New Zealand’s new migration record

Recent statistics around New Zealand’s number of migrants have shown that a new record was reached in the past year. Net migration (which means arrivals minus departures) was recorded at 72,400 from the July 2017 year, which is the highest it has ever been. In this 2017 year, there were 132,100 migrant arrivals and 59,700 migrant departures. To put this in perspective, it’s been estimated that New Zealand’s gain from net migration equates to 15 people per 1000 population.

Other reported findings saw both increases and decreases in the number of migrants from Commonwealth countries. The number of migrants from India went down by 3,900, believed to be related to a decrease in student migrant arrivals. The biggest increase in net migration was from the United Kingdom, up by 2,400. The second biggest increase came from South Africa, which was up by 1,600.

These figures are, of course, dependent on who is deemed a migrant, which is based on traveller passenger cards. In a recent statement, the population statistics senior manager of Statistics New Zealand, Peter Dolan, said that while most migrants arrive on either student or short-term work visas, the classification applies regardless. “It’s how long they stay in New Zealand, not their visa type, which affects whether they are counted as long-term migrants or short-term visitors,” said Peter. If the person’s visit is longer than that of a short-term traveller (more than a year), they become known as a migrant for statistical purposes.

This classification system can be flawed, as it is based on people’s intentions and declarations. Because of this, some experts state that net migration could actually be underestimated by as much as 8000 people a year. Economist Mieke Welvaert said her team at Infometrics had analysed Statistics New Zealand data of what people stated on their arrival cards. "It turns out that when there are lots of employment opportunities, tourists get new visas and effectively become migrants,” said Mieke. "We had this problem back in 2003 when at-the border measures under-measured net migration by 18,000 people."
But it may not be a big problem yet. Peter Dolan said that currently the country’s migration rate is similar to the one Australia had back in 2009. “Our current net migration rate is high by New Zealand standards, but historically it has fluctuated more than other countries,” he said.