New Zealand less appealing to non-citizens

Wednesday July 25, 2018 Mark Cox

In the year to June 2018, net migration to New Zealand was 65,000[1].  This was significantly lower than the peak level of just over 72,300 in the middle of 2017, but it was still very high by historical standards.  In fact, the net migration of 65,000 added approximately 1.3 percent to the country’s population. 


Net migration is the sum of the number of New Zealand citizens and non-citizens arriving in the country on a permanent or long-term basis, less the number of New Zealand citizens and non-citizens departing the country on a permanent or long-term basis.  The chart below shows how net migration has changed over the past 10 years.


Between 2008 and 2013, net migration averaged 7,100 people a year, although it will be seen that the number became negative (i.e. there was net outmigration) in 2012.  However, after 2013, net migration increased very rapidly, and the average for the past five years has been 60,500. 


graph 26 07 18 01


The net 65,000 migrants in the year to June 2018 was composed of 99,200 non-New Zealand citizens and 32,200 New Zealand citizens arriving, less 30,900 non-New Zealand citizens and 33,700 New Zealand citizens departing.


A key question, though, is how the composition of migration has changed.  The numbers in the diagram below show the changes between the latest two years ending in June.  The numbers reveal that there was slightly fewer arrivals, and slightly more departures, of New Zealand citizens.  Overall, net migration of New Zealand citizens fell by 500 between the year to June 2017 and the year to June 2018.


But the much larger changes were in the numbers of non-New Zealand citizens arriving and departing.  The number of non-New Zealand citizens arriving fell by 1,500, and the number departing increased by 5,300.  New Zealand clearly became less attractive to non-citizens during the year to June 2018, although it should be remembered that there are still far more non-New Zealand citizens arriving than there are departing.


Change in migration (year to June 2018, compared with year to June 2017)


graph 26 07 18 02


Statistics New Zealand does not provide data on the visa classes of non-New Zealand citizens departing on a permanent or long-term basis, but it does show the numbers for non-New Zealand citizens arriving on the same basis.  Compared to the year to June 2017, there were 2,800 fewer residence visas and 400 fewer student visas granted in the year to June 2018.  On the other hand, there were 1,300 more work visas and 100 more visitor visas. 


Finally, a 7,300 drop in net migration, to total of 65,000, might seem large, but the latest total is still more than three times the average net migration figure over the past 25 years.  And whether the change in the total and its composition are a good or bad thing is still a matter for debate.


[1] All numbers in this article have been rounded to the nearest 100.