16 June 2008

Immigration in New Zealand 'crucial' to economy

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Visa holders in New Zealand are more valuable than the country's citizens, immigration experts have told a conference. The Pathways, Circuits and Crossroads summit for immigration concluded New Zealand visa holders are vital to the economic growth of the country.

"Pathways, Circuits and Crossroads: New Research on Population, Migration and Community Dynamics" is a set of seminars running over a five year period, as part of the Integration of Immigrants Programme. The seminars are designed to present the latest research on immigration to New Zealand and a range of international and local expert perspectives. The programme is sponsored by the Department of Labour.

The latest seminar has revealed that, contrary to popular belief, migrants put more into the economy than they take out. Immigrants to New Zealand have long been blamed for using too many health services, claiming too many benefits and largely contributing to rising house prices, but studies show otherwise.

The recent report "Housing Markets and Migration: Evidence from New Zealand" shows there is no validity to the claim that immigrants are the driving force behind increased house prices. The Immigration Minister, Mr Clayton Cosgrove, said in a press release, the link between rising house prices and population lies with New Zealanders returning home.

The economy of the country could be headed for disaster if the number of immigrants reaching the country reduces, the conference was told. Rob Hodgson, from the Department of Labour, said immigration in New Zealand added NZ$8.1 billion to the economy in 2006 and used NZ$4.81 billion in benefits and services. This compared to New Zealand citizens who added NZ$24.76 billion, but used $21.92 billion worth of services.

He said: "The net impact for having an immigrant here is NZ$3.29 billion, or NZ$3547 per capita, while the net per capita contribution of a New Zealand-born is just NZ$915." It was also recently found that New Zealand visa holders are increasingly enjoying the country's way of life, with 44 per cent having moved to the location for that reason.

A popular belief in New Zealand also maintains that migrants are responsible for an aging population and labour shortage, according to the New Zealand Herald.

Professor Ian Pool, from the Population Studies Centre at the University of Waikato, asserts migrants should not be held responsible for an aging population, as "immigration policies make migration highly selective by age" and the emigration of New Zealand-born citizens to places such as Australia and the UK is creating more of an effect on the labour shortage and a youthful population.

"We need to model our policies to meet two sets of competing demands, that of an ageing population and meeting the needs of the young ready to enter the workforce," he said.

Professor Pool, along with other speakers at the seminar, strongly urges the Department of Labour to proactively encourage immigration to New Zealand, so its economy will continue to flourish and the labour force can grow to meet market demands.

New Zealand needs skilled migrants: Anyone applying for a New Zealand visa should begin by taking the New Zealand Visa Bureau's online New Zealand visa assessment to see if they meet the basic legislative requirements.

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