Record high departures of skilled migrants leaving NZ

Published 28 June 2024 | 2 min read

In a startling revelation, Stats NZ has reported a record high in the number of departing migrants for the year ending April 2024. This surge has seen 130,600 individuals leaving New Zealand, with a significant portion being skilled workers and young professionals. As Kiwi businesses grapple with this trend, the ramifications for the local economy and labour market are becoming increasingly evident.

A record high in departures

The latest data indicates a worrying spike in departures, up by 1,900 individuals or 34% compared to the previous year. Among these, New Zealand citizens constitute the largest group, with 81,200 leaving for opportunities abroad. Economic factors, such as higher salaries and lower living costs in countries like Australia, are major driving forces behind this exodus. The perception that the grass is greener across the Tasman is proving too tempting for many, particularly as New Zealand faces economic challenges, including a recession.

Significance for NZ businesses

This trend is not just a matter of statistics; it holds implications for New Zealand businesses. The departure of skilled workers exacerbates the existing skill shortage, making it harder for companies to fill critical roles.

David Cooper from Malcolm Pacific Immigration highlights that those leaving are often the "young, skilled people," whose loss is felt deeply across various sectors. The challenge lies not only in the sheer numbers but also in the quality and expertise that these individuals take with them.

Government initiatives to address the issue

In response to these concerns, the government has begun implementing key changes aimed at making New Zealand a more attractive place to work and live. These initiatives include revising immigration policies to facilitate easier entry and retention of skilled workers. Additionally, there are efforts to improve the overall living conditions and economic opportunities within the country. For instance, investment in infrastructure, housing, and public services is intended to enhance the quality of life for residents, making New Zealand a more compelling option compared to its neighbours.

Benefits of these changes

While these changes might take time to bear fruit, they hold the promise of a more sustainable and balanced labour market in the future. By creating a more attractive environment for both current residents and potential migrants, New Zealand can hope to stem the tide of departures and even reverse the trend. The long-term benefits include a more stable workforce, improved economic growth, and enhanced global competitiveness.

How can businesses be proactive?

Engaging in robust talent retention practices, such as offering competitive salaries, professional development opportunities, and fostering a positive workplace culture, can help mitigate the impact of this migration trend. Additionally, businesses should look to leverage government initiatives by participating in programs designed to attract and retain skilled workers.

Investing in upskilling current employees and utilising flexible work arrangements can also play a crucial role. By focusing on creating an attractive workplace that values and supports its employees, businesses can position themselves as desirable employers in a competitive market.

The record high in departing migrants poses a significant challenge for New Zealand businesses. However, with strategic efforts both from the government and businesses, there is a pathway to a positive future. By working together to create an attractive and supportive environment for skilled workers, New Zealand can hope to turn the tide and ensure a prosperous future for its economy and workforce.

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