Migration policy 'favours Europe over Asia'
1.00pm Thursday September 28, 2006

New Zealand is accepting more permanent migrants from Europe and far fewer from Asia, which could lead to perceptions the country prefers some immigrants over others, says a new report.

The Asia:NZ Foundation report released yesterday found that migrant approvals for Asian people have more than halved since 2002. In the same period, permanent immigration from the United Kingdom has increased by 37 per cent.

The report said a number of policy shifts are behind the 58 per cent drop in migrants from Asia.

In November 2002, tougher English language requirements were introduced, as well as a revised points system for entering the country as a skilled migrant.

"Part of the new criteria for the skilled migrant category was that migrants could only come from countries with a comparable labour market ... the policy changes effectively meant that those from countries considered incomparable, such as India or China, could only claim points for work experience gained in a multinational company," the paper's authors stated.

The policy changes meant a perception could develop in Asian nations that New Zealand immigration policy favoured some countries over others, the report said.

New Zealand's economy was becoming increasingly linked to the Asian region, the authors said, with half of the top 20 merchandise export destinations being in Asia.

The report said it was essential to align immigration policy with economic policy, in order to maintain the country's "invaluable" relationship with Asia.

Some of the new restrictions on immigration were relaxed in June, in response to skill shortages in areas like information technology, plumbing and engineering.

But the report's authors said there was also a need to attract more unskilled labour, citing global shortages in sectors like construction and catering.

- NZPA