More Kiwi migrants leave in May, propelling slower population growth

Net migration gain in May slowed to 66,200 from 67,000 in April, while visitor arrivals topped 220,000.

Population gain from net migration flows, a key contributor to economic growth, continues to slide, slipping to 66,200 in the year to May compared with 67,000 in April.

This compares with a peak of 72,400 in the July 2017 year. The drop comes from an increase in permanent and long-term departures of both non-New Zealand and New Zealand residents.

“Migrant departures are the highest they have been since May 2014,” Statistics NZ population insights senior manager Brooke Theyers says. “They are now almost half the number of migrant arrivals.”

Total migrant arrivals were 130,200 and departures were 64,000. The departures to Asia rose 33%, mainly students from China and India returning home after completing their courses.

Overall, non-New Zealand citizen migrant departures were up 22% from a year earlier to 30,500, and up 1.1% from the April 2018 year.

Numbers of New Zealand citizens leaving on a permanent or long-term basis remain relatively unchanged from a year earlier at 33,400. 

They contributed to just over half of migrant departures, giving a net loss of 1400.

Even so, Westpac senior economist Anne Boniface notes the net loss of New Zealand citizens is a further move into negative territory.   

"This trend is consistent with our view that departures of New Zealand citizens will continue to trend higher as employment prospects in Australia brighten," she says.

Arrivals of non-New Zealanders rose in May but remain below the levels of a year ago. 

"[The] rising departures of non-New Zealanders [is] driving the softening in annual net migration. We expect this trend to continue ... as many of the people who arrived in New Zealand on temporary work and student visas in recent years return home after completing their course or contract."

Westpac expects annual net migration to fall to a low of around 20,000 in around five years’ time. 

Indians boost tourism boom
Meanwhile, the short-term movements for May show for the first time Indians exceeding Britons as the fourth-largest source of visitors behind Australia, China, and the US.

There were 9100 visitors from India in May, up 2100 from a year earlier while UK visitors fell by 500 to 7000. However, the UK remains well ahead of India on an annual basis.

“The percentage increase of visitors from India (up 20.7%) was more than twice that from the UK (up 9.5%) in the May 2018 year,” Ms Theyers says.

Overall, 222,100 visitors arrived in May, up 12,900 on May 2017. Australians increased by 3700 to 90,100, well ahead of Chinese at 30,500, up 3000. Americans increased by 100 to 17,100.

Asians now account for just over half of the total overseas visitor increase for the year.

“Since 2015, visitor arrivals from Asia have been growing more than 10% a year, Ms Theyers says. “Significant growth has also come from Hong Kong, South Korea, and the Philippines.”

The total number of visitors from Asia reached around one million in the May year, up 97,900 (10.6%) from 2017.

More visitors are coming from Europe, too, but the annual is lower. Total visitor numbers reached 3.8 million in the May year, up 190,400 from last year. 

More Kiwis escape winter
New Zealand- resident traveller departures increased substantially in May. Some 250,000 left, up 16,800 from a year ago, with the most popular destinations being Australia at 96,100 (up 1700); the US 20,700 (up 1200); Fiji 14,700 to Fiji (up 1300) and the UK 14,400 (up 300).

Annual visitor numbers at 3.8 million still significantly outweigh resident departures at 2.9 million.

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