The issue of rising number of New Zealanders leaving the country to find greener pastures elsewhere has come under sharper focus with the release of latest figures by Statistics New Zealand.
While a number of our compatriots go overseas for work experience and other short-term assignments, a majority of those in the Statistics went over to Australia for permanent settlement.
Labour Party supporter Sunny Kaushal has mentioned in his article (Homelink) that more than 166,000 New Zealanders moved to Australia since November 2008, when the National Party came to power.
According to him, New Zealand suffered a net loss of about 40,000 people to Australia during the period covering year to August 2012.
It was another record, he said.
He blames the National Party for its failed policies resulting in the mass exodus of people, most of who were experienced, skilled and semi-skilled people.
We are not sure if the process of migration has any connection with the political party in power, not in the New Zealand context at least. There are oppressive regimes that take away basic rights of people, leading to mass emigration as was in the case of Indo-Fijians following the first coup in 1987 and thereafter. Nationals and expatriates of a number of other countries including Africa, the Middle East have been forced to leave their motherland or country of domicile for reasons of safety and security.
The 1970s and 1980s saw hundreds of thousands of Sri Lankan Tamils taking refuge in Europe, US, Canada, Australia and the US, fearing their safety and that of their families. Many of them also flooded Tamil Nadu, seeking official support, which until today is an issue of contention between the State and the Centre.
While New Zealanders migrating to other countries do so mainly for better economic and social prospects, there is no political harassment for their choice.
However, National Party vowed to retain local talent in its election campaigns in 2005 and 2008, respectively under Dr Don Brash and John Key.
But the situation seems to have gotten worse.
Blame it on the on-going recession, the unsustainable size of our economy, better employment opportunities in Australia or even a more vibrant and active social life, the result is the same – more and more of our people are deciding that New Zealand has nothing to offer- not to the extent of their expectations.
We are not alone in this plight. Britain and Canada are also worried over their depleting human capital.
The British Government’s target of cutting annual net immigration to below 100,000 by 2015 is impossible, but it would please the crowd.
However, the numbers are finally moving the right way. Statistics released on August 30 showed that net inflows fell by 36,000 in 2011, to 216,000. Although Britain’s migration figures are ropey, other data point in the same direction. The number of work visas issued in the year to June 2012 was 7% lower than in the previous 12 months, and student visas were down 21% and there have been shifts in emigration as well as immigration.
New Zealanders, like Britons, seem to have itchy feet and are eager to make it to a country that would be large enough to absorb them.
Australia sufficiently meets that requirement; and all the talk of reducing benefits for new settlers from New Zealand may just be talk to the gallery. Many employers in Australia tell us that they ‘simply love the simple and hard-working Kiwis,’ because they do not need training.
“With their New Zealander passport giving them the freedom to stay and work, they get into our systems easily,” they said.
One factor that is obvious but often overlooked is the natural ebb and flow of people. It is not just that the government is making it harder for people to stay.
Periods of high immigration such as those we experienced 15 years ago are anyway apt to be followed by periods of high emigration.