The perception that migrants take jobs from New Zealanders and push up house prices is widespread, but the fear is overblown, a new report has found. However, an immigration expert is warning that concerns, if not addressed, could lead to a rise in community tensions.
New Zealand last year had the highest net gain of migrants ever recorded of 69,100 – up 19 per cent from the previous year.
The New Zealand Initiative study “The New New Zealanders, Why Migrants Make Good Kiwis” analysed available data on migration, and concluded that the country benefits from migration, or at the very least was not worse off.
Researchers Jason Krupp and Rachel Hodder found that migrants “certainly had an effect” on the housing market, but it was one that is complex.
“That is because visitors on temporary visa, such as students, do not tend to buy accommodation but rent it. In this they compete with Kiwis in the rental market, but the effects are modest.” Rents in Auckland rose 0.2 per cent in September 2016 compared to the same month a year earlier.
“The high migration numbers have undoubtedly put additional pressures on infrastructure, especially in Auckland. We have got to look at how migrants can be more evenly distributed given that the numbers of those settling in Auckland are four times higher than the next destination, Canterbury.” says Massey University sociologist and immigration expert Paul Spoonley,
The report said there was little evidence to support the perception that migrants stole jobs from New Zealanders born in the country.
“That is because the number of jobs in an economy is not fixed. Migrants also contribute to job growth by increasing demand for local goods and services.”
Research into the effects of temporary migration in the decade to 2011 found a positive effect on earnings and employment of Kiwis.
“This may be because migrants fill jobs that native-born New Zealanders are reluctant to do, and because migrants provide a boost to the sectors in which they work.”
In 2013, migrants contributed $2.9 billion to the economy in 2013, which equated to $2653 net per migrant. Native-born New Zealanders on the other hand contributed just $540 million, or $172 per person.
“On balance, the available evidence suggests that New Zealand benefits from migration, or at the very least the country is not made worse off.”
Four in five international students did not remain in the country after completing their studies, with just 19 per cent of students transitioning to residence five years after their first student visa.