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Net migration figures measure up well

Net migration figures measure up well – Media release

19 May 2017

Annual net migration figures based on arrival and departure cards lined up well with what migrants actually did, Stats NZ said today.

A new data series about migrant arrivals and departures, for January 2001 to March 2015, and a related report detail a new measure for estimating the contribution international migration makes to changes in New Zealand’s resident population.

“The new ‘12/16-month rule’ measure identifies an individual’s migrant status after their travel history is observed over a 16-month follow-up period,” population statistics senior manager Peter Dolan said.

“Independent of the traveller’s legal residence status and the intentions they state on their passenger card, when we compare this new measure with existing migration statistics we find the net permanent and long-term migration measure provides a timely and robust indicator of international migration’s contribution to changes in our resident population.”

Migration statistics measured by PLT and 12/16-month rule

While net migration aligns well for the two measures, both arrivals and departures were consistently estimated at higher levels by the 12/16-month rule. This is mainly due to many New Zealand citizens returning home for a short-term visit, but then choosing to stay longer. Similarly, non-New Zealand citizens who intend a short overseas trip when they depart may remain living away from New Zealand.

Click for big version.

Opportunities of additional migration statistics

The new series of migration statistics represent an opportunity to define additional measures of short- and long-term migration, and better understand migration outcomes.

Implementing the new measure will mean continued improvement of population estimation. It will lead to a harmonised statistical definition of migrant status with Australia, and open opportunities for bilateral analysis of trans-Tasman migration flows. Australia uses the 12/16-month rule for estimating changes in its resident population due to international migration.

Figures in defining migrants using travel histories and the 12/16-month rule finish at March 2015, mainly due to the need to collect migrants’ actual travel movements 16 months after they arrive in or leave New Zealand.

Stats NZ plans to regularly update the 12/16 rule series of migrant arrivals and departures, beginning later in 2017.


Published 19 May 2017

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• Visit Net migration figures measure up well

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