Emigration in perspective

Written By: - Date published: 4:35 pm, April 21st, 2008 - 26 comments
Categories: im/migration - Tags:


Last year, 99.33% of New Zealand citizens 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.

There really is nothing extraordinary in the new emigration figures. The numbers ebb and flow. Right now they’re rising but they are still tiny and more than made up for by immigration from other countries.


26 comments on “Emigration in perspective”

  1. Scribe 1


    …but they were more than replaced by new New Zealanders who also think this is a great place to live.

    For argument’s sake, let’s say there are 250 countries in the world. Objectively speaking, New Zealand has to be in the top 30 or so to live in. Many of the people who are flooding in to this country are from countries that would be in the bottom half of that objective list of “great countries to live”.

    The simple fact is that if we looked at New Zealand’s emigration to the top 30 and immigration from the top 30, we’d be on a hiding to nothing.

    Exhibit A: Australia.

    I like immigration and the increasing diversity of New Zealand. But the fact remains that the vast majority of people coming to New Zealand in recent years are from countries that are markedly worse off.

    For Auckland followers, I’d sum it up like this. New Zealand is Sandringham. Our immigrants are coming from Mangere and Henderson and Otara. But Kiwis want to move to Herne Bay (Australia).

    I’m sure there’s an equivalent suburban comparison available for other cities, but I’m a lousy JAFA.

  2. Steve, good piece but your last graph is a little unclear.

    According to your graph key, in 2003 More people left for Australia than left New Zealand…

    Does the black line mean “All (other) countries” other than Australia?

  3. Santi 3

    “There really is nothing extraordinary in the new emigration figures.”

    Really? The high number doesn’t concern you at all?

    “Right now they’re rising but they are still tiny and more than made up for by immigration from other countries.”

    Yes, we are losing qualified professionals to other countries and in their place getting tilers from Thailand (with a little help from a former minister), food packers from the P.I. and taxi drivers from Somalia. That’s an improvement, isn’t it?

    The truth of the matter is that Labour’s immigration policy is a shambles and is not working, regardless of your dispirited defense, “professor of English” Pierson.

  4. Felix 4

    Santi, I like your Auckland suburbs analogy.
    It still ignores the numbers though – which show that only a tiny percentage of the people in Sandringham are actually moving to Herne Bay.
    (Not really surprising if you’ve lived in Herne Bay btw)

  5. Felix 5

    Sorry, that should have been addressed to Scribe. Another coffee should do it.

  6. As a percentage it is small but it is still the region of Timaru leaving annually.

    On the basis (thanks Tane for clarification in previous post) that migration to Australia is cyclical why is it on the increase now ? After 8 years of Labour-led rule we have record low unemployment, the percentage (if not the dollar) wage differential with Australia has been maintained at around 65% for 8 years, and personal wealth has increased (even if funded by Japanese housewives) quoting Helen Clark during question time a few days ago.

    Perhaps we are tired of being treated like ‘naughty school children who have left the hot tap running’ by the Green Party ? Perhaps it is because , as pointed out recently by Dover Samuels on National Radio in response to corpse hijacking, sick of culture being an excuse for behavior ? Tired of seeing our taxes taken to fund TVNZ so it can pay for an accused terrorist to rub noses with John Key ? And on that, tired of seeing politicians like John Key selling his principles in agreeing to do so ( well done Helen Clark for having the dignity not to buy in to that cheap appeasement ) ?

  7. Tane 7

    maw: I find it seriously hard to believe that New Zealanders are leaving because they’re sick of the behaviour of politicians. You’re right that it’s hard to explain why numbers leaving are peaking when we’ve had such a good economic run, but I think it may just be due to lifestyle, weather and the remaining wage differential.

  8. Scribe 8

    Further to my comments above about the source of our immigrants, here are some statistics (from the Herald):

    A net inflow of 6900 migrants came from Britain in the year to the end of March, down from 10,200 the previous year, while net inflows in the latest year also came from India (4200), the Philippines (3300), Fiji (2500), South Africa (2100), China (1900) and Germany (1600).

    Again, I’m not opposed to those immigrants, but a lot of them are simply trying to find a way out of their country because of the problems there. New Zealand is a massive upgrade.

  9. Tane 9

    Scribe, they are skilled and often wealthy migrants though aren’t they? In fact, I’d wager they’re probably more skilled than the average Kiwi emigrant – it is after all harder to get into New Zealand than it is to get out.

  10. r0b 10

    A thoughtful piece on this from Colin James this morning:


  11. AncientGeek 11

    Colin James had several good points. The one I particularly liked was

    National will pretend it can stem the flood but there are no quick fixes; tax is a minor factor in the wage gap.

    The current labour market will correct the problem over time. At some point the resources boom in aussie will abate. It always does.

    The more fundamental issue is increasing productivity and moving to a higher waged economy. It requires investment in productivity by employers. A tighter workforce market will encourage this over time.

    Trying to put in quick fixes is likely to inhibit that. Not that anyone can figure out what in the hell the Nat’s would do anyway.

  12. Tane: perhaps not sick of the behaviour of politicians but sick perhaps of the social interventions undertaken by politicians and the huge increase of taxpayer expenditure on social interventions. As you say the wage differential has been the same for 8 years ( and the weather & lifestyle advantages have always been there) so why ARE the numbers increasing now ? BTW I do live in Herne Bay (well Ponsonby) 🙂

  13. infused 13

    “but they were more than replaced by new New Zealanders who also think this is a great place to live.”

    You keep saying that like it’s a good thing. It isn’t.

  14. Just read the Colin James piece. He makes excellent points that there are no quick fixes and that we need to make doing business as a single economic market easy as possible. On this issue an example of particularly pointless Government expenditure is the recent Green Party sponsored ‘buy NZ made’ campaign.

  15. Steve Pierson 15

    Santi. There’s no brain drain. In fact, we import more highly skilled people than we export.

    Chris S. those are net movements by NZ citizens. Say in total 50,000 NZ citizens left NZ in a year, and 45,000 returned – net migration for all countries would be 5,000.
    Say of that 50,000, 30,000 left for Australia, and say that of the 45,000 returning 20,000 came from Australia – met migration with Australia would be 10,000

    infused. hadn’t picked you for a racist. Was it a good thing when your forebears came to this country and became New Zealanders?

  16. Mike Collins 16

    Strange to see a graph on the Standard start at 0. Normally you guys start the y axis close to the top of the bars and subsequently give a distorted picture. Guess it depends on what point you are trying to prove/push.

    Captcha: vogue rainbow – this really must be a Labour Party blog 😉

  17. Matthew Pilott 17

    Distorted? Emphasised maybe, Mike C, most of us can imagine how long the bars would be for them to reach 0…

  18. Mike Collins 18

    I know why it is done Matthew – emphasis is one way of putting it. Distortion is another. But the ad hoc way certain statistics are “emphasised” is what I was drawing attention to. Obvious partisan representation of statistics certainly makes me a lot less likely to take anything they might say to heart.

  19. Scribe 19


    they are skilled and often wealthy migrants though aren’t they? In fact, I’d wager they’re probably more skilled than the average Kiwi emigrant


    In fact, we import more highly skilled people than we export.

    Do you guys have supporting evidence for these claims? I simply don’t know, but since you’ve offered it, I thought I’d ask.

    And when you say they’re more highly skilled, does that include the doctors and scientists who come here and wind up driving taxis because they’re not qualified up to NZ standards?

  20. Tane 20

    Mike, often when you’re looking at an increase or decrease over time it’s more enlightening not to start at zero.

    However, if your stated point is that 99.33% of New Zealanders chose to stay in New Zealand then it makes sense to show 100% of the graph.

    I think your mistake is to assume that there is such a thing as an objective graph, whereas every decision made in creating a graph is actually subjective. Which data series you use, where you start the graph, what kind of graph you use, where you begin and end your series, what colours you use, how long or high you make your graph and how you title it are all subject to bias.

    Feel free to point out the limitations of graphing, or better yet start your own blog and show us an alternative interpretation. But don’t just sit there on the sidelines bitching every time we put up a graph.

  21. Mike Collins 21

    “don’t just sit there on the sidelines bitching every time we put up a graph.”

    First time I’ve done that. And by the way I don’t particularly care if you are making the graphs accurate or not (intentionally or otherwise). I was just noting that your subjectivity, as you put it, tends to lead to representations that promote your viewpoint.

  22. Tane 22

    Mike, fair enough, I may have confused you for someone else. It’s a common refrain from the right – “your graph doesn’t start at zero”, “your graph uses the wrong colours”, “you should do this kind of graph not that kind of graph” – and it gets rather tiring after a while. I’d rather debate the issues.

  23. Tane 23

    Scribe, I don’t have a study on me right now, but it seems to make sense given it’s harder to get into New Zealand than it is to get out.

    This graph and this story from the Independent Financial Review seem to back this up.

  24. Draco TB 24

    Perhaps we are tired of…

    Or perhaps people are tired of being paid less than they are worth by NZ employers.

  25. Absolute Power 25

    If the unions didn’t drain the workers wages to keep a government in power then the worker would have more money to feed his family.

  26. Tane 26

    You’re right AP – it’s that $5 a week union fee that’s holding New Zealand incomes back. That’s why Kiwi wages boomed under National in the 90s eh?

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