Overseas student numbers down by 15.4% compared to a year ago, foreign workers down by 11.9%

Overseas student numbers down by 15.4% compared to a year ago, foreign workers down by 11.9%

The number of people in this country on student and work visas continues to slowly but steadily decline, although the decline is a lot slower than might have been expected since border restrictions were introduced last year.

According to the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment, the number of people in this country on student visas at the end of January was down 15.4% compared to a year earlier, while those on work visas were down by 11.9% over the same period.

Student visa numbers have been declining at the rate of about 2000 a month since the middle of last year, and at the end of January there were 60,246 people in the country on student visas, down by 10,935 (-15.4%) compared to January last year, when there were around 71,181 overseas students in the country.

However the decline is likely to be more noticeable when February's student visa numbers are released next month, because the biggest increase in overseas student numbers usually occurs in February each year, but that seems unlikely this year.

There were also fewer foreign workers in the country, with their numbers declining from 212,745 at the end of January last year to 187,347 at the end of January this year, a decline of 25,398 (-11.9%) over 12 months.

That meant that altogether there were 247,593 people in this country on either work or student visas at the end of January, an overall  reduction of 36,333 (-12.8%) compared to the 283,926 that were in the country at the end of January last year.

The graphs below show the number of people in this country at the end of each month for the last two years.

We welcome your comments below. If you are not already registered, please register to comment.

Remember we welcome robust, respectful and insightful debate. We don't welcome abusive or defamatory comments and will de-register those repeatedly making such comments. Our current comment policy is here.

70 Comments

12
up

It is hard to know the full story without also knowing the number of student visas converted to work visas and the number of work visas converted to residency.

Stats NZ estimates from April 2020 to November 2020: 27,000 arrivals and 104,800 departures were by non-New Zealand citizens. A net loss of 77,800 non-NZ citizen is quite significant (almost one year worth of record net migration).

Non-New Zealand citizens include: people arriving on residence, work, or critical purpose visas; Australian citizens and permanent residents; and others who meet border entry criteria.
Agreed there could be a few thousand non-NZ citizens who travelled to NZ on partnership visitor visas, since they meet border entry criteria.

I think a lot of those departures of non NZ citizens were tourists. The incoming tourists stopped but there were still a lot here through lockdown. Also, some of the tourists have been able to convert to work visas. The overall situation remains very muddy.

15
up

Hopefully stays down. Wage Inflation and less pressure on infrastructure and housing sounds good to me.

11
up

Hopefully with an economy that has higher wages and better infrastructure to offer, a well-planned migration policy could finally give us a better shot at the global talent pool.
We could start by rebuilding our reputation away from an easy residency destination for those seeking economic refuge.

You're sounding somewhat Trumpian. ;0)

10
up

A long succession of immigration policies tried to increase productivity and attract highly skilled migrants and entrepreneurs, but with very little effect, said NZIER associate Julie Fry.
Fry, who has studied migration for about 30 years, said "People in general commentary and people with specialist knowledge have for a long time been saying this whole skilled migrant thing? The people that are coming in aren’t that skilled".

https://www.stuff.co.nz/business/industries/123541263/nzs-welcomed-a-lot...

Less skilled than the people already here, according to the Productivity Commission.

But by they are... 'skilled labour' nonetheless... C'mon even Judith say so, you can't label workers from Pacifica.. than came here for the past 5-7years are not skilled in their field, they are a 'skilled labour' - But really, the same to say to single person, 6digits salary, specialist that have to move their skills across the ditch, and left NZ clamoring each other into their housing ponzi scheme fully backed by govt & RBNZ, no difference - skilled where moves to the place that needed/valued them the most, always.

Certainly helped with much lower than expected unemployment figures. When COVID hit us, I was expecting over 10%

Happy year of the OX, people. Finally, we can say goodbye to the ill lucked year of the Rat.

OX symbolises reliability, stability, power and excellence in the ancient Chinese culture.

Yay, happy new year to you too! But what did everything you said have anything to do with the article?

I hope we will get more stability and excellence in general in the new year, including overall immigration : )

19
up

But the reduction in immigration is a good thing.

We need more years of the rat.

12
up

I hope so too. 1960s and 1970s levels of stability in relation to immigration and house prices.

and..salary/wages relation to service the housing debt?

Happy Ox indeed. We're definitely due those 4 things in the world

**duplicate accidental post**

Frankly the OX has never been a lucky sign and in reality more of the same from this govt just spells more horror to come for thousands of NZders and housing, at all in any form, being so far out of reach and costs still spiraling way out of control. Power, stability in a corrupt system is the corrupt system just getting more unequal and worse. Sure excellence for those on top but then they could always afford multi million dollar PR teams.

Well, just like in Oz, the apartment market will fall off a cliff. Great returns, the catch will be finding someone to rent it. FHB would do well to snap up a city apartment. Things to look for: Older apartments (with no build issues, stood the test of time), car park, freehold, percentage of owner occupiers (the more the merrier), look at history of body corp work done to date. Lookout for potential view blockers ie future builds next door, talk to neighbouring apartment owners, ask about issues - positives/negatives of the block etc..simple due diligences. Put in low ball offers, and be prepared to walk away if not accepted, plenty more to look at. The vendors will be keen to liquidate.

I don't understand how we can have an apartment surplus and a housing shortage at the same time.

One of those statements must be false - either there is not a housing shortage, or there is not an apartment surplus.

If people are genuinely short of housing, then surely an apartment is an option.
Auckland Transport do still need to get their heads out of their asses and improve links to some industrial areas (e.g. Rosebank Road).

A lot of those apartments are horrible - tiny, no car parking, and often old and shabby. The only reason they have value is that international students will pay $100 or more each a week to share a tiny bedroom.

key words to note "leasehold" and "remediation" aka leaky. When the annual lease is more than a deposit it is more unaffordable then ever and hundreds in thousands in remediation repair costs is not going to help those already pushing everything they have to make a deposit.

16
up

Down 11% and 15%. Surely we can do better than this. We probably have to go back to the 70s to see a reasonable (non harmful) rate of rent and house price increases. We also have to go back to the 70s to see a reasonable (non harmful) amount of foreign workers and students (and other immigrants) many of whom are angling for eventual residency. Coincidence? I think not.
Let's push to have our immigration setting for this decade aligned with the numbers we accepted in the 70s. After all that was the last decade our society was not being divided and destroyed through excessive rent and house price increases driven largely, of course, by huge population growth through ever increasing immigration. If anybody truly believes that increasing our population by 100K PA does not seriously contribute to rapidly rising rents house prices and a housing shortage, I just do not know what to say.

Set the wage threshold at 84k (1.5x median wage) for residency application and see the influx numbers drop and the quality of applicants improve.

The current median wage threshold wasn't exactly decided by keeping migrant doctors, data scientists and software developers in mind.

The wage threshold can be easily circumvented. Hire someone at the given wage, but make them pay back half of it to you. Gotta pay tax on the whole amount, but that's a cost covered by the employee. I believe that some Indian restaurants were found out doing this a couple of years ago.

True but it is easier to disguise the lower the threshold. The only objection I can find to a sensible high threshold (say $90pa in Auckland) would be many of our caregivers - but they are chronically underpaid because they are dominated by staff of 3rd world origin. Maybe they could make the threshold by their overtime pay.

Caregivers often get zero hour style contracts (even though they are not meant to). Many would not even be getting enough for minimum wage pay at part time hours even when contracting for multiple companies.

CJ.. they get round it by finding the worker $200 accommodation and charging them $500 or more. And yes, as you mentioned it is far more prevalent amongst certain groups of people based on who has been prosecuted for it.

There will be a growing number of online offshore students this year. Who pay a reduced fee, and may transition to onshore if borders reopen.

Another death blow to flat earth theorists and the religion of xenophobia.

Immigration causes house price to increase. Yeah right!

12
up

So anti-immigration (mass immigration) is xenophobic?

How do you work that one out?

In the same way I would have asked you why anti-migrants isn't xenophobic.

Thanks for trying.

15
up

There you go again.

I'm anti mass immigration because I don't want an overpopulated country.

I'm not racist or anti any particular immigrant.

Great reply Timmyboy.

11
up

Give your label-maker a rest, mate. Nothing wrong in demanding net migration stay at a level where our glacial housing and infrastructure construction pace can keep up.

I'm not aware of anyone claiming a direct, proportional relationship between immigration and house prices. Clearly there are many many factors - right now interest rates seem to be the main driving factor, after the earthquake in Christchurch it was lack of supply.

Any claim that immigration is unrelated to house prices would be even crazier - increased demand leads to increase prices, all else being equal. Not many immigrants arrive with their own house, so there is an increase in demand without an immediate response in supply.

Nothing is set in perpetuality- you need to read my comments in the current context. As of today, net migration has no impact on the escalating house prices. Your understanding of demand and supply is solely based on a textbook based scenario and only happens in a fairly efficient market.

As the government keeps meddling with the property market, more distortion occurs, the rules of supply and demand changes and that's is why net migration is falling while the house price escalate even more rapidly.

In the face of such evidence, will cutting more migrants really have a real impact on pricing? Can you even trust an ideal supply and demand theory to work on a distorted market?

If the current major cause of price escalation are not migrants, then I'm justified to call them out Xenophobes for their relentless hounding and blame shifting onto the helpless minority in this country.

It's a great irony for a nation of migrants complaining about migrants.

Stop meddling with the property market- let it do it's thing!

Great effort on your part.

Net immigration in the year to March 2020 was exceptionally high - about 90,000 from memory; 50% higher than the previous year. This, together with lower interest rates, has probably been an important factor in the current increase in house prices. However, since March 2020, net immigration has been negligible. I expect this will eventually exert negative pressure on house prices. I haven’t seen much discussion about this however on interest.co or elsewhere.

Net migration isn't negligible, it's actually negative. If net migration have equal weight as other factors, house prices would had responded rapidly to its decline. The inelasticity of price against negative net migration shows the latter is not a major contributing factor to house prices.

Therefore net migration should not be a major variable to consider in formulating policies if the desired result is to suppress house prices or we will end up barking on the wrong tree again.

You are assuming there are no lags in the system.

4 years isn't enough eh. We shall wait for another 8.

Good try.

Net migration is not negative. Year on year growth maybe but that’s completely different to to net migration.

Over the same period, interest rates have fallen from 1.75% to 0.25%. That has been enough to overpower everything else, both by making mortgages cheaper and making some other forms of saving worthless.

This is not the definitive proof about migration's impact on house prices that you think it is - it just shows it's currently not the dominant factor.

You might well be right k02, but there is also the possibility that the mania could continue for house purchasing even if they remain empty.

This is where a house becomes the equivalent of a tulip with the expectation of ever rising prices fueled by low interest rates.

Under your scenario, do you think the trouble would show up first in the rental market?

Like I said, falling interest rates are the driver at the moment, as they have been quite frequently over the last few decades. But, house prices are the result of a complex recipe with many ingredients, one of which is migration. Do you honestly believe house prices would be at the current levels if the last decade had seen no net immigration, rather than adding several hundred thousand?

Calling xenophobia is a cheap shot - sometimes you'll be right, but in general you're trying to silence what is an important issue affecting many parts of the economy, not to mention the environment.

If reviving the economy is the goal, then more migrants are needed. NZ has a brain drain issue for decades and while of begging them to come back is an alternative, I don't see what incentives there are for them to do so. The current house shortages are self-inflicted due to bad policies by successive governments and their lack of foresight. Coupled with unrealistic utopian ideologies and we have what we have today.

NZ is one of the least populated country in any developed economies, there're plenty of room for everyone except when people start thinking of their 'entitlements' and begin manipulating the housing market.

If reviving the economy is the goal, then more migrants are needed
there're plenty of room for everyone

We've added more than half a million people in the last 5 years (+13%). How 'revived' does the economy feel to you with the performance on social fronts (child poverty, etc.) worsening over the same period?

We aren't exactly gaining brain from our current migration settings when the top work visas issued by occupations are: chef, tour guides, retail workers and cafe managers; just gaining more hands and legs!

That's exactly the problem. We're not attracting the right people for this country and you can squarely point it to the lack of investments into the economy and capital spending. But we don't have the money do we when we throw it into politically popular welfare and sending it to the islands to maintain diplomacy.

It took me 3 whole years to find a programmer with a neural programming expertise; and guess what, he's from India. Before you suggest he's bogus, let me tell you he's more real than the papers he came with, if not I would had fired him yesterday.

Best programmer I've met in NZ was from India too. Good coding but more important great communication skills. And he was a nice guy. I'm guessing his NZ employer was paying him well - certainly way above the current threshold.

Part of the blame for lack of productive investment can be placed on the housing market - so many in New Zealand don't look beyond buying a rental to invest their money, adding nothing to the country. Our share market is pitifully small and shrinking, with companies frequently snapped up by overseas competitors as we do not support them well enough.

We can't expect people to support uncompetitive companies can we, without the risk of propping zombie companies. We need competitive companies instead.

We have many competitive companies, some of them taking on the world. Mainfreight, Xero, A2 milk, Fisher and Paykel, all punching pretty highly, and plenty of smaller upcoming companies around. Of course, we lost Xero from our stock exchange and now it's just listed in Australia, because we're too busy buying each other's houses. A2 will likely follow - all the action is on the ASX.

It's 2 different asset classes- the risk profile is different.

CWBW...Immigration clearly has an immediate and direct effect on rents. With house prices it takes 6 or 7 years to take effect because the majority of our immigrants are economic migrants who come here penniless and have needed that time to get on the property ladder. Of course there are other factors that affect house price inflation but immigration is a huge (and very negative) factor.
Unless you are a greedy landlord or business owner in search of cheap and compliant slave labor there is absolutely no reason to continue to allow more than a few thousand a year to come here. So even if some (flat earthers) believe it will have no effect on the rental and housing crisis we have nothing to lose by changing the immigration settings(drastically) for the next 5 or 10 years. We have everything to gain and nothing to lose by trying it. We need to try everything that has any possibility of improving the situation. We owe it to our poor and our kids.
Many Brits who now live here have told me immigration was one of the main reasons why they left Britain and moved here.

Why don't they move to a even less populated place than NZ?

Hypocrisy at its finest.

When most migration is from countries like UK, Aus, Pacific and Asia, mostly from countries which typically colonised NZ over a hundred years ago how do you class needing to limit more modern migration numbers to levels that the infrastructure and housing can be built to cope with as xenophobic when the only shared feature between all of them is they are human? It is speciesist against humans but then again we already restrict other species imports already.

There are two students living with us since they finished yr12 college in Dec. They have been trying to leave NZ and see their families since mid-December. Incidentally one of them has qualified to enter Auckland Uni to study science but is applying to universities in Singapore, Taiwan and China. The point being the reputation of our universities is declining - we may end up with just low grade PTE students who are here for prospects of residency not education.

Our universities are more interested in selling programmes that bring in more fees at low costs than those that actually improve our economic landscape or drive research excellence.

I had several international students in my undergraduate maths classes at uni in the late 2000s.
When I went back for my masters in 2015, I noticed heaps more business and hospitality programmes were being offered by all NZ universities and international students made up 80-90% of these course enrolments.

Tell me about it! I'd been losing valuable staff over the years and it's jeopardising my early retirement plan. The last prospectus was a Chinese guy with a double degree in law and finance. I thought given his education and dexterity of mind, he would had easily taken over this business from me and bloody Ozzy had to offer him an independent Visa!

It's common practice in my industry to head straight to Sydney or Melbourne soon after passing your actuarial exams or receiving your CFA.
Undeniably, such career achievements are valued a lot more out there in terms of both money and future growth prospects.

An actuary? As somebody who can quantify and actually understand risk you must find many of the views on here (in regard to property investment risk) quite entertaining and amusing.

Indeed, the same goes for technical, scientific and medical fields. That if you have not got a placement overseas then something has gone wrong. Most either leave the country or find they have to leave the field they trained in as NZ more often than not does not employ NZders, especially experienced Nzders hence even engineers or techs find 80% of jobs are mostly for migrants and over 80% of trained experienced job seekers cannot find employment in their own industry with NZ companies. Plus the quality of life and cost of housing in comparison is horrific when comparing even with across the ditch. Many NZders did return due to covid but even more that left in the past 2 decades are not coming back and even a global pandemic is not enough to make NZ an attractive option both in hiring practices, career progression, housing etc. Even just looking at something small like health insurance perks, overtime and work options and there is a vast gulf in NZ practices and offers to overseas. Hence even many residents once they have got through NZ often soon leave for other countries.

There are two students living with us since they finished yr12 college in Dec. They have been trying to leave NZ and see their families since mid-December. Incidentally one of them has qualified to enter Auckland Uni to study science but is applying to universities in Singapore, Taiwan and China. The point being the reputation of our universities is declining - we may end up with just low grade PTE students who are here for prospects of residency not education.

Wouldn't they have left already if they really were trying hard? And yes, over the last year or so I have noticed our technical college here (WITT) seems to be at least 50% South Asian.

One was off loaded before Xmas and hopes to get on a flight next week. The other has financial issues - a year ago it would have just been $1000 return flight but now it would involve paying more for a ticket and paying for quarantine - along with the risk of another shutdown of the Australian bubble it is all unanticipated costs. Both young these 18 year olds are very homesick and their parents miss them.

Wouldn't they have needed sufficient capital & insurance to support them in case of medical difficulties as well and the capital requirements would have covered the ticket home especially as embassy help is always available. I ask because over the decades have had many overseas students, from teenagers to adults, school to Uni level. If they could not afford the capital requirements to come here and relied on NZ funding most of their insurance costs then obviously there is a problem with them coming at all. NZ education is not that desirable and in most cases remote learning was always available from world class Universities and education facilities. Most education facilities in NZ do advertise pathways to residency. Either going home was something they could plan for over a year ago else they were not prepared to leave even when they arrived as airline changes are literally to be expected at the best of times. Hence Embassy help, a high level of capital and insurance is there for that reason and is required often for overseas students. One can be homesick and still ineffective at planning and parents not caring about their children to bring them home with the comparatively very small difference in pricing is more telling at the intention and feasibility of overseas study. After all they are not looking at 100x the price or even over 10x the price of airfares and quarantine even. Many NZders often face emergency medical costs unfunded by pharmac and NZ health boards over tens of thousands of dollars and yet if it was for their kids they would do it even if life was not on the line. Raising 35k to see a child play and join in on a beach is often needed, yet families in NZ and often the poorest families, do it all the time yet these overseas students traveled the world without even the minimal capital and insurance requirements expected of a tourist... hmm. Were they scholarship kids from deepest levels of poverty?

They both come from a country with poor college education. One is from a wealthy family and she as been desperately trying to get home where she will start studying law in country of origin. Her parents even looked into hiring a plane. The point being it has taken 2 months - it is quite probable she is not unique in being a student stranded for a while. The other is the only daughter of a working mother who has invested in her daughter's education. I expect concerns about security as well as quality of education and cost are influencing her decision whether to attend university in NZ or Taiwan, Singapore, China rather than country of origin.

I am very pleased to see the outflow of these people. Good for our economy and incomes.

Good for them too to reconnect with family in the home country. But unfortunately many from Pacific islands are still separated from their families due to the different countries still having restrictive border closures. Although it is more a separation of the families not being able to travel here then those here traveling back. I know over several Fijian families separated (fathers in one country, mothers and kids in another and sometimes the kids are in one and the parents in another). But the chance to return to the Islands is passed over as it would be harder and less sure of returning to NZ afterwards. Packing up when they expected to stay many years here or permanently with no known date of return is a difficult task. Simply moving the stuff from a rental into a storage facility is often out, kids would have to change school and getting work again in NZ may be more difficult until frequent travel between the countries opens up (often in NZ roles that pay substantially less and are more dependent on migrant labor being easy and cheap to obtain). Repatriation flights often cannot fit a container of household goods and shipping is in a choke hold.