NZ migration trends shift

Net inflows moderate

NZ migration trends shift

Michael Gordon (pictured above), a senior economist at Westpac NZ, has analysed the latest migration statistics for New Zealand, noting a significant shift in net migrant flows as of April.

April migration data

April saw a net inflow of 7,380 migrants on a seasonally adjusted basis, the strongest month since December of the previous year. This brings the annual total to 98,464 migrants for the year ending in April, a decrease from the previous year's revised figure of 106,439, which had initially been reported as 111,146.

“The latest migration figures for New Zealand reinforce that the pace of net inflows has passed its peak, though it remains high compared to history,” Gordon said.

He explained the downward revisions to recent data, noting that last year’s cyclical peak was adjusted down from 139,075 to 137,736.

Caution advised

Gordon advised caution regarding the latest figures, citing potential inaccuracies in distinguishing between migrants and holidaymakers, particularly during holiday periods like the April school holidays.

“We had previously noted that the modelling used to generate the initial estimates seemed to struggle to distinguish between migrants and holidaymakers over the Christmas/New Year period, and that may well have been the case again during the April school holidays,” he said.

Broader migration trends

Despite recent decreases, total migrant inflows remain above pre-COVID levels but below early 2023’s peak, which reflected high numbers of work visa approvals and the return of international students post-COVID.

“The more significant change has been in departures by both New Zealand citizens and others,” Gordon said.

Departure trends

There has been a noticeable increase in departures among New Zealand citizens since early 2022, likely due to a catch-up on previously delayed plans. Additionally, there has been a recent rise in departures among non-New Zealand citizens, possibly due to worsening job prospects.

Westpac forecasts migration shift

While monthly net inflows have returned to levels seen before the COVID-19 pandemic, which were considered strong at the time, the softening economy may impact New Zealand’s appeal as a destination for migrants.

“We expect the balance to remain positive, but the softening economy is likely to weigh on New Zealand’s relative appeal as a destination for migrants,” Gordon said.

Read the Westpac NZ analysis here.

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