Migration flow lowest since late 2015

Friday 20 July 2018

New Zealand’s years of record breaking migration appear to be over with the latest Stats NZ data showing annual net migration at its lowest since November 2015.

By Miriam Bell

Annual net migration eased slightly to 65,000 in the June 2018 year, as fewer migrants arrived and more left, according to Stats NZ.

That total is down by 7,400 from the peak of 72,400 in the June 2017 year. But monthly migrant arrivals also dropped in June – to 4,850 from 5,080 in May.

Stats NZ acting population insights senior manager Michelle Feyen says that an increase in migrants leaving, particularly non-New Zealand citizens, was the key factor in lower annual net migration.

“A decrease in migrant arrivals also contributed, but net migration still remains high by historical standards.”

Non-New Zealand citizen migrant departures were up by 21% year-on-year in the June 2018 year, while migrant arrivals dipped below 130,000 for the first time since the April 2017 year.

More New Zealand citizens are also now leaving the country long term than returning.

But ASB senior economist Jane Turner says the easing migration flow was largely due to the lift in non-New Zealand citizen departures.

Departures to Australia remain low and steady (which is where New Zealanders often head) while departures to Asia, Europe and the Americas are climbing, she says.

“This suggest 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.”

At the same time, migrant arrivals appear to have peaked and are starting to show tentative signs of turning lower, Turner says.

“The Australia labour market has improved materially over the past six months, and this is likely to see more New Zealanders remain in Australia and, over time, also increase the number who move across the Tasman.”

Westpac senior economist Satish Ranchhod agrees, saying much of the recent downtick in migration relates to flows with Australia and is likely to be related to the firming in the Australian jobs market.

Looking forward, they expect that migration will continue to ease back over the next few years, he says.

“Much of the increase in migration in recent years was due to people arriving on temporary work and student visas. We are now seeing many of those earlier arrivals departing.

“At the same time, economic conditions in many other regions are firming as growth in New Zealand slows. This is making us less attractive as a destination.”

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