Part 6: Barriers to settlement for some new migrants

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

In this Part, we discuss how effectively Immigration New Zealand has targeted resources to overcome the barriers that some new migrants experience when settling into life in New Zealand and finding work. In particular, we look at the barriers that Immigration New Zealand's work on the Action Plan was intended to address, including:

  • the reluctance of some employers to employ new migrants;
  • getting information on life in New Zealand to help set realistic expectations before migrants arrive;
  • gaining employment and enhancing employment outcomes;
  • the availability and targeting of settlement services to secondary skilled migrants; and
  • providing temporary work visa holders with access to settlement services.

Summary of our findings

Immigration New Zealand has made some good progress reducing barriers to settlement. These include better engagement with, and advice and information to, potential employers of new migrants. Information to new migrants has also improved, particularly through access to online information and pre-arrival information.

However, improvements are needed in the accuracy of information, using information collected to target limited resources to where they are most needed, and to further improve the access to services for all new migrants.

Recommendation 6
We recommend that Immigration New Zealand continue to improve the information that it provides to potential new migrants so that they have more realistic expectations of what life will be like in New Zealand. Target time frame: ongoing.

Recommendation 7
We recommend that Immigration New Zealand use the information gathered from the migration research programme and work with other agencies to rationalise and better target resources to overcome known barriers to employment, and provide services needed for secondary skilled migrants and temporary work visa holders. Target time frame: by December 2014.

Addressing some employers' reluctance to employ new migrants

Immigration New Zealand is working with employers to improve employment outcomes for new migrants.

One recent improvement is that Immigration New Zealand has placed more emphasis on working with employers to support successful settlement outcomes. Because some barriers that new migrants experience stem from employers' attitudes or lack of awareness of how to work well with new migrant employees, this is a positive change.

It has been suggested that there is a need to put people into placements. This helps the migrant get experience and understand a New Zealand workplace. Interesting effect was that if [you] put [a] migrant into a workplace with an employer who was reluctant to employ migrants, after three months quite often that attitude would change.
An academic

Based on various research reports and on the findings from our audit, it is clear that there are issues with some employers' reluctance to employ new migrants. This reluctance affects new migrants' settlement experiences and their employment opportunities.

The Human Rights Commission's recent reports indicate that migrants are more likely than non-migrants to experience racial discrimination in the workplace.12 New migrants who attended our workshops also raised this issue. Also, several stakeholders who work on settlement support told us that they have observed that employers' reluctance to hire migrants and workplace discrimination are the main challenges for migrants.

Some stakeholders told us that having an accent seems to be a barrier to employment, even if a migrant's English proficiency is high. Research has found that "job seekers who speak English with a non-Anglo-Saxon accent have larger hurdles to surmount in obtaining employment in New Zealand than those who speak English without such accents".13

Migrants told us that the pressure to find a job is stressful and frustrating when they consider that they left behind good job opportunities elsewhere. They end up feeling that New Zealand employers do not want them.

Immigration New Zealand's 2011 Purchasing Strategy for Settlement Services reflects an increased focus on settlement information services tailored to employers and the workplace.14 Immigration New Zealand funds chambers of commerce to:

  • connect employers with prospective migrant staff;
  • survey employer attitudes and their practices in hiring migrants; and
  • help employers to retain migrant staff.

In 2011/12, there was funding for one-off programmes to build employers' understanding of the relationship between good settlement outcomes, migrant staff retention, and organisational productivity. The May 2012 New Kiwis Employer Survey of 592 businesses identified communication and work culture issues. Immigration New Zealand developed workplace resources to address these issues. These resources include the Employer Toolkit, published in 2012, which highlights the different communication styles between cultures that can lead to incorrect first impressions.15

Other examples of Immigration New Zealand's work on focusing on working with employers include:

  • A Guide for Newcomers, published as a companion to the Employer Toolkit;
  • Work talk, which is an interactive Internet site that builds on the Employer Toolkit that was developed in collaboration with Victoria University of Wellington to help new migrants understand communication in the New Zealand workplace;16 and
  • Immigration New Zealand's online employer hub, which was developed in response to the PricewaterhouseCoopers review and provides resources and tools to help employers recruit and retain migrant staff and provides practical advice on how employers can help migrants and their families to settle in as quickly as possible this online employer hub includes several employer-focused resources (such as the Employer Toolkit).

Information for some groups of new migrants is also improving. Immigration New Zealand, along with industry partners, developed a Guide for dairy farmers employing migrant dairy workers (2012). This guide recognises, among other matters, the need to raise awareness of what being a good employer means. The guide covers recruiting migrant workers, preparing for their arrival, what to do when migrants arrive, how to relate to migrant staff, where to go for more help, challenges that migrant workers face, accommodation, and a checklist. There is also a guide for migrants working on dairy farms. This is a good example of collaborative working to provide much needed information for both migrants and employers.

Immigration New Zealand's engagement with employers includes surveys, employer seminars, and employer newsletters. Immigration New Zealand is carrying out more work with an employer focus and is planning and researching an online resource for employers to help employers with migrant settlement and retention.

Further improvements to pre-arrival information to support successful settlement and online access

In 2006, as well as the need for better employment information, the Settlement Strategy identified the need to provide better information to migrants on life in New Zealand to help them to have realistic expectations before arriving in the country.

In the Settlement Strategy, Immigration New Zealand was given responsibility for improving pre-arrival employment information for migrants. Immigration New Zealand has made progress on this action point. Another area of work included in the Settlement Strategy was to improve pre-arrival information for migrants to help set realistic expectations before they arrive. Although improvements have been made, Immigration New Zealand needs to improve this information further. The Action Plan's action point 1.1 requires Immigration New Zealand to:

Develop improved pre-arrival employment-related information for adult applicants in all immigration categories (i.e., principal and secondary applicants in the Skilled Migrant Category, the Family Sponsored and International/Humanitarian streams). This work will ensure that there are appropriate pathways to employment related services in New Zealand.

Immigration New Zealand's 2009 progress report to the Minister highlighted its achievements towards this action point:

A new publication titled "Welcome to New Zealand" was produced to provide information that newcomers are likely to need upon arrival in New Zealand, and during initial settlement, including information on employment. It is distributed through Immigration New Zealand branches.

The Auckland Chamber of Commerce is contracted by the Department to provide a website "NewKiwis" which has over 5,500 jobseekers actively registered to connect with NZ employers and work opportunities.

The information that new migrants receive could more fully and accurately inform them about settling in New Zealand.

The Migration Research, Evaluation and Analysis Team's Immigration Survey Monitoring Programme provides useful information about new migrants' early settlement experiences. Although this was not always positive, it does enable MBIE to provide better information to new migrants and direct resources.

The Migration Research, Evaluation and Analysis Team's Immigration Survey Monitoring Programme surveyed adult migrants who held temporary work visas or permanent residence visas for the skilled/business and family visa categories. Temporary migrants were surveyed in the six months after they had arrived or been granted their visas. Permanent residence visa holders were surveyed in the 12 months after they had arrived or been granted their visas.

The research shows that a significant number of migrants expressed disappointment about economic factors after arriving in New Zealand. For example:

[On] Immigration New Zealand’s website, they listed the minimum amount of money you need to survive in New Zealand. This is grossly understated. Reality is vastly different.
New migrant, Wellington region
  • the cost of living was worse than expected for 47% of skilled principal skilled migrants and 55% of secondary skilled migrants;
  • the quality of housing was worse than expected for 41% principal skilled migrants and 46% of secondary skilled migrants;
  • the level of salary or wages was worse than expected for 36% of principal skilled migrants and 38% of secondary skilled migrants; and
  • their ability to get a job was worse than expected for 25% of principal skilled migrants and 39% of secondary skilled migrants.

We held workshops with new migrants in the Auckland and Wellington regions. Forty-two people from various visa streams attended. Although this is a small sample and not a formal representation of new migrants in New Zealand, the comments we received are in line with the Migration Research, Evaluation and Analysis Team's findings. The new migrants told us that their expectations regarding gaining local work experience, finding a job within their profession or qualification, and the quality and availability of housing were not met, which made settlement a challenge.

Immigration New Zealand's Attraction and Retention Framework indicates that setting realistic expectations and managing these expectations is important to effective retention. We recognise that Immigration New Zealand is improving how it provides services and information to potential migrants as a part of its immigration change programme.

Improving online access for new migrants

Immigration New Zealand has two websites that support the Attraction and Retention Framework – the New Zealand Now and Settlement websites.17 New Zealand Now is a marketing website mainly targeting people overseas who are considering moving to New Zealand to live and work. Analysis of use of New Zealand Now between 1 July 2012 and 30 June 2013 shows that there were:

  • 1,341,179 visits to the New Zealand Now site, from 1,048,605 unique browsers.
  • 50,856 views of the "Comparable living costs" page and 44,997 views of the "Choice of housing options" page.
  • 393,377 page views for the "great job opportunities" page on New Zealand Now this page was the most viewed page on the site, ahead of the "Work in NZ" page (367,209) and the site's home page (305,112).

The Settlement website mainly targets migrants who are in New Zealand and links through to other sites. Analysis of the site's use between 1 July 2012 and 30 June 2013 shows that there were:

  • 208,708 visits to the Settlement site, from 161,392 unique browsers.
  • 27,994 visits to the Money section, 9176 of which were views of the Cost of living page, and 8581 linked from this section to information about money on external sites.
  • 36,019 visits to the Somewhere to live section, 1935 of which linked to information about housing and related problems on external sites.
  • 97,566 visits to the Employment in New Zealand section, 17,606 of which were to the Getting a job page, and 21,387 links through to information about employment in New Zealand on external sites.

Resources can be better targeted at programmes to reduce barriers to employment

Employment outcomes for new migrants are one of the most fundamental factors in successful settlement and for achieving the Government's economic objectives. Under the Action Plan's action point 1.3, Immigration New Zealand is to:

Identify practical measures, in partnership with other organisations, to reduce migrants' barriers to employment and enhance their employment outcomes.

As noted by the Migration Research, Evaluation and Analysis Team's work, finding work is one of the most important factors in migrants settling well. Migrants finding work is the main driver to achieving the outcome of addressing gaps in the labour market and, therefore, supporting the Government's economic agenda. Because of how important it is that new migrants find work, we expected that Immigration New Zealand would have prioritised supporting new migrants to overcome barriers to employment.

Settlement services that focus on overcoming barriers to employments are in demand. We acknowledge Immigration New Zealand's recent change to working with employers to help address some employment barriers. However, employment barriers remain a problem for some skilled migrants and holders of temporary work visas.

The new migrants who attended our workshops expressed frustration over barriers to employment, including:

We need internships to get a job that you are qualified for. Test us out. This is missing.
New migrant

Mentoring is a proven, valuable and effective mechanism.
Service provider
  • Voluntary work in New Zealand is often not recognised by New Zealand employers and many migrants are unable to secure a job without New Zealand work experience.
  • It is difficult for new migrants to gain local work experience that matches their skills and qualifications, and to connect with professional/sector networks.
  • There is inconsistency between qualifications that are recognised by the New Zealand Qualifications Authority and those recognised by employers. Stakeholders told us that qualifications not being recognised was a barrier to settlement.

Many stakeholders from central and local government and non-governmental organisations working in a range of settlement support roles (senior managers to service delivery) told us of service gaps in supporting migrants to overcome barriers to employment. These service gaps include a lack of:

  • one-to-one job search advice and career services;
  • workplace mentoring that links migrants with the appropriate industry contacts, work experience opportunities, and feedback; and
  • English-language provision for temporary work visa holders to support them to work and transfer to the Skilled Migrant Category.

Stakeholders told us that employers' attitudes could often change for the better after they had worked with new migrants in temporary work experience and mentoring programmes. Stakeholders told us that workplace preparation support and mentoring programmes are valuable and effective mechanisms that help new migrants to achieve employment goals. Stakeholders said that there were not enough of these programmes to meet demand.

Immigration New Zealand is not responsible for delivering settlement services to help new migrants find work. Its role in supporting new migrants achieve employment aspirations is through leading and co-ordinating settlement support, working collaboratively with government organisations, and working on the Settlement National Action Plan.

Gaps exist in the services [of] some providers. The one-toone careers services have been discontinued. This could impact the ability of skilled migrants’ partners to attain meaningful employment, which would reduce … migrant retention rates.
Service provider, Southland

In our view, Immigration New Zealand has not completed work with partners on action point 1.3 to identify ways to overcome employment barriers. Immigration New Zealand staff told us that they considered this action point to be finished and did not continue work on it. A 2009 draft progress report to the Minister highlighted that there was:

… a lack of nationwide consistency in the availability of employment services which include the key identified elements of: volunteer job mentors, work experience opportunities, and specialised migrant recruitment services.

Immigration New Zealand's report identified problems that needed to be addressed to achieve this action point. We consider that further action is needed to address the problems identified in Immigration New Zealand's report to achieve better outcomes.

Two Migration Research, Evaluation and Analysis Team reports in 2008 and 2012 show that the most common barriers for migrants who find it difficult to find work were a lack of New Zealand work experience and a lack of positions for someone with their skills or experience.

Another indicator of the demand for migrant employment support services is found in Settlement Support New Zealand's Annual Report to June 2012. This states that most inquiries to Settlement Support New Zealand were about employment mostly about finding work, for which Settlement Support New Zealand provides referral information.

Some migrant employment support programmes are able to show migrant employment outcomes. These include the Ministry of Social Development's migrant employment assistance programme, the University of Victoria's workplace communication for skilled migrants programme, and OMEGA's mentoring programme.18 Employment assistance services and programmes have not been prioritised.

The New Kiwis course at Auckland Chamber of Commerce was fantastic for CV writing. Follow up support also excellent. I did interviews with them. They send emails every week. Follow up for jobseekers very good.
New migrant, Auckland

Migrants told us that there is a need for services to address known employment barriers. We were unable to analyse all the employment-related services available to new migrants to confirm whether demand exceeds supply. However, we note that the proportion of all the funding available through the Migrant Levy and the Settlement Unit's budget for employment support services and/or programmes is small and that demand for these services is unmet.

Only 6.3% of Migrant Levy funding is targeted towards employment support services. In 2012/13, $0.6 million, or 6% of the $9.3 million, of Migrant Levy funding was dedicated towards the only employment assistance programme (see Appendix 4). Of the Settlement Unit's 2012/13 budget of $7.6 million, $3.5 million is for purchasing settlement services. Of that $3.5 million, $2.2 million is for Settlement Support New Zealand regional co-ordinators (who provide information and refer clients to other agencies but do not provide service delivery programmes), $1.3 million is available for additional settlement contracts, and $0.4 million is dedicated to contracts that focus on employment outcomes for new migrants (which are delivered through the Auckland, Wellington, and Canterbury Chambers of Commerce).

We acknowledge that the Settlement Unit has more recently begun to focus on working with employers to address some of the employment barriers that new migrants face.

Resources can be better targeted to reduce barriers for secondary migrants and temporary work visa holders

Secondary skilled migrants experience challenges in settling and finding work

Secondary skilled migrants experience barriers to settling and working, and there is a service gap in supporting them to achieve their employment goals.

Secondary skilled migrants are important to achieving the goals of settlement support and the Government's economic agenda. Secondary skilled migrants made up about half of the skilled migrant visas granted in 2011/12, and about half of those secondary skilled migrants were over the age of 20. Although the Action Plan actions that Immigration New Zealand was responsible for leading do not refer specifically to secondary skilled migrants, the Settlement Strategy proposal noted the importance of secondary skilled migrants and that they experience lower employment outcomes. Successful settlement of secondary skilled migrants affects retention rates for principal skilled migrants and the whole family.

I thought that a meet and greet would be set up on arrival to swap stories and details and hang out with others in the same situation. Rather than sitting alone and isolated in flat.
Secondary skilled migrant, Wellington

The Migration Research, Evaluation and Analysis Team's migrant survey results for 2010 and 2011 show that of those secondary skilled migrants working or looking for work, 40% indicated that they found it difficult to find work in New Zealand and that their ability to get a job was worse than they had expected. The survey results also show that, in 2011, almost a third of secondary skilled migrants employed indicated that their occupation did not match their skills and qualification levels.

It is not realistic to expect that secondary skilled migrants 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 meet the same employment criteria as principal skilled migrants.

Immigration New Zealand has not focused on supporting secondary skilled migrants. Although it is difficult to gauge what employment outcomes are realistic to expect for secondary skilled migrants within the initial settlement period, it is realistic to expect that the Settlement Unit's work focuses on how to support secondary skilled migrants to settle and find suitable work to meet New Zealand's economic objectives and to increase the likelihood of retention of the skilled migrant family, including the principal skilled migrant.

Problem here [is] people will wrap support around principal skilled migrant, but will take little notice of fact that they have a partner at home.
Central government representative

In 2010, an external review of Immigration New Zealand's purchasing of settlement services indicated the need for more support for secondary skilled migrants. The migrants who attended our workshops and stakeholders we interviewed told us that they found support for secondary skilled migrants to be lacking. They also told us that, because of how important secondary skilled migrants are to retention, better targeting of settlement support towards secondary skilled migrants is needed.

Immigration New Zealand's research on migrant settlement experiences supports stakeholders' comments about the importance of secondary skilled migrants to retention:

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.

MBIE's corporate performance framework reflects this lack of focus on secondary skilled migrants. MBIE's reporting of results for skilled migrants does not include settlement results for secondary skilled migrants. As we noted in Part 3, the skilled migrant results would be less positive if they included secondary skilled migrant results.

Limited settlement support services for temporary work visa holders

Expanding settlement support services to temporary work visa holders has been a problem since the Settlement Strategy started in 2006. However, Immigration New Zealand was working on this problem during our audit. Under the Action Plan's action point 1.2, Immigration New Zealand is to:

Provide advice about the whole-of-government benefits and costs for the provision of settlement related services such as career advice, employment-readiness programmes and ESOL tuition to temporary permit holders and their accompanying families.

A high percentage of skilled migrants have temporary work visas before gaining permanent residency. However, temporary work visa holders do not pay the Migrant Levy and do not have access to most settlement services available to skilled migrants.

Immigration New Zealand's 2009 Action Plan progress report indicates this action is "in progress".

In 2010, a review of the purchase of settlement services by Immigration New Zealand recommended that:

… the Department should also investigate whether settlement services purchased for permanent residents should also become available for holders of temporary visas and permits … it may speed up the overall settlement cycle to offer settlement services to holders of temporary visas and permits.

Temporary visa holders have not had access to many of the settlement support services available to skilled migrants, such as English-language training and employment assistance. Although it has been a long time since 2006, a proposal on this matter is included in a broader proposal on immigration fees, which Cabinet is likely to consider in late 2013.

12: Human Rights Commission (2013), Race Relations in 2012, pages 89-90, available at and Human Rights Commission (2012), Caring Counts: Report of the Inquiry into the Aged Care Workforce, pages 103-111 (see especially pages 107-108 on work visas and discrimination), available at

13: Anne Henderson (2003) ‘English Language Proficiency and Migrant Employment,' an oral presentation at the New Directions: New Settlers: New Challenges: Building and Enhancing Communities Seminar, Wellington in April 2003, cited in Human Rights Commission (2004), Human Rights in New Zealand Today, page 311.

14: Immigration New Zealand (2011) Purchasing Strategy for Settlement Services, mentioned at "It should be noted that New Zealand's Purchasing Strategy for Settlement Services outlines an increased focus on services tailored to employers and the workplace, online settlement resources and tools, the provision of information specifically geared towards sectors and employers which rely on migrant staff, Settlement Support New Zealand support for employers and workplaces, and ensuring migrants are matched to the skills New Zealand requires."

15: The Employer Toolkit is available at New Zealand Immigration's website,

16: The Work talk website is

17: The New Zealand Now website is The Settlement website is

18: OMEGA stands for Opportunities of Migrant Employment in Greater Auckland. OMEGA was created "to see the greater Auckland region prosper by fully engaging the contributions of skilled immigrants, and by helping bring an end to workplace skill shortages". See OMEGA's website at

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