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30/11/1999 | More countries to restrict entry of migrant workers

Kimberly Jane T. Tan

MANILA, Philippines - The worst fear of migrant workers has come: more countries are cutting down on their entry to protect their local workers.According to the article titled “Gov’t set to restrict migrants" published on the March 25 issue of the newspaper “The Press," the New Zealand government is “poised" to cut the number of migrants entering the country.


Immigration Minister Jonathan Coleman said in the report that he expected that the Department of Labor would “ensure" that fewer migrants entered the country on temporary permits during the recession.

“As you’ve got the recession getting worse, New Zealanders are increasingly available. It’s going to be a situation where temporary migrants won’t be having their permits renewed and won’t be getting new permits either, so there won't be new migrants coming in," he said.

He did say, however, that they are essentially just “turning off" the temporary “migrant tap."

“Yeah, it is a tap you can turn on and off, but we’ve got to bear in mind that long-term, New Zealand needs immigration and there are certain skills we will always be short of," he said.

New Zealand takes 45,000 permanent migrants each year – most through the skilled-migrant category – while thousands more arrive on temporary permits to work in industries where their skills are deemed to be in short supply.

But before permits are issued, employers must prove that they have searched for New Zealand workers to fill in the jobs and that they are not suitably trained for the task.

Likewise, a recent report on BBC News said that the Australian government has decided to cut the number of skilled foreign workers being accepted in their country by 14 percent in order to “protect" their local workers.

Immigration Minister Chris Evans said in the report that the cut is the first in Australia in 10 years, saying that their government does not want to take in people who would “compete with Australians" for the limited jobs available as they might soon experience a recession.

This, he said, prompted them to slash the number of foreign skilled migrants by 18,500 for the 2009-2010 financial year which starts in June, from a total number of 133,500 in 2008-2009.

“The economic circumstances in Australia have changed as a result of the global financial crisis. It is prudent to reduce this year’s migration intake accordingly," he said.

He added that the permanent skilled migration program will soon restrict entry to foreign bricklayers, plumbers, carpenters, and electricians. The migrant scheme reportedly offers permanent residency to approved skilled workers.

“That’s where we’ve seen a drop-off in demand [and] some major redundancies," said Evans.

But he said employers will still be able to bring in foreign workers by sponsoring them under a special visa for temporary migrant workers, provided they can prove that they cannot find suitable workers in Australia.

Hairdressers and cooks have also been removed from Australia’s list of critical skills shortages while nurses, doctors, engineers, and information technology specialists will still be safe from the cuts as the country still has shortages in these areas.

Some other countries have also previously expressed their intention to cut down on foreign workers.

Malaysia, for one, has banned the hiring of foreign workers in its factories, stores, and restaurants to protect its citizens from mass unemployment. Its government has also ordered companies to lay off foreign employees first if they must slash their work force.

Saudi Arabia has also a standing directive for companies to fire expats first should they need to slash their work force as a result of the global economic crisis.

In Macau, the administration is also reportedly looking at a possible 50 percent reduction in foreign workers in private security and cleaning agencies for 2009 to give more priority to its citizens.


However, the United Nations has warned countries that any move against migration in a bid to reduce the impact of the economic slowdown would prove futile.

“We’ve seen how ineffective simple prohibition policies in regard to migration actually are. They don’t really work," said Peter Sutherland, UN secretary general’s special representative on migration, during the 2nd Global Forum on Migration and Development.

Even the International Organization for Migration (IOM) has appealed to countries employing migrant workers not to discriminate against them by firing them first during layoffs.

“Governments should be very careful, the crisis should not be unfairly targeted at migrants," said IOM regional representative Charles Harns in a previous interview.

Harns said that this should not be the case because “migrants are not the problem, they’re probably part of the solution."

“They are important in rebuilding the economy," he said.

The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) said that overseas Filipino worker (OFW) remittances from more than 190 host countries worldwide reached more than US$1.265 billion in January 2009 – representing a positive 0.1 percent growth from the same period in 2008.

And despite recent reports that there has been an increase in OFW deployment and remittances, Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) chief Jennifer Manalili has said that it is still “too early to tell" whether Filipino workers would not be adversely affected by the crisis.

“Hindi rin natin talaga masasabi, maaga pa [We really cannot say, it’s still too early to tell]," Manalili said in a recent interview.

As of February 24, 5,774 Filipino workers have been laid off since October 2008 – 4,375 of whom have reportedly returned to the Philippines. (Filipinas)


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