Brain drain flips to brain gain as migration roars back to life - economist

New Zealand's brain drain is now a brain gain with migration roaring back to life. 

Throughout 2021 and into 2022 Aotearoa was facing a net brain drain as New Zealanders flocked overseas and the number of people coming into the country struggled to recover after the COVID-19 pandemic. 

But estimates released by Statistics NZ show the brain drain is turning into brain gain, with 5700 more people arriving in the country than leaving in the year to November 2022. 

The estimates show 98,000 migrants arrived in the country in the time period compared with 92,300 who left. 

The arrival figures represent a 77 percent increase while the departures jumped 36 percent. 

It's the first annual net migration gain since February 2021 but the arrivals are still below the pre-COVID average of 120,900 for November in the years from 2002 to 2019.

Stats NZ said the departure figures are similar to the pre-COVID average of 92,100 for November years from 2002 to 2019. 

The migration gain was made up of a net loss of 15,600 New Zealand citizens and a net gain of 21,300 non-New Zealand citizens.

The figures are in line with pre-COVID-19 migration patterns which show New Zealand usually had an annual net migration gain of non-citizens and a loss of citizens.

The net migration gain of 21,300 non-citizens in the November 2022 year compares with a net migration loss of 16,000 in the November 2021 year. The current net gain is well below recent November years for 2014 to 2019 which saw average net gains of 61,200 a year. 

The net migration loss of 15,600 citizens compares with a net gain of 3300 in the November 2021 year.  

But while New Zealand is getting an influx of migrants, it seems Kiwis are still leaving for Australia. 

Stats NZ estimates show a provisional net migration loss of 8900 people to Australia in the year ended June 2022. This was made up of 13,700 migrant arrivals from Australia to New Zealand, and 22,600 migrant departures from New Zealand to Australia. 

Traditionally, there has been a net migration loss from New Zealand to Australia. This averaged nearly 30,000 a year between 2004 to 2013, and about 3000 a year from 2014 to 2019. 

Infometrics senior economist Brad Olsen said the migration estimates show there is now a brain gain. 

"Recent migration estimates show a rapid turnaround in net migration, with strong migrant inflows flipping the brain drain to a brain gain," he wrote in an Infometrics newsletter.