July 07, 2020

New Zealand Institute of Economic Research (Inc)
Media Release, 7 July 2020
For immediate release

New Zealand has put up a ‘no entry’ sign. We have stopped international tourism. Historically high rates of inward economic migration have fallen to a trickle, forgoing what has been at best a small positive impact on GDP per capita.

New Zealand closed the border in response to Covid-19 to prioritise the wellbeing of everyone here. We now have a unique opportunity to think about what conditions should apply when the border reopens, and we should seize it.

In an Insight released today, NZIER Principal Economist Peter Wilson and NZIER Associate Julie Fry argue pre-Covid migration settings were not optimal.
“Long-running policy has been to respond to skill shortages by importing trained people rather than improving the skills of all New Zealanders”, Peter Wilson said. “We have increasingly given short-term visitors, like students and holidaymakers, work rights”.

When we reopen the border, we should take the opportunity to do so under policy settings that improve the wellbeing of both New Zealanders and migrants, rather than just revert to the status quo.

The three main areas that should be examined, debated and resolved are: 1) setting migration policy so it respects the Crown’s Treaty obligations; 2) the effect of migration on productivity, wages, and investment; and 3) the costs and benefits of increasing access to residence for wider family members.

“By reducing reliance on migration and upskilling Kiwis we can create a win-win for the economic and social wellbeing of New Zealanders”.

For further information please contact:
Peter Wilson, Principal Economist
021 870 928, peter.wilson@nzier.org.nz