NZTech is eager to help encourage more highly skilled overseas tech workers to immigrate to New Zealand to fill the digital skills shortage.
Graeme Muller, the NZTech chief executive, says some tech workers are exempt and can come into New Zealand during the global health crisis via the other critical workers' pathway, but many key roles are still unable to get access.
“New Zealand is seen as an attractive destination right now and there are massive opportunities for us to attract tech talent from the best tech countries in the world, and we can be smart about it.
“It was disappointing not to see anything significant in the Budget regarding tech, tech research or funds to develop tech skills in areas such as AI, biotech or agritech.
“We have to attract highly trained professionals and experienced tech entrepreneurs to invest here in Aotearoa. The government could easily double the size of the $12billion technology industry which really would snowball the economy’s recovery.
“The New Zealand tech sector is being hampered. Technology is on track to become New Zealand’s largest export sector before 2030 and the covid pandemic has highlighted the comparative advantage weightless exports now offer over traditional commodities and the role the sector plays in our economy.
“The 2020 Technology Investment Network (TIN) report showed export revenue for the top 200 tech exporters rose by 10.6 per cent, to a total of $9.4 billion. This was a strong performance in spite of tough economic headwinds and total revenue hit $12.7 billion.”
Muller said that an issue being consistently reported to him from tech firms up and down the country relates to labour constraints and the inability to bring new staff into the country.
NZTech is deeply concerned that if this trend continues for too long, Aotearoa’s largest digital firms will be forced to build up their offshore teams and we will see a decreasing New Zealand tech footprint.
The economic and social benefit of having NZ-based staff is clear, Muller said.
These highly-paid and highly-skilled employees choose to make New Zealand their home, often bringing their families here and becoming important contributors to the local economy.
“Our export sectors underpin our economy and the tech sector should be, front and centre of our long-term economic growth.
“We also hope that more New Zealanders will start considering tech as a career for themselves or their kids, given the large number and type of well-paid tech roles on offer with the median salaries well over $80,000 a year.”