The prime minister of New Zealand says the country is forced to rely on overseas workers because of the poor work ethics of many of the locals.
In an interview with Radio New Zealand, John Keys said: “Go and ask the employers, and they will say some of these people won’t pass a drug test, some of these people won’t turn up for work, some of these people will claim they have health issues later on.”
The comments came after the prime minister was asked to explain record high immigration figure, despite the fact that 200,000 New Zealanders face unemployment. Government figures showed an astounding 69,000 people moved to the country since last year and 200,000 people received temporary work visas, prompting alarm from opposition parties who demanded the country limit immigration to protect its local workers.
Defending the nation’s immigrant influx, Keys said the country needed to get overseas help — even for low-skilled jobs — because locals were either not able to work or willing to move to less desirable workplaces.
“So it’s not to say there aren’t great people who transition from Work and Income to work, they do, but it’s equally true that they’re also living in the wrong place, or they just can’t muster what is required to actually work,” he added.
However, some people do not agree with Keys’ assessment.
Council of Trade Unions President Richard Wagstaff dubbed Keys’ statement as a “political stunt.”
“Demonizing New Zealand workers and not giving them a shot at these jobs and creating reasonable jobs is the wrong way to go,” he said.
Former Green MP, Sue Bradford, said it was a “shameful attack” and that most immigrants would have gotten work in the city and “this is where the real damage is being done.”
She also added the high level of unskilled migrant workers cater to employers who want to keep low wages for vulnerable workers.
Labor Leader Andrew Little accused the prime minister of writing off the locals as “drugged and lazy.”
“Our social conscience dictates that we make it a priority to get young people into work,” he said. “For those who have a few rough edges on them, we need to go the extra mile and make the extra effort to enable them to get into work.”
Leon Stallard, a fruit farmer on the North Island, however, agrees with Keys.
“I mean, labor is one of the most stressful parts of this business other than the weather… If I need 30 people, I get 40 people, locals, because on average I only get 30 every day,” he told Radio New Zealand. “They just don't turn up — they couldn't get a ride, I don't know… I mean, you just can't depend on it.”
Key also insists the government will continue to call in large numbers of immigrants, even though he admits its placing a strain on the country’s infrastructure.
Harcourts, the top most real estate company in New Zealand, sounded the alarm, claiming the influx of migrants have caused average house prices to go up by 15 percent since July 2015.
Meanwhile, the available stock has decreased by 24 percent during the same time.
Banner and thumbnail credit: Reuters, Shannon Stapleton