Getting down to business, or getting businesses down?

We have revised down our expectations for GDP growth during 2018 in our latest economic forecasts (see Graph 1). Our previous forecasts, in October, were upbeat about prospects for the New Zealand economy this year, but a range of factors have combined to see that growth outlook soften over the last few months. These factors include persistent capacity constraints in the construction sector, changes in central government’s infrastructure priorities, and dairy prices that have been a bit disappointing.

Why are our car forecasts so much higher than last time?

We have revised up our car sales forecasts considerably over the five-year forecast period when compared to our February outlook. A big part of this long-term lift is a change in our forecasts for net migration. But there are also factors, such as high ownership rates and an improving economy, which are also going to push up demand for vehicles throughout our five-year forecast period.

Are we under-measuring our migrant numbers?

New data from Statistics NZ shows that migration, as we currently track it, is not always representative of true long-term migration. Using this information, we know that net migration in 2003 was severely underestimated. Given current labour market conditions and the attraction for both foreigners and returning New Zealanders to stick around, we believe that long-term net migration could currently be underestimated by 4,000-8,000 people.

Long-term implications of high net migration

New Zealand has gained around 72,000 more people in the past year according to arrival card data, and we’re feeling the strain of squeezing all these extra people into our cities.  But further analysis of visa data suggests that there are longer-term implications for these high arrival levels that, if left unchecked, could pose a problem for policymakers when we come off the high point in the business cycle.

Will government rule changes have a big effect on visa approvals?

The government has been successively tightening the rules for resident visas since October 2016. The purpose of these rule changes ostensibly is to reduce the number of people moving to New Zealand while not cutting off the supply of workers for our overstretched labour market. But each set of rule changes will have very different effects for migrants on work and resident visas. In this article, we outline the rule changes and discuss the implications of these changes for migration numbers and industry stakeholders.

The migration levels we should be targeting

Infometrics estimates that over the coming decade, net migration of between 10,500 and 16,600pa appears to be appropriate to maintaining New Zealand’s population growth relative to world growth. However, with net migration currently sitting at 72,300pa, a gradual approach to pulling back the numbers means that it could be seven years or longer before net migration sits within this range.

New Zealand research on the effects of migration

There has been a significant body of research over the last decade into the effects of immigration on various aspects of the New Zealand economy, much of it done by Motu, as well as the Reserve Bank, Treasury, or in conjunction with the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment.  Some of the key findings from this research include the following.

Most people coming from Australia… are Kiwi

A wee while back, Winston Peters complained that arrival data used by Herald reporters mistook arrivals from Australia as Australians (spoiler – it didn’t).  But he did raise an interesting question: who does come over from Australia when they move here long-term? Turns out, almost two thirds of people moving from Australia to New Zealand are in fact Kiwis.