Inward migration: A story of no-one wanting to leave

I endorse this post by Aaron Schiff – go read it.

You will also notice in the above chart that over the past ten years the number of arrivals has been relatively steady with a slight upwards trend, while departures is more volatile. Thus temporary spikes in net migration seem to be caused more often by changes in the number of people leaving rather than arriving, although the recent spike has been caused by both sides of the equation.

Something I would note here is that, until recently, this has been largely a story of New Zealander’s coming home as well.  Finally:

We should celebrate because on the incoming side, skilled immigrants provide New Zealand with a significant free gift. Some other country has paid the cost of their birth, childcare, childhood medical care, education, etc. They turn up in New Zealand effectively bringing all that investment with them and this benefits the country. Sounds good to me.

Something I would note here – it is a strange contradiction complaining about a brain drain while bemoaning skilled migrants moving here.

Deep down we should be a little bit more careful thinking about both issues.  People are moving as they see it as being in the long-run interest of their family and their lives – in that way, why is it so hard for us to accept that NZer’s may want to spend some time overseas, and that non-NZ citizens may want to join our community?

5 replies
  1. Michael Reddell
    Michael Reddell says:

    Entirely agree that people are moving with a view to their own (and their families’) long-term best interests. Good for them. But that shouldn’t be the basis for New Zealand’s immigration policy. Rather the focus should be on whether people coming here (in large numbers) is in the best long-term interests of existing New Zealanders (ie the voters), The large net outflow to Australia – which ebbs and flows with the relative economic cycles, but has on average been large for decades – is an indication that for very large numbers of NZer, moving to Australia is in their long-term best interests. Indeed, such movement of resources tends to encourage factor price equalisation (as it did between Europe and the settlement countries in the 19th century). GIven the net outflow of NZers, it seems inherently unlikely that government administrative action to more than replace those leaving is likely to be in the best interests of NZers. It would be about as odd as if governments had reacted to the net flow of people out of Taihape or Invercargill by adopting policies that required immigrants to settle in those areas. Doing so might still have benefited the immigrants – there are plenty of places in the world worse off than Taihape or Invercargill – but is most unlikely to have benefited those towns themselves. When 60% of the public (according to two recent polls) favour greater restrictions on immigration, the onus should really be on the supporters of large scale inward migration of non-NZers to make a persuasive case that, in the specific circumstances of NZ, the increased migration of the last 25 years or so has been in the economic interests of NZ.

    • Matt Nolan
      Matt Nolan says:

      This is a broad question about the long term level of net-inflows and involves thinking through two concepts:

      1) Is immigration good for current residents.

      2) How much do we, as a community, value potential future residents.

      If we can argue that the first one is positive, there is no need to consider the second question – which is why this is where the debate heads (both in the literature and in your comment).

      Now this can be seen as an open question. When NZIER released this ( they were specifically noting that a higher population would lead to higher incomes for current residents. Furthermore, I was under the impression that both the literature on migration and agglomeration tended to support this type of view.

      There may be some trade-off between income and other lifestyle elements (land per person, population density) but this makes it an open question – and it still leaves the second question of “social responsibility as a global citizen” open.

      • Shamubeel Eaqub
        Shamubeel Eaqub says:

        Why is the question of immigration only for the last 25 years? NZ has had immigration for a much longer period?

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