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Outcomes-based net migration updated

Outcomes-based net migration updated

2 March 2018

An update to the outcomes-based measure of migration (the ‘12/16-month rule’) released this week brings the series forward to September 2016, Stats NZ said today.

The measure was introduced by Stats NZ in May 2017. It identifies an individual’s migrant status when we observe their travel history, and their length of stay in New Zealand, after a 16-month follow-up period. It differs from the traditional method of classifying permanent and long-term (PLT) migrants that we base on their stated intention on arrival and departure cards.

The 12/16-month rule showed net migration in the September 2016 year was 64,500, compared with 70,000 as defined by the PLT migration measure. September 2016 is the most-recent available period for outcomes-based migration, due to the 17-month lag to produce migration figures by the 12/16-month rule.

“Migrant statistics that rely on passengers’ stated intentions are affected by uncertainty around people’s assumptions about how long they will be in New Zealand,” population insights senior manager Peter Dolan said.

“Using an outcomes-based measure of defining migrants gives us a clearer picture of the actual migration patterns in New Zealand, and aligns with the approach taken in Australia.”


To improve the timeliness of migrant statistics using the outcomes-based measure, Stats NZ is currently developing a predictive model to produce provisional migrant estimates.

Often, travellers’ stated intentions do not match with what they actually do when they stay in New Zealand. For example, a considerable proportion of PLT arrivals on work visas are not later identified as migrants when they’re classified by the 12/16-month rule.

In the September 2016 quarter, there were 11,200 PLT arrivals with approved work visas. In contrast, the 12/16-month rule estimated 6,600 actual migrant arrivals for this visa type in the quarter.

This difference could be due to passengers assuming their work visa will last longer than a year and stating they will be in New Zealand for more than a year on their arrival card. In reality they actually leave New Zealand before a year has passed.

For more information on the 12/16-month rule, see:

Defining migrants using travel histories and the '12/16-month rule'

Outcomes versus intentions: Measuring migration based on travel histories

Authorised by Liz MacPherson, Government Statistician, 2 March 2018.

For more information about these statistics:
• Visit Outcomes-based net migration updated

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