How New Zealand Can Benefit from Philippine Agricultural Education Partnerships

The relationship of New Zealand with the Philippines is a mutually beneficial one with many aspects. Foremost among these is NZ's reliance on Filipino agricultural labor, most notably in the field of dairy agriculture. Quite recently, it has been having some concerns with these particularly with regards to vetting candidate qualifications. 1

"That's our prayers - that Immigration will focus on recruiters, because they're the ones who entice people and give the wrong information."
Immigration New Zealand said there were about 1700 Filipinos in the dairy industry on work visas.
Federated Farmers' Otago dairy chair, Stephen Crawford, said a mass exodus would be devastating.
"In the south, we rely pretty heavily on migrant workers and it's quite difficult to get skilled workers on our farms and these guys are very good," he said.

Fraud, especially with migration consultants has resulted in an influx of spuriously documented workers with questionable credentials and experience. As a result, Immigration New Zealand had to reevaluate the statuses of many Filipino workers with regards to their Visa Status. An article from Radio New Zealand about a Filipino migrant worker's conundrum, is very telling: 2

"His assumption is that he has been caught up in a hold placed on new visas by Immigration New Zealand, which is investigating the use of fake documents by Filipino workers.
Last week, the department arrested a dual Filipino and New Zealand national and charged her with offences relating to immigration fraud. She will appear in court in Hamilton today.
Immigration New Zealand has said more arrests are likely. It also said dairy workers who remained with the same employer would not be disadvantaged by any delays in processing applications, as their immigration status would be preserved by grants of interim visas.
However, workers who change employers need changes to their visas - and it is here that some are striking problems.
Imposing more stringent requirements has a good raison d'etre. But it has also constricted labor availability at a very critical time. According to a Fonterra report, the dairy industry of New Zealand accounts for 25% of its economy. 95% of dairy production is exported to the international market.3 It was in 2012, when the dairy industry started to skyrocket. Both demand and value for dairy products increased at that time, heralding the impressive growth of the industry. 4

Here's where Juan the Filipino comes into the picture. 

An increase of 1 million cows necessitates a very significant increase in labor requirements. Some of that has been filled by Filipino Veterinarians or Agriculture graduates seeking greener, or in the case of New Zealand, whiter pastures. 

The heating demand for labor, unfortunately, has also given rise to opportunistic entities who would like to cash in on the need. While the Philippines has historically been an agricultural country, that is certainly no longer the case now. Most farmers in the Philippines barely meet the educational requirements and the work experiences required for New Zealand's labor requirements. The young adult population of the Philippines aspire for the swank office jobs with high pay created by the Philippine BPO industry. The glitz and glamor of the city has dampened most youths' aspiration to pursue a noble and dignifying occupation as a farmer. Both the educational and industrial requirements of the Philippines have shifted. Thich relegated agricultural education and production to secondary status. 

Recommendations:

  • 1. Focus on strategic industry and educational partnerships to help Filipinos meet NZ labor requirements. 
  • 2. These strategic partnerships could come in the form of grants, scholarships and work training. 
  • 3. The new Duterte administration's pledge to bolster agricultural production in the Philippines could run in tandem with New Zealand's goals. 
  • 4. A partnership with the Philippines Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) as a training institution could also prove to be beneficial in the long term. 
  • 5. A partnership with dairy producing companies - which are sparse in the Philippines, could also help potential candidates get ready for a New Zealand like work environment. 
1. "Dairy industry says expulsion of Filipinos would be 'devastating'" Radionz.co.nz. October 22, 2015. 
2. "Filipino dairy workers' struggle in 'paradise'" Radionz.co.nz. October 27, 2015.
3. "The New Zealand Dairy Industry" - New Zealand Dairy Statistics 2010-11 
4. "Dairy Industry Moooving Forward" NZ Official Yearbook 2012