Pay Peril: The Clash Between INZ Requirements and Teacher Pay in New Zealand for Secondary Teachers

By Hannah Alcantara

In the ever-evolving realm of education, the heartbeat of our future lies in the hands of skilled and passionate teachers. In New Zealand, Secondary School Teachers stand as the bedrock of our education system, sculpting the minds that will shape tomorrow’s leaders. However, despite the critical role they play, there exists a disparity that threatens to undermine the pathway to residence for these educators.

The recent announcement by Immigration and Education Minister Erica Stanford in April 2024 brought a ray of hope for secondary teachers aspiring to make New Zealand their home[1]. Addressing the ongoing challenges of workforce shortages, particularly in the education sector, Stanford unveiled plans to fast-track secondary teachers to residency. This move aims to prioritize the journey for eligible overseas secondary school teachers, allowing them to directly apply for residence from overseas.

The significance of this shift cannot be overstated. It signifies a recognition of the vital role played by overseas-trained teachers in addressing critical shortages and ensuring that all schools have access to the best talent.

The Straight to Residence Visa presents an opportunity for skilled professionals seeking to call New Zealand home. For Secondary School Teachers, this pathway seems straightforward on the surface, with some key requirements such as employment with an accredited employer and a salary at or above the median wage of 31.61 NZD per hour (around 65,750 NZD annually). Yet, beneath this veneer lies a challenge that many overseas-trained teachers face: the discrepancy between the median wage requirement and the remuneration outlined in the Secondary Teacher’s Collective Agreement.

Diving into the heart of the matter, the Secondary Teacher’s Collective Agreement establishes a base salary scale[2] that, while reflective of the dedication and expertise of educators, may fall short of meeting the median wage threshold set for residence visas. With overseas-trained teachers often being granted qualifications at Step 4- Level 7 under the New Zealand Qualifications Framework (NZQF), their earnings at 64,086 NZD may not align with the prescribed wage, particularly for those recognised in the lower steps of the salary scale.

Acknowledging New Zealand's dire need for qualified teachers, it becomes vital to recognize and address the unique challenges faced by overseas-trained educators. By imposing barriers that hinder their path to residency, we risk squandering the immense contributions they offer to our educational landscape and society at large.

The forthcoming increase in the base salary for Step 4 teachers, scheduled for December 2024 and rising to 66,586 NZD, signals a step in the right direction. This adjustment aligns remuneration more closely with the median wage requirement, alleviating the burden on overseas-trained teachers and aligning the pathway to residency with the dynamic realities of the education sector.

Nevertheless, waiting until December for a resolution is a luxury we cannot afford. Immediate action is imperative to rectify the discrepancy and ensure equitable treatment for all Secondary School Teachers aspiring to make New Zealand their permanent home. This may necessitate interim measures, such as temporary adjustments to the wage threshold.

As a country committed to equity, diversity, and excellence in education, we must embody these principles in our immigration policies. By bridging the gap between wage requirements and the realities of teacher remuneration, we not only keep the invaluable contributions of overseas-trained teachers but also reaffirm our dedication to fostering a vibrant and inclusive education sector.

We have taken care to ensure that the information given is accurate, however it is intended for general guidance only and it should not be relied upon in individual cases. Professional advice should always be sought before any decision or action is taken.