Earlier this month New Zealand beat its trans-Tasman cousin (Australia) to win the Rugby World Cup 2015. At it seems that the prospect of New Zealand winning the only sporting trophy that matters (apart from cricket, netball or rugby league world cups, but we won’t talk about those) had an immediate effect on the two countries migration figures. Statistics New Zealand has just announced that in the year to October 2015 there were more immigrants coming to New Zealand from Australia than there were emigrants going the other way. This is the first time in over 20 years that New Zealand has not lost population to its larger neighbour. (And the phenomenon has been going on for longer than that, a former New Zealand Prime Minister, Sir Robert Muldoon, quipped in the earlier 1980s that New Zealanders heading to Australia “raised the IQ of both countries”.)
So, from October 2014-October 2015 there were just over 120,000 migrant arrivals to New Zealand. These arrivals outnumbered departures by 62,500. This was a record annual net gain for New Zealand. The largest group of immigrants was from Australia. 25,000 people came to New Zealand from “across the ditch/dutch/deetch” – about 200 more than left from New Zealand to Australia. As you can see in this graph, the net departure figure of 40,000 a year to Australia in mid-2012 has rapidly become a small net gain. This is due to Australia’s weakening economic condition, especially when compared to New Zealand. A few years ago Australia was in the middle of a commodity boom, and many New Zealanders moved there to work in the mining industry. (It is incredibly easy to move to Australia and settle there as a New Zealand citizen.) Now that the boom is over, many of those New Zealanders are coming back home – two-thirds of the 25,000 migrant arrivals from Australia were New Zealand citizens.
The other large groups of migrants to New Zealand were: India with 14,300 migrant arrivals (three-quarters of whom had student visas); 13,400 came from the UK (80 percent of whom had work visas or were returning New Zealand citizens); and 10,800 were from China (half of whom were on student visas).
New Zealand exports many of its young people to larger overseas countries. Australia is not only the closest larger country, but is also very easy to move to. The modern, interconnected world means that when economic conditions change for the worse, the option to come home is always available. That is, the modern day diaspora of young people is reversible, and perhaps cyclical in a way that the earlier migrations of say, the Irish in the nineteenth century was not. But that doesn’t detract from the fact that the average IQ of Australia and New Zealand has dipped a bit in the past year…