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Net migration loss of NZ citizens tops 50,000 for first time

Author
John Weekes,
Publish Date
Tue, 14 May 2024, 12:51pm
Total migrant departures for the year were 127,800, also a record. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Total migrant departures for the year were 127,800, also a record. Photo / Brett Phibbs

Net migration loss of NZ citizens tops 50,000 for first time

Author
John Weekes,
Publish Date
Tue, 14 May 2024, 12:51pm

A record 52,500 New Zealand citizens left the country in the year ended March 31, according to Stats NZ. 

The latest numbers were much higher than the previous record of 44,400 citizen departures, more than a decade ago. 

“This is the first time the annual net migration loss of New Zealand citizens has exceeded 50,000,” Tehseen Islam, of Stats NZ, said this morning. 

Total migrant departures for the year were 127,800, also a record. 

But it seemed migrant arrival numbers had peaked. 

Stats NZ said according to provisional data, arrivals peaked at 244,800 in the year ended December 2023. 

For the year ended March 2024, arrivals numbered 239,000. 

The previous record net migration loss of New Zealand citizens was 44,400 in the year to February 2012. 

Migrant arrivals 

Stats NZ said the provisional net migration gain of 111,100 in the year comprised a net gain of 163,600 non-New Zealand citizens that more than offset the net migration loss of 52,500 Kiwi citizens. 

For migrant arrivals in the March 2024 year, citizens of India were the largest group, with 49,800 arrivals. 

About 31,900 Philippines citizens arrived. About 26,800 arrivals were citizens of China and 25,800 were New Zealand citizens. 

The next largest groups, by citizenship, were from Fiji, South Africa, Sri Lanka and the UK. 

“Country of citizenship is the nationality of passport used to arrive in or depart from New Zealand and is not necessarily the country of previous or next residence,” Stats NZ said. 

For non-New Zealand citizens, the net migration gain of 163,600 in the year to March compared with a net migration gain of 105,000 in the March 2023 year. 

It was well above the pre-Covid average for March years of 47,600. 

For March this year compared with the same month in 2023, migrant arrivals were down 17 per cent and numbered 20,800. 

Departures were up 98 per cent to 16,300. 

An economist said many of the Kiwi citizens leaving were probably younger people with skills, trades and earning potential. 

“Kiwis are not getting ahead and they’re looking offshore and thinking, ‘why not’?” ASB senior economist Mark Smith told the Herald. 

“From an OE point of view, if you do have the skills in demand, you’ll probably go.” 

The Stats NZ figures are provisional, meaning the agency does sometimes revise them later. 

A senior ASB economist says economies such as Australia's face similar challenges to New Zealand, but can be much more alluring to young people weighing up job and career prospects. Photo / SuppliedA senior ASB economist says economies such as Australia's face similar challenges to New Zealand, but can be much more alluring to young people weighing up job and career prospects. Photo / Supplied 

“They key stuff was the direction of the revision. In the past we’ve had the migration numbers revised up. Now they’re being revised down,” Smith said today. 

Many of the departing citizens were probably heading to Australia and the UK, he said. 

“All of these economies are facing similar challenges but arguably, they’re in a slightly [better] position than we are.” 

Smith some of the departures were also due to pent-up demand for travel, which was suppressed for the first two years of the pandemic. 

He expected net overall migration to cool from the latest figure of 111,100 to about 65,000 this year due to the sluggish New Zealand economy and a tightening of entry criteria. 

This would probably impact the construction sector, especially residential construction, and the retailers selling consumer durable goods that new migrants need. 

The loss of citizens was likely to have some corrosive effects on the economy, Smith said. 

“You’re losing quite a lot of productive talent. New Zealand’s productivity track record has been abysmal since Covid.” 

Smith said the latest migration data indicated a prolonged slowdown. 

Despite the generally grim prognosis, Smith said there was at least the prospect of the Reserve Bank cutting the Official Cash Rate sooner than expected. 

And he said the latest travel data, also released today, was positive. 

Stats NZ said in the year to March, there were 3.18 million visitor arrivals, up by 984,000 on a year earlier. 

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