study, but to work,” McClymont said.

“If the focus is on those people who come in under work visas and employer compliance, and you don’t look at the wider residency policy, then you’re going to miss the underlying problem. Particularly the students, who are indebted and come here to study, and the reason they’re indebted is they’ve been promised this pathway to residency,” he said.

McClymont said education agents and the Government itself through both Immigration New Zealand and Education New Zealand (which promotes international education) promote the work rights and the pathway to residence as a marketing feature.

“That’s not just from the education agents. That’s from the Government’s own information on their website and in their correspondence, because that’s the only way you can get students to come here is through a pathway to residency. And to achieve that residency you’ve got to work for specific employer for a specific period of time, meet certain criteria for that employer in order to get residency, and that’s what makes them so vulnerable,” he said.

McClymont gave the example of Indian students who came to do a level 5 or 6 business diploma.

“They have one year on an open work visa to get a job. They know that they can achieve a resident’s visa by getting a job as a manager of a liquor store and therefore they’re a retail manager,” he said.

“They’ll come across a liquor store owner, who’ll say ‘I’ll support you for your two year work visa and residency’. Then all that person needs to do is to apply for residency on the basis of this job offer as a liquor store manager. That requires a high level of cooperation from the employer in terms of providing the correct job description, the correct salary and providing the verification information to Immigration NZ, which enables residency to be approved, and the employer can then at will demand whatever they like.

“‘You work for 70 hours. You work for $5 an hour. You pay me $40k for the privilege of this job. If this person complains, they will lose their visa, and then they’ll be deported back to India.”

McClymont said this was the most common situation he saw.

“They’re in debt back in India so they have to repay the money. The only way they can repay that money is getting a job and working long term to repay their debt. They have to borrow money from their family to pay their employer so they have to work here long term to get that, so they are completely at the mercy of the employer.

“You can be a manager of a liquor store and become a resident when you’re basically just serving customers behind a counter is the first problem. And they’re just so heavily reliant on the employer to provide all the verification information.”

He suggested a system of warrant of fitnesses for employers where their documentation and treatment of workers was checked regularly.

“Somebody could achieve residence by working for a particular period of time for an approved employer and after a period of time they can automatically have residence by having employment history. That way the incentive is there for employers to clean up their act, and the incentive is there for employers who want to employ migrants. And you’ve got to have the ability for these people to swap employers with ease.”

McClymont said any inquiry should also look at the connections between employers, education agents and educators.

“Part of the problem is you’ve got marketing people at the schools who also own a whole lot of education agencies in countries like India, and also own businesses here in New Zealand which employ graduate students from the same school,” he said.

“So you’ve got a whole lot of people who’ve got their fingers in all three of these pies.”

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