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Finding Work in New Zealand

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New Zealand

Finding work in New Zealand or employment in New Zealand can be the next challenge for any would be looking to emigrate to the country.

If you’re going to New Zealand on one of the country’s work-base visas, often you’ll already have a firm offer of employment before you start out. Otherwise, it’s a question of getting through the points system and then looking for a job once you’re there. While the points system can be frustrating, it does have the advantage that you’re unlikely to be unable to find work in New Zealand if you have the points for a visa.

If you have skills in areas where there’s a skills shortage, you’re both more likely to find a job and more likely to get through the visa system too. There’s a list of the skilled jobs where New Zealand is short of personnel here.

Getting a Job in New Zealand

Once you have a job, New Zealand’s tax rates are between 12.2% and 46.7% depending on income; there’s a tax calculator here. There’s a PAYE (pay as you earn) system similar to the one in place in the UK but unlike some countries, such as Britain, there’s no tax free allowance and you’ll be taxed on every dollar you earn.

New Zealand’s median income is about NZ$44,000, and on the whole it’s rising slightly yearly.  The typical hourly income is about NZ$23.00, and there’s 94% gender wage parity, meaning that on average, women earn 94% what men do – better than the differences in many other countries.

The New Zealand economy appears at first glance to be contradictory –two of the biggest growth areas right now are in tech and forestry, which seem worlds apart. Partly that’s because new Zealand is worlds apart – the sparsely populated South Island is a very different place from the North Island, and rural New Zealand is different from the modern cities, especially Auckland, by far the largest city in New Zealand.

When you find a job in New Zealand, you’ll find that the country’s informal culture permeates the workplace too. There’s relatively little formality in dress or the way people speak, for instance, and it’s typical for people to be on first-name terms with everyone both above and below them in the organisational structure, even in large enterprises.

Part and parcel of this relaxed approach to work is the expectation that staff contribute outside of their specific job capacity; it’s a mixture of ‘lend a hand’ and ‘manage up’ that comes as a surprise to some people, but that New Zealanders consider part of their egalitarian, frontier culture. Those qualities may be frowned upon in some work cultures, but to Kiwis, it’s what’s expected.

There’s a lot of agricultural work available in New Zealand, and kiwi fruit, wool and meat, and dairy products remain the country’s biggest exports. Salaries are good but it’s probably the wrong country to go to to try to strike it rich.

One issue in any part of New Zealand, especially in more rural areas, is transport. Like many prosperous countries with large backcountry areas, like Canada, New Zealand relies on car use. You can drive for up to a year on a UK or an International licence, but after that, you’ll need to apply for a New Zealand driver’s licence, which is done by applying for conversion of your existing licence. You’ll have to pass an eye test too. Public transport is a realistic option in New Zealand for travelling between towns and cities but it’s not going to get the job done if you have a job at a private location like a farm or business that’s off the bus route; especially in the very rural areas, the distances involved can be large.

One big positive effect of this is that many people commute for shorter times than are normal in the UK or other densely populated areas and are able to combine an industrial, managerial or tech job with a lifestyle that’s all about the beach or the bush. You can leave work on a busy street and be on a surfboard thirty minutes later.

When you’re figuring out what your work life in New Zealand is going to be like you should consider things like:

Will your job in New Zealand be the same?

While New Zealand’s economy might need your skills, it might not use them in the same way. Figuring out your way through the points system should include figuring out whether you’re suitable for a different role in New Zealand from what you’ve been doing previously. It’s also important to consider how compatible your lifestyle ambitions are with your work plans: some careers won’t be available in certain locations, while others are more portable.

Is your CV Kiwi-ready?

Like many countries, New Zealand work culture has its own distinctive style of CV. The New Zealand’s government website has a CV building tool to help get it right!  Typically, New Zealand CVs are quite highly detailed and often run to several pages.

Job Search, Kiwi-style

Hunting for work is made more difficult by not being in New Zealand! If you’re still in your home country you can use online tools, including sites and online communities dedicated to your niche or work area – like Edgagazette for teachers and teaching assistants –  as well as more general search tools and job sites. You should also consider using local auction sites like Trademe. It’s much easier to hunt a job in New Zealand once you’re actually there, and the new Zealand government’s website has advice on how to go about it.

Give some thought to how you’re going to handle job interviews. Being from overseas can work to your advantage if you let it: it shows you’re enterprising and outgoing, so let it be a virtue. You should also be prepared to undertake psychometric testing, which is extremely common at the professional level in New Zealand. You should also be aware that it’s uncommon for companies to make professional level hires who don’t have residency or long-term visas, though it’s also not that unusual to make a deal with the company to sort your visa status out after you’ve arranged your job.

There’s a reasonable degree of flexibility when finding work in New Zealand.