‘Brain drain’ déjà vu as New Zealanders leave the country in record numbers (2024)

Over 81,000 New Zealand citizens left the country in the year to April – a 41% increase on the previous year. Stewart Sowman-Lund looks at why, in this extract from The Bulletin. To receive The Bulletin in full each weekday,sign up here.

Leaving home

Back in 2020, The Spinoff produced a six-part podcast series calledComing Home. It was focused on the influx of New Zealanders returning to Aotearoa during the Covid-19 pandemic, and it had a pretty optimistic tone. It’s still worth a listen if you missed it, but that podcast could not be made today. Because new figures from Stats NZ show people areleaving the countryin record numbers. Eva Corlett atThe Guardianhas the key details, reporting that the 130,600 migrant departures was the highest on record for an annual period (though net migration showed a gain of 98,500, up from 85,800 a year ago). However, of those leaving the country long term, about 81,200 were New Zealand citizens – a 41% increase on the previous year. “With 24,800 New Zealand citizens arriving during the period, that put the net migration loss of citizens at 56,500 – exceeding the previous record of 44,400 in 2012,” Corlett wrote.

‘Brain drain’ déjà vu as New Zealanders leave the country in record numbers (1)

What reasons are there for the drop in migration?

These latest numbers aren’t a particular surprise, given there has been an ongoing trend with migration data in the aftermath of the pandemic. Last month,Q+A’s Jack Tameanalysed the May data that showed more than a thousand New Zealanders were leaving the country every week. The headline on Tame’s piece was fairly provocative, asking “who could blame” people for deciding to leave. But he posits a number of reasons for the rise in international migration. The job market, for one, with rising unemployment. Then there’s the high cost of living here, specifically for those renting. “This renting generation, coincidentally, is the same generation most likely to have left New Zealand,” wrote Tame. In late April, rents were recorded at anall-time high, according to TradeMe. Conversely, house prices have “plummeted”, according toNewshub– though let’s rememberHayden Donnell’s viewon reports like that. Economist Brad Olsen told The Guardian a number of younger people will be leaving the country for an overseas experience, but some will have been lured abroad with the promise of better housing and job prospects. Enter, the “brain drain”.

We’ve been here before

While you will probably picture the early 2000s when you think of the brain drain, a quick search through Papers Past reveals it’s been a concern on many prior occasions. In 1969, for example,The Press reportedthat “3,863 professional and skilled workers left New Zealand for more rewarding opportunities overseas” while “2,000 immigrants helped offset this brain drain”. Prime minister Christopher Luxon was quick to remind people yesterday that we’ve been here before. “You’ll remember in the early 2000s there was a massive exodus of New Zealanders to Australia, and other parts of the world,” Christopher Luxontold reporters at Fieldays.“Our job is to build a long-term proposition where New Zealanders actually choose to stay in this country.” As thisStuffreport from 2011 illustrates, the political response at that time was similar. Former finance minister Bill English said: “We know roughly what the recipe is, policies that support businesses that want to employ and create opportunities, that provide people with skills and reward those skills,” he said. Compare that to what Luxon said yesterday: “By building good economic management, a safer society, better public services, New Zealanders came back.”

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    Last month,RNZ’s Giles Beckfordlooked at the latest round of unemployment data, reporting that the number of unemployed people was estimated to be 134,000 – or 4.3% of the working population. As he wrote, the rise in unemployment can be linked to a slumping economy. “Throw in inflation pushing through 7%, and the Reserve Bank hiking interest rates to slow it down, the economy was bound to slow,” he wrote. A few days later, his colleagueSusan Edmundsreported that the peak of unemployment could see a further 26,000 without work.

    Is the grass really greener?

    With high unemployment usually comes a struggling economy, something I’m sure will come as no surprise. A statement fromKiwibank’s economistsyesterday said 2024 hasn’t got off to a good start. “We continue to expect the rest of 2024 to be a year of low growth, as high interest rates continue to depress demand,” they said. Social development minister Louise Upston toldRNZ’s Giles Dexterin March that the economy being in recession could see our “best and brightest” choose to head across the ditch, something that’s been picked up on in Australia. We talked recently about the concerns Australia was attempting to poach New Zealand workers, especially from areas like education and law enforcement.The Spinoff’s Shanti Mathiaslooked at that in-depth almost a year ago. According tothe Herald’s Liam Dann, there was a provisional net migration loss of 24,200 people to Australia in the year ended September 2023.

    This report fromthe ABClast month (which was before the coalition’s first budget) focused on the state of our economy, the growing job cuts in the public sector and growing unemployment, concluding that “the appeal of higher wages in Australia and a chance at citizenship has seen the number of Kiwis making the move increase”.RNZ’s Susan Edmundstook a look this week at whether the grass really is greener in Australia, reporting that the average full-time weekly earnings were A$1,953.70 in November last year, compared with $1,558 in New Zealand.

    ‘Brain drain’ déjà vu as New Zealanders leave the country in record numbers (2024)


    ‘Brain drain’ déjà vu as New Zealanders leave the country in record numbers? ›

    'Brain drain' déjà vu as New Zealanders leave the country in record numbers. Over 81,000 New Zealand citizens left the country in the year to April – a 41% increase on the previous year. Stewart Sowman-Lund looks at why, in this extract from The Bulletin. To receive The Bulletin in full each weekday, sign up here.

    Which country has the highest rate of brain drain? ›

    Human flight and brain drain index, 0 (low) - 10 (high), 2023: The average for 2023 based on 177 countries was 5.17 index points. The highest value was in Samoa: 10 index points and the lowest value was in Australia: 0.4 index points. The indicator is available from 2007 to 2023.

    What are the statistics of brain drain? ›

    The great Indian brain drain

    According to an Expat Insider 2021 survey, 59% of Indians moved abroad for their careers, more than 10% higher than the global average of 47%.

    What is the brain drain phenomenon? ›

    Brain drain usually happens when skilled individuals and professionals leave the home countries (in most cases, developing nations) and go elsewhere to take advantage of better opportunities. It also occurs when individuals leave one area of the workforce and go to another for some of the same reasons.

    What is the brain drain reversal strategy? ›

    Reverse brain drain is a form of brain drain where human capital moves in reverse from a more developed country to a less developed country that is developing rapidly. These migrants may accumulate savings, also known as remittances, and develop skills overseas that can be used in their home country.

    What countries are brain draining in 2024? ›

    Some typical countries to experience brain drain include countries in Africa, Central America, and the Caribbean. Other countries to experience brain drain include Korea, the Philippines, Iran, and Taiwan Province of China.

    Does the US have a brain drain problem? ›

    The Geography of Brain Drain in America. Across the United States, there are fewer states gaining brainpower than draining it, according to a new report from the U.S. Congress Joint Economic Committee.

    Which state has the highest brain drain? ›

    Here are the top (or bottom, depending on how you want to look at it) 10 states where brain drain was the most severe in 2023: South Dakota -- 72% net loss of college educated residents. Mississippi -- 67% net loss. Oklahoma -- 62% net loss.

    What record is brain drain? ›

    Brain Drain is the eleventh studio album by the American punk rock band Ramones, released on May 23, 1989.

    What are four effects of brain drain? ›

    Loss of potential future entrepreneurs. A shortage of important, skilled workers. The exodus may lead to loss of confidence in the economy, which will cause persons to desire to leave rather than stay. Loss of innovative ideas.

    How can we stop brain drain? ›

    Do you have talented employees that are always looking for greener pastures? Here are some tips on how to stop brain drain and keep your top talent!
    1. Provide employee benefits.
    2. Nurture a workplace culture like no other.
    3. Adopt remote working policies.
    4. Look into international hiring.
    Jun 22, 2022

    What is African brain drain? ›

    Brain drain, which is the emigration of skilled nationals, results in a depletion of skilled human resource in the countries of origin. The African Union estimates that about 70,000 skilled professionals emigrate from Africa every year.

    Is brain drain a threat? ›

    Brain Drain subjects to a vital threat before a country. This migration results in a great loss to the countries where they are born and educated. Higher education is one of the important reasons for permanent emigration.

    Which countries have the most brain drains? ›

    • Sri Lanka. Human Flight and Brain Drain Index: 7.6. ...
    • Fiji. Human Flight and Brain Drain Index: 7.6. ...
    • Chad. Human Flight and Brain Drain Index: 7.7. ...
    • Mali. Human Flight and Brain Drain Index: 7.7. ...
    • Grenada. Human Flight and Brain Drain Index: 7.7. ...
    • Syria. Human Flight and Brain Drain Index: 8. ...
    • Cabo Verde. ...
    • Moldova.
    Feb 26, 2024

    What's the opposite of brain drain? ›

    Brain drain is the loss suffered by a region as a result of the emigration of a (highly) qualified person, while brain gain is when a country benefits as a consequence of immigration of a highly qualified person.

    How did Taiwan reverse brain drain? ›

    To reverse Taiwan's brain drain, the government of the Republic of China (ROC) has already implemented an ambitious program to recruit Taiwan's highly trained talents from overseas. Taiwan's successful experience could be emulated by other developing countries.

    How severe is Africa's brain drain? ›

    A new survey of more than 4,500 young people in Africa, aged 18-24, has found that 52% of them are likely to consider emigrating in the next few years, citing economic hardship and education opportunities as the top reasons.

    Which European countries have brain drain? ›

    Besides Hungary and Poland, Romania is also one of the big losers of brain drain: within the region, Romania reached the highest score (5.3) in 2022. Since Romania's democratic transition and Bucharest's EU accession in 2007, Romanians have left the country in droves.

    What is an example of brain drain in the world? ›

    This phenomenon is known as Geographic Brain Drain, and it occurs when highly qualified individuals leave their home region or country in search of better career prospects. When a large number of highly educated persons from a third-world country find work in the United States, this is an example of brain drain.

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