New Zealand emigration spurred by feelings of inequality

Published:  9 Apr at 6 PM
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The high rate of migration amongst New Zealand citizens is now being put down to a feeling of inequality due to financial insecurity.

The need to start again in another country may well be driven by a lack of opportunity at home, but is also the result of a feeling of inequality and exclusion caused by comparative poverty. The OECD recently issued an alarming warning to governments, urging them to take immediate action to control social divisions and inequality.

Emigration from New Zealand, often to Australia, has historically remained at a high level, causing experts to describe it as a pattern rather than a crisis. For decades, the government has failed to address the growth of inequality in the system, and needs to realise its relationship to mass emigration.

Demographer Graem Hugo points out that, every week since 1979, 880 New Zealanders have left the country and only 450 have returned at a later date. The figures indicate that one sector of society feels it’s being badly let down by the government.

Conventional wisdom suggests that, during the last three decades, better weather and higher salaries in Australia have been the magnet for successive generations of Kiwis. Recent studies have revealed this is not the full story, as most would-be migrants are more influenced by conditions in their home countries than they are by the attractions of overseas locations.

The 21st century economics of labour migration relate more to deprivation at home than to wage differences, with being less wealthy than one’s peers hurting more in one’s own country than it would abroad in a strange community. Inequality has been on the rise in New Zealand since the 1980s, and now relates to a financially-squeezed middle class as well as the traditional unemployed underclass.

Put succinctly, if people are poor enough to feel excluded, but can afford to emigrate, they will happily do so. Seeking one's fortune as well as change overseas can be an irresistible temptation.
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Comments » There is 1 comment

James wrote 9 years ago:

Very true, and NZ isn’t the only place where people — most of them young — feel this way. If we didn’t have the generational inequality in the UK that we do, I wouldn’t want to emigrate. But there’s nothing in this country for anyone under 60 any more. I suppose New Zealand really is the Britain of the South!

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