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Future outlook

Labour mobility is likely to increase, particularly from Asia. The increase in global migration in recent decades is unlikely to decrease, particularly as economic development in Asia sees a greater number of potential skilled migrants. The global competition for skilled talent is likely to intensify.[49]

‘Circular' migration is likely to become more common. Temporary residency is increasingly important globally, and there is a tendency towards making permanent migration decisions after arrival when the migrant has had an opportunity to ‘test out' the host country. Many ‘permanent' migrants move on to another host country or return to their home (i.e. circular migration).[50]

General policy lessons

Policies that can be made unilaterally

New Zealand's population growth between 1996 and 2006 that would have occurred without immigration
Source: Statistics New Zealand, Treasury calculations

Lift economic performance generally to create employment opportunities. Net migration is sensitive to economic growth, and the main driver of emigration is employment opportunities. Consequently, general economic performance is a core driver of migration.

Design immigration settings with a medium-term view that takes account of emigration and supports supply of skilled labour. Best practice selection involves a points system that targets skill levels of migrants and those most likely to successfully integrate and contribute, and can encourage upskilling (e.g. in English language) before entering New Zealand. Policy should be transparent, predictable, and aim to result in overall positive net immigration over the medium term to support the supply of skilled labour. The actual level of immigration depends on a variety of economic and social factors. Migration policies designed to emphasise employment will mean greater (or lower) labour demand will raise (or lower) short-term migration flows, but beyond these ‘automatic stabilisers', policies should not be changed as a tool for short-term macroeconomic stability.

Facilitate speedy integration to make the most of migrants' skills. In addition to selecting migrants more likely to integrate easily, integration policies can hasten the transition to migrants and returning expatriates reaching their potential in the labour market. General labour market policies include probationary periods, secondee and internship links, and integrated occupational licensing. Specific policies include providing migrants with specialist information, advice and guidance on pathways to improving employment outcomes; specialist English language training; systems to audit and recognise migrants' skills; opportunities for work placements or trial employment; and practical steps to reduce discrimination (e.g. anonymous CVs).

Proportion of all New Zealand-born people in the world who are living in Australia
Source: Bryant and Law (2004)

Encourage international students to become residents. International students are often desirable permanent immigrants as they face fewer barriers to integration than new arrivals. Most have a New Zealand qualification and good English skills, and many have already been employed part-time.

Encourage beneficial short- and medium-term migration. Some types of emigration are better than others. Policy settings should encourage temporary migration for study or working holidays, but also encourage return migration.

Keep in touch with the diaspora. Engagement with the diaspora should be coordinated in a coherent strategy. A public sector agency should have clear policy responsibility for emigration and diaspora engagement.

Policies that require international engagement and agreement

Determine and pursue New Zealand's ‘offensive interests' through international agreements. Encouraging beneficial short- and medium-term flows of people can be achieved through arrangements on the movement of business people, or temporary study and work visas, for example.

Figure 2: Summary of the main policy settings that influence circular migration
Figure 2: Summary of the main policy settings that influence circular migration.

Policy settings are organised by the different stages in circular migration that can be influenced. Starting at the top left, policy settings can affect the ease of migrating temporarily through visas, information and funding. Disincentives can be provided to leave permanently: the fact that KiwiSaver tax credits are clawed back on permanent emigration is one example, and policing student loans in (say) Australia could be another. Offshore, maintaining contact with New Zealand's diaspora can be achieved through private networks such as KEA and through government offshore posts. Attracting migrants, students and researchers can be achieved through marketing and information, and also potentially through direct incentives. The selection process for immigration is a core policy lever and has a number of aspects. Settlement of migrants onshore can have a large influence on how well migrants adapt to domestic conditions, and policy settings in language training, for example, can have an impact. Finally, the overall costs of moving include the ease of moving pension or health benefits, or the tax treatment of foreign income, for example.


  • [49]See, for example, Salt (2008).
  • [50]See, for example, Vertovec (2007).
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