National migration series | Part 5: Why is it important to understand migration patterns?
Immigration data can be misleading. Arrival card data simply captures intentions, yet where immigrants plan to go and where they end up settling often varies.
The last blog in this series highlighted the large number of arrivals to Queenstown relative to its resident population size. We also know that many of the new immigrants to Queenstown arrive on working visas. Some will settle for the duration of their visa while others will move and travel/work around NZ after an initial stint in Queenstown.
The challenges of understanding immigration data
The fact that immigrants don’t necessarily stay in the same place seems obvious enough, but it is a thorn in the side of all population forecasters.
An example surfaced in a recent visit to the East Coast of New Zealand. Staff at Gisborne District Council had noted a rise in migrant numbers, however immigration data showed very few new migrants listing Gisborne as their intended destination. The only source that can accurately show the cumulative effect of migration is the census. But that data is only collected every five years.
Previous discussion has highlighted the difficulty in capturing short-term migration figures. The census provides a good cumulative picture of change every five years, but in between times local change is not adequately reflected by immigration figures.
Why is it important to have a more accurate idea of local settlement patterns?
We identified that immigrants can be quite mobile and that echoes a wider trend of population mobility, so an influx of migrants can have several outcomes. To begin with, the clustering of migrants may cause congestion on infrastructure or push prices up because of higher levels of demand, for example in housing markets. This outcome has attracted much media and political attention in Auckland as an example.
New migrants can alter the labour market for locals and earlier migrants, which in turn may cause a shuffling effect where current residents move away to avoid prospective displacement.
However, while it might seem reasonable to expect new migrants to be more responsive to the regional labour market differences than those who have settled and developed connections in their communities, settlement patterns show that migrant networks play a big part in the early period of settlement.
What do settlement patterns in New Zealand tell us?
Research on the settlement patterns of recent migrants in NZ reveals:
- Recent migrants (those who have settled in the last 5 years), tend to live in highly concentrated locations.
- Recent migrants are more likely to live in areas with denser networks of other migrants
- Established migrants (who have been in the country for more than 5 years) tend to assume the internal migration habits of the general population – thus they will choose to relocate to areas with better labour market outcomes.
- Local labour market conditions continue to become a more important determinant of migration movement the longer migrants are in NZ (Mare, Morten, & Stillman, 2007)
Mare, DC, Morten, M and Stillman, S 2007, ‘Settlement Patterns and the Geographic Mobility of Recent Migrants to New Zealand’, Motu Economic and Public Policy Research, September 2007.
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