Eye-watering figures suggest more than one million Kiwis are actively considering leaving New Zealand as the brain drain takes full force.
The latest Consumer Snapshot from business management platform MYOB, a nationwide poll of more than 500 people, shows four percent of those polled - equivalent to around 200,000 New Zealanders - have decided they are moving overseas to live and work now the borders have reopened.
The most alarming figures showed an additional 20 percent of those surveyed, equivalent to approximately 1,025,000 people based on population data, said they are actively considering moving offshore.
This is a drastic rise in pre-pandemic trends with just less than 41,000 Kiwis leaving New Zealand to go overseas for at least 12 months in 2019.
The figures are based on population data from Stats NZ.
When asked why they were considering a move abroad, half said they could get a better salary, 44 percent said it's for a better quality of life or the cost of living is better overseas while 34 percent wanted to experience living and working in another country.
MYOB Head of Employee Services, Felicity Brown, said if even half of those currently considering moving decided to go, the impact on the local economy will be deeply felt.
"This has the makings of a real crisis in the local jobs sector with the lack of available employees making it even more challenging for many businesses to operate or expand to meet local demand," Brown said.
"For many local SMEs, it is impossible to compete in an international market where businesses overseas may be able to offer potential employees more money for similar roles, and we've been hearing concerns around this very scenario from SMEs predicting this outcome over the past 12 months."
Salary perceptions driving travel
A big reason why Kiwis are looking at packing their bags and heading overseas is they believe they can earn an average of around $23,000 more working in a role offshore, compared to the same role in New Zealand.
Twenty-one percent of those surveyed estimated their salary would increase by NZ$15,000 - $20,000 if they were to move overseas in a similar role, 19 percent expected an increase of NZ$20,000 - $25,000 while 11 percent estimated they could benefit by between NZ$25,000-$30,000.
Australia is the biggest beneficiary of New Zealanders looking for new opportunities overseas, with 58 percent of Kiwis who have looked into travelling to live and work thinking about moving across the ditch.
Eight percent said the UK, seven percent said the US, and six percent have thought about moving to Europe.
Incentives to stay
An increase in salary is also a key factor which would influence a decision to stay in New Zealand, according to 54 percent of those considering moving overseas, MYOB said.
This is followed by 'a significant decrease to the cost of living' (48 percent) and 'if house prices went down/became more affordable' (37 percent).
"It's never been more important to offer the right incentives and likewise continue to review our immigration settings so more skilled workers actively consider moving to New Zealand to experience life here and fulfil demand. Local businesses need greater access to a larger pool of employees," Brown explains.
"In the meantime, for local SMEs eager to try and retain talent without having to dig into their cash-strapped reserves, it's worth considering what other benefits could be offered - such as flexible hours, paid training and development courses, or even internal promotions or moves that offer new opportunities.
"Showing employees they are valued helps to increase loyalty - something which will be crucial in the coming months."