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New Zealand continues to attract skilled migrants

Hon Dr Michael Cullen
Minister of Finance

22 June 2006 Media Statement

New Zealand continues to attract skilled migrants

Latest external migration figures show New Zealand continues to be an attractive destination for skilled migrants, Finance Minister Michael Cullen said today.

In the May 2006 year there was a net migration gain of 10,200 people, compared to 8,800 in the year to May 2005, a gain of 16 per cent. This is still significantly above the average of 4,500 for the last twenty years.

"This represents a sizeable brain gain for New Zealand. Labour Department analysis shows that about half those choosing to make New Zealand home over the last five years tend to be highly skilled.

"The highly skilled made up 47 per cent of migrants compared to 27 per cent for the New Zealand population.

"These numbers don't sit comfortably with National which continues to peddle the myth of a brain drain to Australia.

"For a variety of complex lifestyle and economic reasons people have always been migrating across the Tasman. Numbers rose steadily during the 1990s and in fact accelerated despite National twice cutting personal income taxes in 1996 and 1998.

"However, unlike migration to New Zealand, the people who migrate to Australia tend to be a cross-section of the labour force. In other words the proportion of skilled workers leaving is roughly the same as their proportion of the New Zealand workforce.

"People leave because the common labour market with Australia makes it easy for workers of any skill to go.

"To suggest there is a "brain drain" typifies the myths National likes to peddle in order to knock this great country. Clearly, significant numbers of people world-wide are coming because they realise New Zealand is a great place to work and raise families. It's a pity National doesn't share this view."

Note: attached are graphs showing the changing migration patterns overall and with Australia.

Click to enlarge


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