NZ migration numbers surprising

New Zealand has long depended on its migrants as a critical component of its economic growth. Bearing this in mind, let us look at what has been happening with migration to our shores in the last year.

In the year to the end of January 2021 compared to the previous 12 months, our population growth from migration declined by 57%.

Statistics NZ figures show there was a net migration gain (long term arrivals minus long term departures) of 33,0001 over this same period, compared to 78,000 in the year to January 2020.

While the number of people settling in New Zealand has more than halved over the last 12 months (for obvious reasons), there has been an even bigger change in the mix of migrants.

Of the net gain of 33,000 migrants, 21,000 were New Zealand citizens and just 12,500 were citizens of other countries.

So, for the first time New Zealand citizens have made up a bigger share of the country’s net migration gain than citizens of other countries since Statistics NZ began gathering migration data in the 1970’s.

There have been many analysts, especially pertaining to the housing market, that have been suggesting that the number of New Zealanders returning from overseas during the Covid-19 pandemic would make up for the loss of migrants from other countries but that has not been so.

In the 12 months to January this year, just 30,500 NZ citizens returned long term, a reduction of 12,000 (-28%) compared to the 42,500 NZ citizens who returned long term in the previous 12 months.

Essentially, returning New Zealand citizens may be making up a bigger share of a smaller net population gain, but their numbers are still well down compared to previous years.

Another surprising change in the migration patterns is that there was a net loss of Chinese citizens in the year to January.

This week Immigration NZ said that since 20th March 2020, 159,500 people entered New Zealand. Just under 124,000 were citizens and permanent residents, while 35,500 were allowed in as temporary or non-permanent resident visa holders, which includes 11,000 critical workers.

Out of those critical workers, approximately a third were health workers, with the remainder coming from a multitude of industries, including the entertainment industry.

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[1] The numbers quoted in the article are rounded to the nearest 500, for ease of reading.

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