Budget targets help for poorest communities . . .
New Zealand’s governing Labour Party announced its ‘wellness budget’ on Thursday as it seeks to extend support for communities most impacted by the COVID-19 economic fallout. The budget contains notable increases to a range of benefits (or welfare), investments in housing for the country’s Indigenous Maori population, health care, and climate policies. Many analysts are commending the welfare increases, which come on top of smaller increases in last year’s budget. But say they remain insufficient to offset surging average housing costs and leave the most economically vulnerable at a standard of living that does not allow them to meaningfully participate in their communities.
Government changes direction on immigration . . .
Earlier this week, the government announced new restrictions to its immigration policy that would make it more difficult for low-skill migrants to work in the country or to gain permanent residency, while it offered new incentives to attract wealthy immigrant investors. The measures are intended to reduce New Zealand’s uptake of temporary foreign workers (TFWs) and incentivize employers to hire locally. The COVID-19 pandemic spotlighted difficulties associated with New Zealand’s reliance on TFWs, particularly in agricultural sectors. The country has the highest rate of TFW employment in the OECD. The move has been criticized in some quarters as elitist, particularly as the government has previously granted citizenship to billionaires in a small number of high-profile cases.
Canadian immigration policy holds course . . .
While New Zealand (and some other Western countries) is limiting immigration based on its COVID-19 pandemic experience, Canada remains committed to targets announced last October that would see upwards of 1.2 million new permanent residents from 2021 to 2023, or over 400,000 per year. The policy is focused on growing Canada’s labour pool and offsetting an aging population, thereby easing the pressure on public pensions in the coming years. By 2035 the ratio of workers to retirees in Canada is projected to fall from its current 3:1 to 2:1, with many seeing immigration of working-age people as the only option for the continued economic viability of government services such as health care and old age security.
- The Conversation: NZ Budget 2021: billions more for benefits, but one eye on the bottom line
- The Guardian: New Zealand to cut ‘low-skill’ immigration and refocus on wealthy
- Radio New Zealand: Budget 2021: What you need to know