New Zealand’s migration boom is still going. Honestly, I thought it would have been tailing off by now. I don’t think anybody thought it would last as long, or go as high as it has. This boom is unprecedented – it’s broken records for the last 17 months in a row.
There’s been plenty of media coverage of the boom, but I want to explore a few points which have been overlooked by most people.
Looking at the headline stats, you could be forgiven for thinking that Auckland gets less than half of NZ’s international immigration, with Auckland apparently getting 30,000 out of “a record net gain of 64,900 migrants in the December 2015 year”, or 46% of the total. These results, what I’ve called the “raw” results, are shown below:
However, the way Statistics New Zealand reports these figures is a bit odd. They don’t impute missing data, meaning that when someone coming or going doesn’t specify a New Zealand region, they don’t get assigned to one. This substantially understates the true amount of net immigration to Auckland. I’d estimate the true figure to be more like 38,300 in the last year, or 59% of the national figures.
Those are really big numbers, because in a typical year Auckland’s “natural increase” (births minus deaths) is around 15,000.
Around 17% of immigrants don’t fill out which region they’ll be moving to, and 10% of emigrants don’t fill out which region they left from. It’s understandable that immigrants may not have the clearest idea where in New Zealand they want to live, but the figure for emigrants is high too. Perhaps we just have lousy handwriting?
Anyway, those missing figures turn out to make quite a big difference. Quoting from the Stats NZ page again:
“Just over half of all arrivals who stated an address on their arrival card indicated they would reside in Auckland. Of those who stated an address on their departure card, 42 percent were migrating from the Auckland region. In comparison, the Auckland region is home to 34 percent of New Zealand’s population (at 30 June 2015)”.
The number of people arriving is currently much larger than the number leaving, (giving high ‘net’ migration). The people arriving are also less likely to say what region they’re moving to. These factors combined add up to a big understatement of how much migration Auckland is getting.
I’ve ‘scaled’ the Auckland migration figures in the graph below, allocating migrants who didn’t state a region to Auckland in the same proportions as those who did state a region.* The NZ figures are still the same, but the Auckland ones (blue line) have changed.
What can we take from this?
- Net international migration into Auckland is much higher than most people think.
- Over the last 25 years, Auckland has always gained more people from overseas than it has lost, although there have been times when that gain is very small.
- The picture is very different for the rest of the country. In the 23 years from October 1990 to September 2013, New Zealand excluding Auckland averaged just 9 net migrants a year. The regions fluctuated between gaining people and losing them, with the years of gains cancelled out by the years of losses. The current boom is going some way to changing that.
- We’re not building enough new homes for all the new migrants coming to Auckland, and therefore some of them will be displacing people already here – they’ll most likely be moving to nearby regions like Bay of Plenty, Waikato and Northland.
- This continues a long-running trend of Auckland losing people to other parts of New Zealand on a net basis (i.e. net internal migration has been negative, although net international migration has been positive).
My next post will look at international students – they’re a big factor in the current migration boom.
* This scaling should be reasonably accurate, and I’ve checked it against another source. One of the questions in the census asks people where they were living five years ago, with one of the answers being “overseas”. And for the 2013 census, 46.3% of the people who were overseas in 2008 were now living in Auckland. My scaled data shows 47.3% of international arrivals settling in Auckland over the five-year period, a pretty close match. This is for arrivals of course – there’s no way of checking it for departures.