New Zealand

Christa Fouché and Liz Beddoe of the University of Auckland are New Zealand Research On Workforce Mobility network members. Their recent non-ROWM work, ‘Crossing Borders’, serves as an introduction to the topic of migrant working in New Zealand social work:

Crossing Borders: An exploration of migrant professional workforce dynamics: A New Zealand Research Project


Principal Investigator
Associate Professor Christa Fouché

Associate Professor Liz Beddoe
Dr Allen Bartley

The project

New Zealand faces the challenge of an increasingly mobile professional social work workforce. The recruitment of social workers from different countries across the globe provided an opportunity for New Zealand researchers to develop a profile of social work migrant professionals in NZ and explore the key professional issues being experienced.

The study was undertaken in three parts using a combination of qualitative and quantitative strategies: Phase I comprised an examination of the key features of the 234 registered social workers in New Zealand with an overseas social work qualification. The results of key informant group interviews with 18 migrant social work practitioners as phase II of the study, informed phase III, which comprised a survey of 294 migrant social workers.

A thematic analysis of the focus group data highlighted 11 themes with ‘cultural issues’ and ‘the professional status of the profession’ being identified as two pertinent themes, alongside ‘induction and orientation processes’. The findings concur with issues raised in similar studies regarding challenges faced by migrant practitioners in a new country. The themes derived from analysis of the focus group data were used to develop an on-line survey. Of the 294 social workers who completed the online survey nearly three-quarters (71.4%) of the participants had been in NZ less than 10 years with 8.3% reported to have been in NZ more than 20 years. The largest group gained their social work qualification in the United Kingdom, followed by social workers from Africa, Europe, Oceania and Asia.

Our research highlights the need for strategies to facilitate migrant social workers’ adjustment to a new setting. We lack processes for aiding social workers crossing borders to understand how the social work discourse has evolved in their new country and how they might use the notion of ‘person-in-situation’ to adapt their practice to suit context. Respect for diversity and different worldviews, especially of indigenous peoples, demands that migrant social workers be provided with opportunities for excellent induction to local, regional and professional cultures.

Publications to date

Bartley, A., Beddoe, L., Duke, J., Fouché, C., Harington, P. R. J., & Shah, R. (2011) ‘Crossing Borders: Key features of migrant social workers in New Zealand’, Aotearoa New Zealand Social Work, 23(3): 16-30.

This article reports on the first phase of the project, a literature review and an examination of data regarding social workers in New Zealand registered with an overseas social work qualification.

Beddoe, L., Fouché, C., Bartley, A., & Harington, P. (2011) ‘Migrant Social Workers’ Experience in New Zealand: Education and Supervision Issues’, Social Work Education, 1-20. doi:10.1080/02615479.2011.633600

This article reports on the views and reported experiences of overseas qualified social workers in New Zealand with respect to education, professional development and supervision.

Fouché, C. & Beddoe, L. (2012) ‘Crossing Borders: Migrant Social Workers as Global Professionals’. In N. Hall (Ed.) Social Work Around the World V: The Global Agenda for Social Work and Social Development. (pp. 53-64). Geneva: IFSW.

Bartley, A., Beddoe, L., Fouché, C. & Harington. P. (2012) ‘Transnational social workers: Making the profession a transnational professional space’, International Journal of Population Research. doi:10.1155/2012/527510. 2012.