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Foreigners flocking to New Zealand, immigration data show

Foreigners flocking to New Zealand, immigration data show
Pedestrians cross a road in Auckland, New Zealand, on Monday, May 22, 2023. (Photo: Fiona Goodall/Bloomberg)

Record numbers of foreigners are coming to New Zealand after the nation loosened immigration rules to plug labour shortages.

A record net 98,391 non-New Zealand citizens arrived in the year through to 30 April, while 26,061 citizens departed, Statistics New Zealand said on Tuesday in Wellington. That saw net immigration rise to 72,330, the biggest annual gain since July 2020 and up from a revised 65,755 in the 12 months through March.  

New Zealand urgently needs a range of workers, from nurses and doctors to mechanics, engineers and construction staff, to ease labour shortages that became acute when the border was shut during the Covid-19 pandemic. The nation’s central bank said last month that the immigration surge reflects pent-up demand and should soon start to wane.

“This is a positive sign that we are getting the workers our economy needs,” said Immigration Minister Michael Wood. “We know that many industries have been calling out for workers as the global labor shortage bites, and we want our immigration settings to be responsive to that.”

While the influx could reduce upward pressure on wages, it may also fuel demand for goods and services, leaving its impact on inflation unclear.

In the month of April, net immigration slowed to 5,785 from more than 13,000 in each of the two previous months. Economists suggest that is a sign of an approaching peak in arrivals.

“The data signals a sizable desire to move to our corner of the world,” said Mary Jo Vergara, senior economist at Kiwibank in Auckland. “We may see a continued increase in non-New Zealand migrant flows ahead, but we think we’re nearing peak load.”

The Reserve Bank, which brought an end to its rate-tightening cycle in May, said it will continue to assess incoming data including the mix of immigrants. They include workers in the country for as little as two years but also those with families who settle and buy houses.

“It’s that kind of mix that you need to have an understanding of, and immigration data has historically been quite volatile as well,” assistant governor Karen Silk told Bloomberg in an interview last month.  

In the year through April, there were 144,263 non-New Zealand citizen arrivals offset by 45,872 non-citizen departures.

The level of non-citizen arrivals is higher than the 60,200 average in the five years prior to April 2020, the statistics agency said. DM


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