Migration hits two year low

Monday 21 May 2018

Public calls for the government to cut immigration continue but the latest Statistics New Zealand data shows the migration flow is easing all on its own.

By Miriam Bell

There was annual net migration of 67,000 in the April 2018 year – which was the lowest total in two years, according to Stats NZ.

This total is down 4,800 from the 71,900 recorded for the April 2017 year and is down 5,400 from the record figure of 72,400 recorded for the year to July 2017.

Stats NZ population insights senior manager Brooke Theyers says the easing total is because more non-New Zealand citizens are leaving the country.

“Interestingly, the number of arrivals increased in the April 2018 year, so it is the larger increase in departures that drove the lower net migration level.”

While more than 98,000 non-New Zealand citizens arrived in the April 2018 year, more than 30,000 non-New Zealand citizens left over the same period.

This departure figure was up by 23% on a year earlier and meant there was a net migration gain of non-New Zealand citizens of 68,100.

Conversely, the net migration from New Zealand citizens was a loss of 1,100 – made up of 32,100 arriving and 33,200 departing.

Theyers also says that while migrant arrivals on work visas rose by 5% to 46,400 in the April 2018 year, there was a 14% fall in arrivals on residence visas compared with a year ago.

The countries that were the biggest sources of work-visa migrants were the United Kingdom, France, and Germany.

Meanwhile, the number of student-visa migrants stayed almost the same in the April 2018 year: they were down 100 to 23,700.

ASB senior economist Jane Turner says the data shows that net migration continues to cool as permanent and long-term departures continue to pick up from low levels. 

Monthly permanent and long-term arrivals do remain elevated, but are no longer growing on a trend basis and are down 4.5% on year-ago levels, she says.

“Looking at the departure data, departures to Australia remain low and steady (which is where New Zealanders often head) while departures to Asia, Europe and the Americas are climbing.

“This suggests the strong surge in arrivals seen in recent years is now boosting the level of departures as some of these ‘long-term’ residents head home, possibly after completing studies or the expiration of a two-year youth working holiday visa.”

Turner says another interesting finding from Stats NZ is that a growing number of arrivals who intended to stay for one year have changed their mind and left before this year is up.

“From here we expect the current trends to continue, with departures to continue rising and arrivals to continue moderating.”

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