A.At the end of an eight-hour shift at a Wellington nursing home, Joan Lagman feels exhilarated and exhausted. The 39-year-old caregiver from the Philippines has fed, clothed, bathed and showered her five elderly caregivers. When you’re having a bad day, she writes inspiring notes for you.
They are between 87 and 100 years old. All are immobile and some are bedridden. They tell you about their fears, their problems, and the things they feel sad about. Sometimes they ask about their mom. Every now and then Joan tells a white lie if one is expecting a relative to visit and that person does not show up.
Lagman is paid NZ $ 26 per hour for mentally and physically exhausting work. She breaks down to talk about the love she feels for those in her care. “In the Philippines we take care of our elderly and I grew up taking care of my grandmother who lived with us,” he said.
“Here, they say it should just be a job that I do every day. But how many days a year do I take care of them and how many hours? I become your friend. The hardest part is when you pass away. I’ve spent so much time with them, so I miss them so much. ”
In New Zealand, 40,000 beds for the elderly are occupied by elderly people who cannot be cared for by the family and need 24/7 care. Instead, they are served by 22,000 health care assistants, about a quarter of whom are like Lagman, mostly on temporary migrant visas.
Under New Zealand’s broad immigration proposals, the welcome mat may be removed for these semi-skilled workers as part of the government’s proposal to reduce the number of “low-skilled” and low-wage migrant workers in a post-skilled world. Covid and focus on employing and improving the skills of New Zealanders and attracting wealthy investors.
Lagman, who first came to New Zealand in 2015 with a bachelor’s degree in marketing from the Philippines, is already facing the stress of having to stamp his visa annually. Work visas are issued for three years, but temporary migrants or their employers must request that they be renewed annually. After three years, migrant workers must retire and go home, regardless of whether a kiwi can be found to fill the position – a policy that the elderly care sector hopes will change.
“It’s difficult when my residents want me to be here, but I feel like the country doesn’t,” Lagman said. “Unfortunately, the locals don’t like this job. I’ll mentor someone for a day or two and then they don’t like it and they go away. ”
‘Not all Kiwis want to work in caring for the elderly’
Just as the hospitality and horticulture sectors are struggling without enough migrant workers to perform the low-skilled and semi-skilled jobs that locals cannot or do not want to do, nursing homes and hospitals for the elderly have full beds and there are no enough caregivers and nurses to care. they.
Lagman’s boss, Albie Calope, says it can be stressful trying to find caregivers and nurses to care for the 116 nursing home residents in the retirement village of Malvina Major. It has 120 employees, most of whom have temporary migrant visas, and several vacancies.
“I hope that our staff can stay and that the visa is extended again and we fully support their applications, but it is difficult. We need to make sure we have staff that can work and are willing to work or we don’t know what we will do. ”
Revealing the government’s immigration proposals last month, Economic Development Minister Stuart Nash told business leaders that in the decade before Covid, temporary visas soared from 100,000 to 200,000. “Covid-19 has clearly highlighted our dependence on migrant labor, particularly temporary migrant labor,” he said. “As we focus on reopening New Zealand’s borders, we are determined not to return to the pre-Covid status quo.” Sectors that relied on migrant labor, such as tourism and primary industries, “will look different in the future,” he said.
But in what the National Party and other critics criticized as a contradiction to this philosophy, the immigration minister, Kris Faafoi, last week announced Those 10,000 work, vacation and seasonal work visas would be extended for six months, while essential skills visas like those held by health workers that are about to expire would be phased out until next July.
Aged Care Association CEO Simon Wallace says nursing homes are a large employer of migrants from the Philippines, India and the Pacific, and they currently lack between 300 and 500 nurses. Of the 5,000 nurses who care for the elderly, 55% have a visa.
He welcomed the visa extension, but said he was concerned that the government had also announced that future migrant health workers would have to be paid a minimum of $ 27 an hour to obtain a visa.
“That would rule out most of our caregivers and that will be a real problem for our industry, as not many of them will make more than $ 27 an hour. We would love to pay more for them, but the government funds us to some extent to [aged care] beds, ” he said.
“The whole narrative now is about highly skilled workers, but we rely on semi- and medium-skilled workers to fill our job gaps. Our [rest homes] They constantly embark on campaigns to recruit kiwis, but we can’t get them to do these jobs. Unemployment is low, there are no Kiwis to do these jobs and not all Kiwis want to work in caring for the elderly. ”
According to Sam Jones, health director of the E tū union historically, the sector has been poorly paid, which is why so many foreign immigrants have filled the job gaps.
“But the demands on nursing homes are much more difficult these days. It used to be that the elderly would show up bowling and going on a field trip, but by the time they now qualify for elderly care, they are often immobile with very high needs, so it is … demanding work, ”he said.
“We do not want to leave out those who have come from abroad and have been working hard to care for our elderly. We’d be worried about them raising the bar and saying, ‘You have to go.’ ”