Annual net migration gain drops 40% in 2020 to 44,126 from 73,097 in 2019

Annual net migration gain drops 40% in 2020 to 44,126 from 73,097 in 2019

New Zealand's population growth from migration dropped to its lowest level since 2013 last year.

According to Statistics NZ, there was a net population gain of 44,126 from migration in 2020, down by almost 30,000 (-39.6%) compared to 2019 and the lowest migration gain in seven years.

There were significant declines in both the number of people coming into the country on a long term basis and in the numbers leaving long term last year.

Long term arrivals dropped the most, falling from 166,356 in 2019 to 85,757 last year, a reduction of 80,599 (-48.4%), while long term departures fell from 93,259 in 2019 to 41,631 in 2020, a reduction of 51,628 (-55.4%).

There was also a significant change in the mix of migration patterns last year, with NZ citizens making up a greater percentage of the net migration gain, while there was a substantial drop in non-NZ citizens.

Overall there was a net gain of 21,828 NZ citizens in 2020 compared to just 3126 in 2019.

That was because the number of NZ citizens who arrived back in the country long term after an extended stay overseas declined from 41,310 in 2019 to 33,541 in 2020 (-18.8%). The number of NZ citizens who departed long term fell even more sharply, from 38,185 in 2019 to 11,713 in 2020 (-69.3%).

There was an even bigger drop in the number of non-NZ citizens who arrived in the country long term, falling from 125,046 in 2019 to 52,216 in 2020 (-58.2%) while long term departures of non-NZ citizens declined from 55,075 in 2019 to 29,918 in 2020 (-45.7%), to give a net gain of 22,298 non-NZ citizens in 2020 compared to 69,971 in 2019.

The interactive charts below show the long term net migration trends up until December 2020.

Net long term migration

Select chart tabs »

The ' Net long term migration - annual 12-16' chart will be drawn here.
The 'Net long term migration monthly gain or loss 12-16' chart will be drawn here.

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Is it not unreal, how "lowest number in 7 years" and its still 0.88% of an increase of the population...

How are we still letting more people into the country!!!! No more immigrants!!!!

I would support a political party whose primary policy was setting a population target of 5 million.

And not far off double the natural growth rate of ~25k despite lockdown, pretty unreal alright. The chickens are well and truly roosting now with a massive housing shortage. We've proven we can't build fast enough after years of KiwiBuild, maybe we'll finally get that pause while we catch up with building and housing those already here that are on waiting lists, in emergency housing, or trying to buy their first home.


Wow the govt. was sure doubling down on the population ponzi before covid closed it down.

To the dear wee bat that ended up in a pot in Wuhan, I say thank-you.


They've got to lower our standard of living somehow...

Got to thank you too for having your daily Texas oysters breakfast. Before you wonder, I know the way you knew.


Still a net 40k increase.

Good for maintaining the house price.

Yeah. 40,000 students, kitchen-hands and fruit-pickers all running round with pockets full of cash, buying up overpriced houses all over the country, I'm sure.


They do not need to be buying a house to contribute to the housing supply/demand imbalance. Just as long as they are renting a room. There are so many places in the country where finding a room to rent is currently a herculean task.

Okay, so the sudden removal of all this "demand" should see prices fall accordingly, then.

...any day now...


We haven't removed anything we have just increased by less.


And higher rents entice more investors into the market ie more people needing somewhere to sleep = higher rents= more investors in the market=less marginalized FHBs being able to get on the property ladder in their own place of birth.

That number is the equivalent to the population of , say, Wanganuj. We can only afford to take them if we are building another Wanganui every year.


Does this take into account that about 10,000 returnees (not just citizens as the PM and National Radio keep saying - also those holding the overly generous handing out of residency visas that is peculiar to this country) going through MIQ every month. That's 100,000 - 120,000 per year !! No wonder the housing, hospitals, infrastructure situations are bursting at the seams.

Yes it includes returnees, go to, then you see the real net flows.

I doubt there is any major changes to our migration policy in the pipeline; so I reckon the government is banking on Kiwis leaving for greener pastures once the pandemic threat reduces to bring 'net' migration down a bit.

History indicates the government (and National) prefer a net migration to be up rather than down.

People with dual citizenship should not be allowed in at the moment.
They have dual citizenship to have their foot in both countries if something goes wrong.
Many countries insist on only one passport.

The ignorance... Why should I have to apply for a visa to visit my family in the country I was born in?
"to have their foot in both countries" - wrong. I'd never return to my country of origin (to live), unless I was forced to.

Not everyone had a choice when they left their country of birth.


Still too many, given the state of our infrastructure-above and below ground. With a well defined points system, we could encourage a much smaller number of skilled migrants, while actively discouraging the less well qualified.
Basically, at least until we have our housing issues sorted, we should aim to keep the population stable-little or no net gain for say the next 10 years.


The govt makes it very expensive for an ordinary working couple to have children. That must be helping to keep our population growth down.


Then they go and import another 50,000 predominantly low-skilled workers... Go figure.


It's not just low-skilled workers. The skills shortage list keeps a lid on white-collar worker salaries by putting professional occupations in there, in fields we produce thousands of graduates for each year out of university. When wages aren't enough to get ahead on in these fields, they leave, so their occupation ends up on the skills shortage list. Heaven forbid people actually pay more for their skilled workers who have taken on debt to study locally.


Young people should leave if they care for their future, because this country doesn't.

Sort of understandable - this country doesn't educate very well. Just look at our PISA (standardised english and Maths) results which are in secular decline. Despite a century of knowledge accumulation, our high school grads would struggle on a 1950s School C (Year 11) exam. But governments of both stripes have lauded "NCEA pass rates" while turning a blind eye to the fact that it's just due to a watering down of the curriculum and the addition of ever-more pseudo subjects (look here if you don't believe me):

So I'm glad we have access to the highly skilled global market of doctors etc. Or else anyone with private insurance would have to be flying to Australia or somewhere for treatment.

It seems easy to have lots of kids if you are not working though; and having the taxpayer (and the police) look after you

Agree, we need to strictly limit it to very specialized jobs, students who can place funds into a NZ bank for the whole year and partners of NZ citizens and their YOUNG children and maybe those who will invest $3M+ into our productive economy (obv not incl housing).
NO parents, relatives, adult children, students without money, taxi drivers, fruit pickers, shop assistants or coffee or alcohol servers.

Agree with you there but I would make an exception for some seasonal fruit pickers from our neighbours in the pacific. They work hard, fit into the NZ culture while here and tend to go home to their families at the end of the season.

KK... maybe some although I do not see why we cannot attract Kiwis to the job if we pay them enough. For seasonal workers there should be some way to ensure they ALL leave once the work has ended. We should have more leniency with regard to allowing seasonal workers in because they are usually housed by employers or live in remote areas ie do not take much needed housing from Kiwis. On the other hand, students, bottle store employees and cafe workers.......

KK. Are you aware a lot of the income of many pickers from the South Pacific is siphoned back into the employers hands via such devices of compulsory and overpriced accommodation, and other methods ??

The RSE scheme must be purged of any and all of these shonky practices, and the whole thing seen in the same light as aid to the islands.

We should invest in the islands so they don’t have to come here


Agreed as long as the students no longer have a path to citizenship.

Exactly. If students had to put $30K+ into a NZ bank (and spend it) each year students would probably be a net positive for NZ as a whole. But if they come here to study without money, finance their study time working for Uber Eats, end up with citizenship through the pathway to residency then help 6 family members to migrate here.....

So where is the housing demand coming from? Speculators or something else?

Takere...I would say at least a good part of it is coming from people who gained residency several years ago. Many of them came here with nothing and it has taken them a few years to be in a position to buy a house.


500k net new immigrants in the last decade (and ok it has dropped to 40k in the last year) and you ask where is the demand coming from. All the newcomers need somewhere to live and contribute to the housing supply/demand imbalance, whether they be homeowners or renters.

KK... also don't forget it is exponential as at least some of the 500K people have had kids since they arrived.

Using the logic of the previous posters' answers, I have some new explanation.

A good part of the demand came from locals with petty deposits and has taken a few years for them to be in a position to buy a house now.

175,000 or more university graduates looking to own a house like their parents', since the inception of baby making and they ask where the demand is coming from- and we haven't got to other institutes.

And there you have it. The beauty of flat earth theory.

CWBW....That craft beer down in Otepoti must be playing tricks with your mind.

Nah, I'm sober as. Nothing beats teeing off for the Par 5 behind a caravan dump in Urenui while sipping from a single malt.

CWBW...I took my wife and kids to play golf for their first time at Urenui. Took five hours for 9 holes. (true story). Told the wife next time she wants to see Urenui she just has to ask me nicely. And I did hear you were spotted in Dunedin last weekend?

5 hours for a 9 holes is a tad too long. You sure you hitting the ball straight?

Straight as a finance minister

" Overall there was a net gain of 21,828 NZ citizens in 2020 " - welcome back.

Well done Winston Peters.


Winnie had the right idea on immigration but turned out to be a toothless tiger when he was part of the government. Make no mistake, the decline in immigration has been caused by the Wuhan bat - not a change in immigration settings. We can only hope the govt does not return to its old ways once covid has subsided.

New Zealand population is heading one and that’s upwards.


Still too high. Once the covid return is over, the tap needs turning off.

How does this mesh with the monthly figures that have been reported of net migration of 1000 or so a month.

The numbers reconcile. Jan, Feb and Mar 2020 had net migration of around 27,000 (from looking at the chart). Then net migration fell to one or two thousand per month for the next nine months to give a net migration of 44k for the 2020 year. The 44k should fall to 10-20k for the 12 months to March 2021 on the current run rate.


Thanks to Brutus Iscariot above for the PISA tip. Makes you performance gives another perspective to immigration. Compare NZ kids performance compares to other countries at least up to 2018 here.


Still far too high. O is the only appropriate level of immigration while we have people living on the street and in cars.

Kiwis are great lovers, especially when overseas. So anticipate almost 10,000pa as partners [who would want to get in the way of true love?]. Add refugees and a handful of really skilled (brain surgeons and equivalent) and the annual figure would be 15k. The only way you can get Zero is to be like North Korea.

Without immigration the population would be stable if not falling. Such a good thing that would be.
But there is need for some limited immigration. (neuro surgeons etc) So maybe a one out, one in policy.

RBNZ & govt: keep the housing ponzi up by all means, to compensate the migration downdraft.
When the migration tap open up again, let them bare the cost, curb the current local leash by more IRD power.
What sadly never been considered by all of this? - is the quick young brain drain, out of the game permanently.

Interesting to hear views against immigration being expressed so frequently now. Both major political parties in New Zealand are heavily pro-immigration bias but it looks like the population may not be on board with that strategy.

Two different but related issues: population and immigration. The complaints against immigration on this site are actually against unplanned population growth resulting in strained infrastructure and lack of trained teachers, medical staff, etc. Even with a static population there would be problems with the rapid internal migration of youth from zombie towns and rural NZ to our cities.
My objection to NZ immigration are the low-paid immigrants from poorer countries inevitably leading to exploitation and an attack on wages and conditions for poor Kiwis. The hypocrisy that they are all highly skilled bugs me too.

The population hasn't been on board with this strategy for some time, wr have just been let down by successive governments.