New Zealand sees record exodus of citizens as economy struggles

Some 78,200 citizens departed in the year through March, Statistics New Zealand said on May 14 in Wellington. PHOTO: AFP

WELLINGTON – New Zealand is experiencing a record exodus of citizens as a sluggish economy reduces job opportunities.

Some 78,200 citizens departed in the year through March, Statistics New Zealand said on May 14 in Wellington. That’s up from 74,900 in the year through February. Adjusting for citizens returning home, net departures rose to a record 52,500, surpassing 50,000 for the first time, the statistics agency said. 

High interest rates have hit consumer spending and business confidence, with hiring intentions in decline according to recent surveys. Faced with a tightening labour market, New Zealanders are turning to Australia and other overseas markets where wages can be more attractive.

Australian health authorities and the police have offered lucrative pay and employment packages to attract staff from New Zealand.

While departures have surged, so too has the inflow of foreign migrants. Net immigration, which peaked at more than 139,000 in 2023 through October, is now slowing. It fell for a fifth straight month to 111,145 in the year through March 2024, today’s report showed. 

The population surge has prompted the Reserve Bank to warn that the extra demand for houses and rental accommodation might add to inflation, while the government has labelled the situation as “unsustainable” because it is creating stress on infrastructure such as education and health services. BLOOMBERG

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