A decade of accounting experience has been of little use to Nameeta Chandra in her quest to find a job in New Zealand.
The 34-year-old, who moved to Auckland from Fiji nine months ago to be with her husband, said she could not believe how hard it had been finding employment in New Zealand.
“I feel there is a lot of jobs but there is something lacking that I am not able to understand,” Chandra said.
Since moving to New Zealand she has applied for more than 50 jobs, mostly in accounting, an industry she has 11 years experience in. She has a bachelor of commerce, specialising in accounting along with a diploma in education.
In 2017 New Zealand experienced permanent and long term migration gain of 72,300 people, the highest on record and an increase 4.7 per cent from the previous year.
But despite high levels of migration New Zealand is grappling with a skills shortage.
Just last week Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, in a major speech addressing business confidence, said a skills shortage was one of the greatest challenges facing New Zealand businesses.
And a week earlier Finance Minister Grant Robertson said immigration would be needed to fill our skills gaps.
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Accountant is on the Government’s immediate skills shortage list, which means workers with accounting experience are in high demand, and their work visa can be processed faster if they meet certain criteria.
Every day there were at least 10 to 20 new accounting vacancies being listed on careers websites, Chandra said.
Job hunting website Seek.co.nz brings up nearly 2000 listings for accounting vacancies in Auckland alone.
Most of the time she never heard back from recruiters, but in one case she did, and was surprised to be told that her application did not proceed because she had “Fiji experience”.
“I was wondering what is the difference between the accounting industry in New Zealand and the accounting industry in Fiji.”
She was experienced in international accounting standards and preparing financial statements, accounts receivable, accounts payable, she said.
She taught accounting for Fiji’s Ministry of Education for eight years and had experience using Excel and accounting software MYOB and Xero, she said.
“I am a qualified person with an in-depth knowledge of accounting. I thought that the employers here will value the knowledge that I have. Is it that I am a migrant?”
Chandra, who was on a partner of a New Zealander work visa, said she would like to work as teacher in New Zealand but getting her registration was a time consuming process so she was seeking other employment in the meantime.
She’s also been applying for receptionist, customer service and office administrator jobs with no luck.
The only job she was able to get in the time she’s ben in New Zealand was a cleaning position but she found it too physically demanding.
“It was quite hard, especially to carry the vacuum on your back.”
Chandra and her husband live in a granny flat in Blockhouse Bay. Because they were on just one income they were not able to plan for having children, Chandra said.
“Right now since only my husband is earning we are just dealing with day to day expenses.”
She said she did not want to go on a benefit because she did not want to “live on other people’s taxes”.
“I feel it’s not ethical for me to. I would rather prefer to work. I’m a career orientated person.”
Not having New Zealand experience has also proven to be a problem for Remuera resident Laila Sabardin – a Malaysian national who migrated to New Zealand with her husband and their daughter nearly one year ago.
The 55-year-old, who graduated with a masters in engineering from Sweden and had worked as a lecturer and head of department at a Malaysian polytech, said she had applied for about 50 vacancies in eight months.
“None have been successful because there’s a lot of things that the New Zealand job market is looking for that I don’t have.”
Most companies were looking for recruits with New Zealand experience, she said.
“My qualifications and experience from overseas are not being considered here.
“That’s the most challenging part for me.”
Various types of engineering roles feature on the immediate skills shortage list and just this week Engineering NZ said an engineer shortage could lead to a construction crisis in New Zealand.
Sabardin believed it might also be a problem that she did not speak “Kiwi English”, she said.
Both her and her husband have been applying for jobs in the same field but were yet to have any success.
“It’s been quite taxing because I spend a lot of my time looking for jobs.”
Without any income Sabardin and her husband have had to live off their savings. They hope to find employment before it runs out.
“I am still hopeful that there is a job here for me and that someone will hire me.”
Migrant Action Trust supports migrants from their arrival in the country to employment, and from assimilation to integration.
Migrant Action Trust marketing and employment manager Dara Romualdez said migrants who used the service cited language and New Zealand experience as the biggest barriers to work.
“They can’t get Kiwi experience unless they get hired first so it’s kind of like a never ending cycle” Romualdez said.
Volunteering, internships and part-time work were all good starting points for gaining experience, she said.
About a third of migrants who used the service said they felt that they had been discriminated against during the job seeking process, she said.
Ongoing rejection while job hunting could be a demoralising experience for migrants and often the Migrant Action Trust suggested looking outside of Auckland for work, she said.
Some migrants got so disheartened by long and unsuccessful job searching that they gave up on New Zealand altogether, she said.
“They get really discouraged.”