Bill English says employers are regularly telling him that Kiwis can't pass drug tests
Prime Minister Bill English is blaming young Kiwis inability to pass a workplace drug test as one of the reasons why overseas workers are needed.
English's comments come on the back of record highs for immigration after it was revealed on Monday 71,300 more migrants had arrived in New Zealand than left in the year to January.
Speaking at his weekly media conference English said two or three business owners a week told him about the difficulty in getting Kiwi workers who apply for jobs to pass a drug test.
"It's a very common discussion - it's not exceptional at all these days for that discussion to be had."
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He said he'd heard anecdotal evidence of it across most industries. His comments came on the back of a question about why the 140,000 unemployed people in New Zealand couldn't fill jobs in areas where there are skills shortages.
"One of the hurdles these days is just passing a drug test. Under workplace safety you can't have people on your premises under the influence of drugs and a lot of our younger people can't pass that test."
English said local employers, such as in Hawke's Bay where there's 1000 jobs forecast to come up in the agricultural sector, wanted to employ local people but were "finding that pretty challenging".
Migrant arrivals totaled 128,300 in the year to January - a new annual record - and the bulk of migrants arrived on work visas.
About one fifth of all migrant arrivals were from Australia and almost two-thirds of the migrant arrivals from across the ditch were New Zealand citizens, according to Statistics New Zealand.
"We've got a growing economy, we're investing in infrastructure...and we've got Kiwis coming home.
"This is what it feels like to be in a growing economy with some confidence and direction," English said.
Just this week English said he'd received "robust complaining" from the hospitality industry that they were unable to recruit at a bar and cafe manager level.
"They're telling me they just can't get people," he said.
But NZ First leader Winston Peters said taxpayers were being "bled dry" from National's open door policy on immigration.
"There aren't enough houses in Auckland for everyone but we had an inflow of 128,000 coming in, and over half will settle in Auckland.
"They'll need the infrastructure for a city the size of Rotorua to support them – but it's not being built," he said.
Kiwi workers shouldn't be "undermined" by migrant workers and have to "compete with Third World wages and conditions," he said.
Labour's immigration spokesman Iain Lees-Galloway blamed migration as one of the "central drivers of rising house prices".
"The people paying the price for National's inability to plan for immigration include the 2,600 vulnerable Kiwi families needing to be housed in motels because there simply isn't enough state or affordable housing to meet the needs of New Zealand families.
"The largest portion of migrants coming to New Zealand are those given temporary work visas – up 11% in a year. National can't simply spin the tired old line of 'Kiwis coming home' as the reason why New Zealand continues to set records in net migration," he said.
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