Migration tide continues to turn

Friday 2 February 2018

The record-breaking flow of migrants into New Zealand is continuing to come off its peak, according to the latest Statistics NZ data.

By Miriam Bell

It shows there was an annual net gain of 70,000 migrants in the December 2017 year – which is down by 600 on the same time the previous year.

This was the lowest total in 15 months.

Annual net migration reached a record high of 72,400 in the July 2017 year, but the totals have been dropping in the five months since then.

Last month’s data from Statistics NZ had annual net migration at 70,400 in the year to November 2017.

While the annual migrant total was down in the year to December, the month of December 2017 actually saw a slight lift in migrant arrivals.

There were 5,700 new migrant arrivals in December, as compared to 5,600 in November 2017.

Statistics NZ population statistics manager Peter Dolan says that most migrants are non-New Zealand citizens.

That’s because the number of New Zealand citizens leaving the country intending to live long-term overseas and those returning home almost balanced each other out, he says.

“But while arrivals of non-New Zealand citizen migrants increased to 99,300 in the past 12 months, there was also an increase in those leaving the country after migrating here in the past.” 

For ASB senior economist Mark Smith, there were signs of stabilisation in the monthly data, pointing to a plateauing in annual net migration inflows at around 68,000 persons.

He says they still expect net inflows to moderate, as the synchronised global upswing and tight Australian labour market trigger a moderation in net non-NZ resident arrival numbers and a pick-up in departures.

“Net migration inflows are expected to slow to around 40,000 persons by the end of 2019 and under 20,000 persons by the end of 2021.

“Risks, however, are tilted towards the tailing off in net immigration being later and less pronounced than what we expect.”

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