Big Hopes From Little Singapore

Big hopes from little Singapore

By Lincoln Tan
The New Zealand Herald
4:00 AM Tuesday Jan 19, 2010

In the second of the series, immigration reporter Lincoln Tan looks at New Zealand's need for imported skills

New Zealand is trying to woo skilled workers from Singapore.

Immigration New Zealand is for the first time shifting its migrant marketing focus away from America and Europe to Asia.

Singapore – with a land area about the size of Lake Taupo and a population of 4.9 million – will be the agency's newest target for migrants.

Immigration Minister Jonathan Coleman told the Herald a pilot scheme was being proposed to lure Singaporeans wanting to work and study in New Zealand.

Would-be migrants will be told of comparatively cheaper housing and car ownership, and the relaxed lifestyle. Those interested in becoming New Zealanders will be invited to register their interest online.

Immigration said the programme had been successful in Britain and the United States, attracting more than 70,000 registrations.

The Singapore marketing programme will go live on this month, Dr Coleman said.

Last year, 62 per cent of residential approvals were in the skilled and business stream. More than 27,000 people were approved under the skilled migrant category, and more than 46,000 were granted permanent residency.

The overall focus of New Zealand's immigration policy was to build the economy, and the country has succeeded in recruiting the skilled migrants required.

Eighty per cent of principal applicants – the main person listed on the skilled residence application – were approved with a skilled job or offer of employment.

“We have attracted migrants who have gained jobs as nurses, teachers, accountants, ICT technicians, electricians, retail managers … to name a few of the more popular occupations,” Dr Coleman said.

“The skilled and business stream is aimed at people who will bring needed skills and capital and proven entrepreneurial abilities into the country.”

Massey University marketing researcher Henry Chung says shifting the focus to Asia will help New Zealand plug into the global economy.

“We have found Asians to be more entrepreneurial and to have better business networks, not just with their home countries but also in their industries.

“The bigger money may be with countries like China, but I think Singaporeans, being more proficient in English and having a better understanding of the Western culture, will be able to adapt better to the New Zealand lifestyle,” he said.

Immigration expert Paul Spoonley said marketing aimed at Asian migrants was a first, but he doubted it would attract many Singaporeans.

“We cannot compete with Singapore when it comes to wages, or even career opportunities.

“While New Zealand has an established reputation in the UK, it is not as well known to be a desirable migrant destination in Singapore,” he said.

Last year, only 114 Singaporeans became permanent residents in New Zealand, 92 of them through the skilled and business stream.

“New Zealand will need more skilled migrants to remain competitive, and if we wanted immigrants who spoke English from our region, then Singapore and Hong Kong would be the two obvious centres to target,” Profesor Spoonley said.

Singapore also had a successful immigration programme, and immigrants who did not adapt to the hectic lifestyle there could be the ones looking to move to New Zealand.

Reliance on foreign skills
(number of work permit approvals in the past 10 years)

2000: 37,546
2001: 49,756
2002: 61,868
2003: 69,225
2004: 75,527
2005: 85,523
2006: 103,134
2007: 118,693
2008: 134,025
2009: 136,481

Where they're coming from
(Top 8 source countries in 2009)

United Kingdom: 20,315
China: 12,592
India: 9019
Germany: 8713
United States: 7508
Philippines: 6867
Fiji: 6294
South Africa: 5667