• THI

New steps announced to fill skills gaps and labour shortages

Updated: Aug 23


The Government has announced the steps it will take to meet the skills gaps and the labour shortages.

  • Additional workers will be able to enter the country for sectors affected by international labour shortages

  • Aged care, construction and infrastructure, meat processing, seafood, seasonal snow and adventure tourism sector agreements are being put in place

  • Doubling of Working Holiday Scheme cap for 2022/23 will see an extra 12,000 working holiday makers able to enter New Zealand

  • Onshore working holiday makers visas expiring between 26 August 2022 and 31 May 2023 will be extended for 6 months to keep workers that are already in the country, and those offshore given more time to travel.

The Government is taking these measures through the revitalised and streamlined immigration system to help relieve workforce shortages. The measures include providing median wage exemptions to crucial sectors through sector agreements, temporarily doubling numbers under the Working Holiday Scheme, and extending visas to retain labour already in the country.


These measures are about providing immediate relief to those businesses hardest hit by the global worker shortage due to the Covid-19 pandemic.


Sector agreements allow for time-limited exceptions to the new median wage requirements for businesses hiring skilled migrant workers, keeping wage requirements more in line with those under the old immigration settings as they transition and New Zealand builds the skills needed for these industries here. Each agreement also includes expectations for improvement, including the implementation of Workforce Transition Plans and Industry Transformation Plans.


The Government has also announced changes to help ease casual workforce shortages by temporarily increasing access to working holiday makers by extending visas of those in the country and making an additional 12,000 spaces available.


Due to COVID, people-to-people movement globally remains slow when compared to

pre-COVID levels, and this is being particularly felt by the hospitality and tourism sectors who traditionally rely on international workers. In order to help such sectors to retain staff, the Government is also extending the visas of working holiday makers already in New Zealand with visas expiring between 26 August 2022 and 31 May 2023 by six months.


The Government will also provide an additional opportunity for those who previously held a working holiday visa but didn’t travel due to Covid-19 to come to New Zealand for the summer. New visas will be issued to people from October 2022 allowing them to enter New Zealand by 31 January 2023. This visa will allow them to be in New Zealand for 12 months.


The capped Working Holiday Schemes will also be doubled, with a one-off increase, to recognise the spots that were unused last year due to the border closure. This will give the ability for up to an extra 12,000 working holiday makers to be able to enter and work in New Zealand over the next 12 months.


Summary of final settings for the sector agreements


  • Care workforce: Access to migrant workers for care and support workers at Level 3 of the pay legislation ($26.16), a two-year work to residence pathway for migrant care workers beginning when they reach the Level 4 pay rate, and a review in two years’ time.

  • Construction and infrastructure: Access to below median wage roles without a cap for specified occupations with a $25 wage threshold, with a review in two years’ time. The wage threshold would be updated each year to reflect changes in the median wage to maintain its relative value. (ie 90 percent of the median wage). A $25 wage threshold is already in place for a number of construction and infrastructure roles and this will continue until the sector agreements come into force from 31 October.

  • Meat processing: Access to migrant workers for entry-level meat processing roles in the red meat and pork processing sectors, at $24.00 per hour with a cap on the number of visas set at 320; to be replaced with a Pacific programme from 2024. Migrants taking up these places will receive 7-month visas and the wage threshold will be updated each year to reflect changes in the median wage to maintain its relative value. (ie 86 percent of the median wage).

  • Seafood (Onshore processing): Access to migrant workers for seafood processing roles at $24.00 per hour with a cap on the number of visas set at 600; to be replaced with a Pacific programme from 2024. Migrants taking up these places will receive 7-month visas and the wage threshold would be updated each year to reflect changes in the median wage to maintain its relative value. (ie 86 percent of the median wage).

  • Sea-based roles: Access to migrants on the Foreign Fishing Crew visa at minimum wage plus $4 per hour with a cap on the number of migrants set at 940. The wage threshold will be increased each year towards the median wage, but the cap will remain in place indefinitely.

  • Seasonal snow and adventure tourism: Access to migrant workers in specified seasonal snow and adventure tourism roles at $25.00 per hour; the wage threshold will be increased each year until the sector agreement ends in 2025.

Transitional arrangements are already in place to allow specified tourism and hospitality roles to be recruited on Accredited Employer Work Visas below the median wage until April 2023.


Summary of Working Holiday Scheme changes:

  • Extend visas for onshore working holiday makers that are expiring between 26 August 2022 and 31 May 2023 by six months from the date of expiry.

  • Additional opportunity for those who previously held a working holiday visa but didn’t travel due to Covid-19 to come to New Zealand for the summer. New visas will be issued to people from October 2022 allowing them to enter New Zealand by 31 January 2023. This visa will allow them to be in New Zealand for 12 months.

  • Double the Working Holiday Scheme caps with a one-off increase to recognise the spots that were unused last year due to the border closure. This will mean around 12,000 more working holiday makers can come to New Zealand over the next six months or so.