That immigration chestnut surfaces again

Friday July 28, 2017 Dr Ganesh Nana

The old chestnut of immigration has surfaced again.  Co-incidentally, an election is nigh too.  This makes it doubly opportune that we get some facts out there.


For starters, over the last 12 months there were just over 131,000 immigrants who came to New Zealand on a permanent or long-term basis.  Of those, nearly 38,500 did not require a visa – because they were either New Zealand or Australian citizens.


The largest category, however, were those entering on a work visa – numbering just over 45,000 of the total.  Interestingly, those in this category came covered a broad range of citizens.  The largest group were UK citizens – accounting for nearly 20% of total work visa immigrants.  The second largest group were German citizens, followed by Filipino, US, and South African citizens, with Chinese citizens making up the 6th largest group of work visa immigrants. Noticeably, though, there was a large proportion from the citizens of a range of ‘other countries.  This suggests are wide diversity in the citizenship of new workers coming into New Zealand.


28 07 graph 5


There has undoubtedly been a large increase in numbers coming into New Zealand in recent years.  For example, 5 years ago, the total number of immigrants in the year June 2012 was close to 84,400.  In other words, 47,000 more migrants entered in the latest year than 5 years earlier.  Interestingly, amongst the largest contributor to this surge were those coming in under the “not applicable” visa category.  That is, New Zealand and Australian citizens, who accounted for nearly 12,400 of the 47,000 surge of the past five years.  Bluntly, there is a sizable amount (both in absolute numbers and proportion) of immigration over which New Zealand has limited (if any) capacity to police – these being New Zealand and Australian passport holders who have unrestricted entry.


28 07 graph 3


However, the largest contributor to the immigration boom of the last five years has undoubtedly been the increase in the numbers coming in under the work visa category.  This is now close to 21,000 higher than in the June 2012 year.  This number is consistent with the robust employment situation; with many industry and sector representatives, as well businesses themselves, also pointing out difficulties in obtaining New Zealand workers for available jobs.


There has also been a noticeable increase in the number of student visa entrants, which has been widely reported.


Within the changes in work visa immigrants, it is noticeable that increases have occurred across all citizenship groups.  Looking closely, the largest single-citizenship category increase was from the United Kingdom, with the second-largest being South African citizens and Filipino citizens the next largest increase.  As illustrated, there was also a large increase in the number of work visa entrants from a range of ‘other’ citizenships, reinforcing the diversity comment made earlier.


28 07 graph 4


Making sense of these numbers clearly shows that New Zealand’s immigration boom of recent years has, at the headline level, been critically associated with the robust job situation.  The question of whether those coming in were indeed matched to job needs is addressed by noting the growing predominance of the work visa category.  However, whether the skills and experiences may also have been available from New Zealand residents remains a moot point, (presuming training is also available).  Similarly, the appropriateness of the nation’s (and region’s) infrastructure to cope with such an immigration boom over this period is also moot.