Beyond Filling the Skill Gaps - The Entrepreneurial Drivers, Challenges, and Contribution Channels of Skilled Indian Migrants in the New Zealand Economy
Skilled migrants are an essential component of global migration flows to developed countries. This includes New Zealand, which is highly dependent on skilled migrant labour to fill its labour market shortages (DOL, 2009; MBIE, 2017b, 2018). However, New Zealand lacks context-specific research on the motivations and contributions of skilled migrants, particularly skilled migrant entrepreneurs, who are an asset to the host country (Nathan, 2014).
Therefore, this study looks at skilled migrants beyond their basic role of filling labour market shortages, to explore their entrepreneurial drivers, challenges, and contribution channels in the New Zealand economy. Specifically, this thesis uses the case of skilled migrants from India, as India has been New Zealand’s top source of skilled labour since 2012 (MBIE, 2018). In fact, it is the only country for which the New Zealand government has established a strategic goal to attract and retain skilled migrants under the NZ Inc India Strategy (MFAT, n.d.).
Being exploratory in nature, this study employed a case study design (Yin, 2014). Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 10 first-generation skilled Indian migrant employees turned entrepreneurs from across New Zealand, in the short skilled sectors of health, hospitality, and ICT. These participants were selected through purposive sampling and data was manually analysed using thematic content analysis (Miles & Huberman, 2014).
The study concluded that skilled Indian migrants in skilled employment in New Zealand are more likely to be pulled than pushed into entrepreneurship. They are also likely to use more contribution channels in the role of an entrepreneur than an employee. This conclusion is reflective of the fact that over 80 percent of skilled migrants in New Zealand have high levels of jobs satisfaction (MBIE, 2012a; 2015d) and are valued in the labour market for filling skill shortages (North, 2007; MBIE, 2015d), hence less likely to be forced into entrepreneurship.
In reference to the New Zealand business environment, this study found that the regulatory setting in New Zealand encourages entrepreneurship, but its complex and costly compliance procedures, lack of clear administrative processes, and incoherent information sources present entrepreneurial barriers and challenges for skilled Indian migrants. This is in line with the existing academic literature and documentation on migrant businesses in New Zealand. For instance, studies by North and Trlin (2004) and Cleland and Davey (2014) have identified compliance costs as a key entrepreneurial challenge for migrant businesses in New Zealand.
This research also found that regulatory policies, such as the immigration policy appear to be incognizant of some context-specific differences in industry sectors. For instance, Immigration NZ’s policy changes restricting the level of immigration for hospitality occupations are often criticised because these policies ignore business-specific differences and the extensive skill shortages in this sector (Guy, 2017; Harris, 2017).
A key limitation of this study is its sample size. At the design stage, this study proposed a range of 10-20 in-depth interviews, but could only engage ten participants. This was despite extensive attempts to advertise and (snowball) sample potential participants through personal acquaintances and business organisations, such as the India New Zealand Business Council (INZBC), Asia NZ Foundation and the Office of Ethnic Communities.
The key areas identified for future research include a comparative study of the key skill source countries for New Zealand, such as China, the Philippines, South Africa and the UK. Future research can also focus on cross-country comparisons with countries that have similar immigration policies and skill needs to New Zealand, such as Australia and Canada. The entrepreneurial drivers, barriers, and contribution channels frameworks used in this thesis may be adopted for future context-specific research on skilled migrants.