Tuesday, 22 May 2012

family friendly policy? i don't think so.

so the government has some policy changes for immigration, all designed to make it harder for migrants who don't have a bucket-load of money.  because in their world, the only way to measure the worth of people, and to measure their contribution to society, is through money.

it doesn't matter that extended family provide support and stability for all members within it.  it doesn't matter that an older generation contribute with their experience, the strength of their cultural heritage, and the large amounts of love and joy they bring with them. these things can't be easily quantified and measured, and so they are ignored.  but if we took the time to quantify and measure them, we'd no doubt find that grandchildren and even their parents were better off in the long term by being in regular and close contact with each other.  not always, and not in every case, but in a whole lot of cases.

and it's not like people with money don't bring their own brand of problems to the country.  kim dotcom, anyone?  i'm sure there are plenty more examples of people who bring money but don't contribute quite so much as we think they do.  it all depends on how exactly we measure the contribution.

the discourse around migrants in this country is so focused on what they take that we forget about what they give.  our country would be a whole lot worse off without migrants, and most of us know it.  with the record numbers of people leaving the country, if we didn't have the numbers to replace them, the economy would be going into a downward spiral, we wouldn't have the people to pay taxes that support the system.

but more than that, migrants are often working in some of the lowest paid jobs, with the worst conditions. they are particularly vulnerable, because without the permanent residence stamp on their visas, they are under the constant threat of being sent out of the country.  this serves as a huge silencing mechanism and reduces access to justice.

if there was adequate research on the topic, i'm sure we'd also find that migrants get paid less for doing the same work that nz citizens do (in much the same way that women get paid less to do the same work that men do).  it's one of the reasons that unions often have concerns about migrant workers - the danger that they will push down wages and conditions for the rest of the population.  in effect it's exploitation.  we are exploiting migrant workers, gaining the benefit of their labour while not having to pay a decent wage for it.  which means that in many cases, we are the ones who take and they are the ones who give.

given that most migrants in lower paying jobs are people of colour from asia and the pacific, i can't help but think that these latest policy changes are another way to keep nz white.  without the family category, the only way people will be able to migrate is if they have a job offer.  and our employers are notorious for discrimination - CVs of people with non-european sounding names are routinely thrown away.  their qualifications and previous work experience aren't recognised.  difficult accents from european countries are acceptable, but difficult accents from other parts of the world are not.

this is a classic example of institutional racism, dressed up in an economic argument that is equally invalid.

No comments: