Part 2: Settlement facts and figures

Immigration New Zealand: Supporting new migrants to settle and work.

In this Part, we set out some of the indicators of how well migrants settle and work in New Zealand.

Most new migrants find work and settle well

Most principal skilled migrants apply for residency under the Skilled Migrant Category while living in New Zealand on a temporary work visa and already have a job or job offer. The Skilled Migrant Category requires an applicant to have a skilled job in New Zealand (defined as all skill level 1, 2, 3 jobs in the Australian and New Zealand Standard Classification of Occupations).

In 2011/12, 87% of principal skilled migrant applicants were approved within New Zealand, and 99% of those had a job offer or current skilled employment in the country. Not surprisingly, principal skilled migrants have high employment rates. Recent Immigration New Zealand and Statistics New Zealand research shows that, in 2011, 84.5% of principal skilled migrants who had lived in New Zealand for up to two years were working, and 78.6% of those who had lived here for two to five years were working.

The employment outcomes for principal skilled migrants are an indication that the Skilled Migrant Category policy and visa system meet the intended employment outcomes.

High-level settlement indicators are also positive. In 2011, 90% of principal and secondary skilled migrants indicated that they were satisfied with life in New Zealand and 92% indicated that they would recommend New Zealand to others. Other data gathered by MBIE show settlement experiences at more specific levels. This data is useful information for settlement service design and targeting resources to have the most effect for new migrants.

Settlement barriers for secondary skilled migrants and holders of temporary work visas

Secondary skilled migrants are important for achieving the goals of settlement support and the Government's economic agenda. Secondary skilled migrants received about half of the skilled migrant visas granted in 2011/12. About half of those secondary skilled migrants were more than 20 years old and, therefore, might seek employment.

MBIE's research shows that how well secondary new migrants settle affects the principal skilled migrant and whether the family decides to stay in New Zealand in the first few years after arriving.

It is important to promote positive settlement outcomes not only for the principal applicant, but for other members of the principal applicant's family. The successful settlement of the whole migrant family is integral to New Zealand's ability to attract and retain the migrants needed to contribute to the country's growth and diversity.2

However, it is not realistic to expect that secondary skilled migrants will experience the same employment outcomes as principal skilled migrants within the same period after arriving in New Zealand. This is because, when they enter the country, secondary skilled migrants do not have to meet the same employment criteria as principal skilled migrants. MBIE's settlement strategies and corporate performance framework are designed to improve settlement outcomes for skilled migrants and their families. Paragraphs 2.9-2.15 show how secondary skilled migrants might benefit from services to help them overcome the barriers that they experience in settlement.

Research shows that secondary skilled migrants have less positive settlement outcomes. In 2011, 58.3% of secondary skilled migrants who had lived in New Zealand for up to two years were working, and 63.3% of those who had lived here for two to five years were working. However, not all secondary skilled migrants were seeking jobs. The 2011 migrant survey results (see Figure 1) indicate that secondary skilled migrants face several barriers to settling into life in New Zealand and gaining employment.

Figure 1
Differences in the settlement experiences of principal and secondary skilled migrants, 2010 and 2011

Immigration Survey Monitoring Programme
Migrant Survey Indicators – Skilled Migrants (2010 and 2011) Principal Secondary
Occupation matched their skills/qualifications 84% 62%
Satisfied with their job 83% 73%
Difficulty in finding work 21% 37%
Level of salary or wages better than expected 15% 12%
Level of salary or wages worse than expected 36% 38%
Ability to get a job better than expected 22% 20%
Ability to get a job worse than expected 25% 39%
Cost of living better than expected 11% 15%
Cost of living worse than expected 47% 55%
Quality of housing better than expected 18% 14%
Quality of housing worse than expected 41% 46%

Source: Immigration Survey Monitoring Programme, Migrant Survey Indicators – Skilled Migrants (2010 and 2011).

The results of the 2011 migrant survey show that, of those migrants who were working or looking for work, a higher proportion of secondary skilled migrants than principal skilled migrants had difficulty finding work. A lower proportion found work matching their skills/qualifications and were satisfied with their work. This highlights that, for some secondary skilled migrants, not being able get a suitable job makes it more difficult to settle in New Zealand.

The survey showed that many secondary and principal skilled migrants considered the cost of living and the quality of housing in New Zealand to be worse than expected. This might reduce successful settlement.

A Department of Labour study of new migrants who entered New Zealand in 2004/05 showed that a small proportion of principal and secondary skilled migrants indicated dissatisfaction with their jobs. The study tracked settlement outcomes up to three years later. Figure 2 outlines the results after 18 months.

Figure 2
Skilled migrants' reasons for dissatisfaction with main job 18 months after migration, 2004-05

Reasons for dissatisfaction with main job Principal Secondary
Inadequately using skills or experience 51% 37%
Not employed in preferred occupation 18% 27%
Pay too low 51% 59%
Wanted more hours of work 8% 22%

Source: Department of Labour (2005) Longitudinal Immigration Survey New Zealand 2004-05 at 18 months after migration.

Most skilled migrants apply for permanent residence while holding temporary work visas. MBIE recognises that the economic and social effect of temporary migrants can be significant. Migration Research indicates that temporary work visa holders experience barriers to settling in New Zealand.

Although temporary work visa holders have more recently been able to access settlement services provided by Immigration New Zealand, they do not have access to other settlement support services such as job search services or subsidised English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) tuition important in supporting them to overcome barriers to settlement. Work is under way to address this known service gap.

The major barriers to finding work and settling that continue to challenge some new migrants include:

  • lack of work experience;
  • some employers' being reluctant to employ new migrants;
  • getting information on life in New Zealand to help establish realistic expectations before they arrive;
  • the lack of settlement services for temporary work visa holders; and
  • the lack of availability and targeting of settlement services for secondary skilled migrants.

2: Immigration New Zealand (2009), New Faces, New Futures: New Zealand Chapter 7, page 116, available at Immigration New Zealand's website,

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