Brain Drain Or Just The Same Drain?

Brain drain or just the same drain?
11 November 2006

There are just under half a million New Zealanders living in Australia and most of them make a lie of the dole-bludging, Bondi-dwelling stereotype Australians love to perpetuate.

New Zealanders actually have a higher participation rate in Australia's labour force (76.3 per cent as at June 2005) than Australian-born citizens (68.2 per cent).

According to the Treasury, there has been a net outflow of New Zealanders to Australia since the 1960s, increasing when Australia's economy is buoyant and ebbing in tougher times.

But rather than seeing this as a brain drain, the Treasury calls the trans-Tasman outflow a “same drain”, representing the general New Zealand public rather than a concentration of highly skilled workers.

Statistics from Australia's Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs show that in the 2004-05 financial year, 30.5 per cent of permanent New Zealand citizen arrivals in Australia were skilled, and 21 per cent were semi-skilled or unskilled. The rest were either not in the labour force or unemployed.

During the same period, 33,903 New Zealand citizens moved to Australia as permanent or long-term arrivals, a 17 per cent jump on the previous year.

Statistics New Zealand shows there has been a small decline in the number of New Zealanders returning from Australia in the past three years. In the year ended June 2004, 9254 New Zealanders came home from Australia on a permanent or long-term basis, dropping to 8445 the following year and 8201 in the year ended June 2006.

The Government is keen to encourage Kiwis home. Its initiatives to encourage people to stay or return include scrapping interest payments on student loans for people who live here.