Study Confirms Oz ‘Myth’ On Unskilled Kiwis

Study confirms Oz 'myth' on unskilled Kiwis

The New Zealand Herald, December 2, 2009

A new study has confirmed a long-held Australian belief – less-skilled Kiwis have migrated there at a higher rate than skilled professionals.

The research, by Wellington demographer James Newell, has found New Zealand-born workers are 4.3 per cent of all machinery operators and drivers in Australia, and 3.4 per cent of all labourers, but only 2.4 per cent of professionals.

Maori are also more likely than non-Maori to have crossed the Tasman.

Another study, by Waikato University demographer Jacques Poot, says one in seven Maori now lives in Australia, compared with one in eight non-Maori New Zealanders.

The figures come as the Government digests a report by former National Party leader Don Brash's Taskforce 2025 closing the wealth gap between Australia and New Zealand.

The taskforce made several recommendations – including setting a top tax rate of no more that 25c in the dollar – but its suggestions have been largely dismissed as 'too radical' by Finance Minister Bill English.

The two new studies appear to confirm what Mary Power, a professor at Bond University in Queensland, described as a common Australian 'myth' that Kiwi migrants tend to be less skilled than average.

But the experts do not know whether Australia is more attractive to the less skilled, or whether they go there only because they can't get in to other countries.

More highly skilled migrants tend to go to the United States or Europe.

Previous studies have examined travellers' migration cards, but Dr Newell's study is based on a detailed analysis of 2006 censuses in Australia and New Zealand.

He found that 2.8 per cent of employed people in the Australian census were born in New Zealand.

The percentage of NZ-born workers was more than the average in machinery operators and drivers, labourers and technicians and trades workers, at 2.9 per cent.

But they were under-represented in all other groups, including managers, community and personal service workers and clerical and administrative workers (all 2.7 per cent), professionals (2.4 per cent) and sales workers (2.3 per cent).

'Net transtasman population loss is therefore skewed towards New Zealand-born without professional qualifications or skills,' he concluded.

He also found that low and semi-skilled workers were less likely than more highly skilled people to return to New Zealand eventually.

But some specific professional groups have more than the average of NZ-born workers – notably geologists and geophysicists, of whom 4.7 per cent were born in New Zealand.

Others migrating at above the average rate included psychiatrists, anaesthetists and nurses.

But people at all levels of Australia's teaching professions, and its general medical practitioners, surgeons, midwives and dentists, were less likely than average to be New Zealand-born.

Professor Poot said many in these highly skilled groups were more likely to have gone to other countries such as the United States and Britain.

He cited a 2005 OECD study showing that 24 per cent of all tertiary-educated NZ-born people lived outside New Zealand.

But he said it was also possible that growing inequality in New Zealand had driven more people in lower income groups overseas.

OECD rankings last year rated New Zealand eighth most unequal of 34 rich countries. Australia was ranked 15th.

Australia's income taxes are lower than New Zealand's on incomes below A$35,000 ($44,500), but above A$35,000 Australian tax rates rise in steps from 30c to 45c in the dollar.

In New Zealand the top tax rate is 38c above $70,000.

Dr Newell also found that employment rates last year were higher in New Zealand than in Australia in all age groups above 25, and especially over age 60.

But only 67 per cent of young people aged 20 to 24 were employed in New Zealand, compared with 77 per cent in Australia.

Dr Newell said this could be because of New Zealand's increasing number of overseas students.

He found New Zealand employed only about half Australia's proportion of its working population in public administration, and fewer in hospitals and social assistance.

But it had a bigger share of its workforce than Australia in agriculture, forestry and fishing, manufacturing, wholesaling, and professional, scientific and technical services.