National likes to talk down New Zealand, to portray this great country as underperforming, to exaggerate our problems, and to cast our unique traits and values as barriers to â€˜success’ (success is becoming a more homogenised off-shoot of American capitalism). A great way to further the message is wailing about people leaving for Australia – without providing any policy to stem the flow, of course (clue: pay cuts won’t help, John). So, predictably National was full of false outrage over the latest migration figures: net emigration to Australia last year of 28,615. But is this really a big deal?
First, what is migration? It is when a person moves from one country to another intending to leave for longer than a year and when a person who has been away longer than a year returns. A German who was here for a year and leaves counts as an emigrant from New Zealand in the headline figures. If you go on a 2 year OE to Sydney, you are counted as an emigrant even though you haven’t left for good. So, an increase in emigration doesn’t have to mean more people are leaving forever. It can be that more people are doing OEs, and that’s down partially to demographics and economics. If (as currently) there are more young adults and they are more likely to have jobs with decent pay to save for travel, you have more OEs.
Second, is the country emptying out? No. 28,615 people would be a lot of people to have at a party but its only 0.67% of the population. Plus, we receive more immigrants than we lose emigrants every year.
Third, is this an unprecedented level of net emigration? No, it’s within historical norms. Migration is cyclical; the last peak was 2000 (at a higher level than today), the last trough, 2003.
Last year, 99.33% of Kiwis liked their country so much they stayed. Some left for short periods, and some left forever but they were more than replaced by new New Zealanders who also think this is a great place to live. If only National felt the same way.