Statistics NZ has created a highly confusing, and moving, picture of migration with its new formula, which became the official formula last month.
But the long & short of it is that emigration has risen sharply and immigration continues to decline.
Image above: The new series in figure 1 shows the final estimates from May 2015 to August 2017, and provisional estimates from September 2017 to December 2018, for the outcomes-based measure of migration. An experimental outcomes-based series is shown from December 2001 to June 2017 to give a longer time series.
The count for the year to December – a provisional estimate – is a net inflow of 48,300, ± 1,800, compared to 52,700(± 200) for the previous 12 months.
The ± symbol occurs a lot in these statistics, as initial figures are revised over the following months, to be finalised after 16 months.
That’s happened with the figures for the year to November, originally issued as a net inflow of 43,400 (± 1,500), now revised to an estimated 48,000 (± 1,200). Statistics NZ’s population insights senior manager, Brooke Theyers, said: “This is driven by changes in estimated migrant departures, from 100,600 (± 1,200) to 96,200 (± 1,000) for the year ended November 2018. Migrant arrivals remained relatively unchanged.”
For the December year, migrant arrivals were provisionally estimated at 145,800 (± 1,700) and migrant departures at 97,500 (± 1,400).
Mrs Theyers said that, compared with total border crossings, the number of migrants is very small: “Of every 50 people crossing our border, typically 49 are short-term movements and only 1 is a migrant arriving or departing.
“Of the 14 million border crossings in the December 2018 year, 81% are currently classified with certainty. The remaining 19% represent 2.6 million border crossings, so a small change can affect the migration estimates.
“The migration estimates become more certain after each subsequent month. In December, 1 in 4 arrivals are classified with certainty. This increases to 9 in 10 after 4 months. Therefore we expect the monthly revisions to become relatively small after about 5 months, as we can calculate the duration of stay/absence more definitively.”
Net inflow 270,000 over last 5 years
Mrs Theyers said the last 5 years – 2014-18 – had the largest net migration gains ever in New Zealand’s history, with an estimated 270,000 more migrant arrivals than migrant departures. An estimated 700,000 migrants arrived and 430,000 migrants departed over this period.
Most migrants arrived on work, visitor or student visas. However, by definition, they stayed for at least 12 months after extending their visa or transitioning to other visa types, including residence visas: “Even though many migrants arriving only stay for a year or 2, it’s important to count them as migrants and not short-term visitors. They are part of our resident population, which has implications for infrastructure & service provision.”
Using the new measure, annual net migration has gradually fallen from the record peak of 63,900 in the year ended July 2016, reflecting an increase in migrants leaving – in particular, non-NZ citizen departures.
25 January 2019: November net migrant inflow down 40%, annual rate down 19% as new measure kicks in
Attribution: Statistics NZ.