Why Are People Leaving New Zealand? [2024]

We all know New Zealand to be a very lively yet isolated country from the rest of the world. Undoubtedly, it has a great quality of life, nature, lifestyle, and landscape – despite these reasons, people are leaving New Zealand in search of better lands.

Why are Kiwis and immigrants leaving New Zealand? It all comes down to the high cost of living, lack of job opportunities, the weather, and the crippling student debt. Then it’s worth considering a few other options, isn’t it?

In this article, we point out several reasons why locals and immigrants are leaving New Zealand behind for a better life. Continue reading if you want to know the dark side of New Zealand before even moving here.

Watch our video about why people leave New Zealand.

Reasons why people emigrate from New Zealand

No doubt, New Zealand is a country with diverse opportunities and mixed cultures. It gives you a chance to experience, explore, and make the most of your life!

But it still comes as a surprise that many people are emigrating from New Zealand and that more people are leaving New Zealand than entering in the post-COVID years.

As per the statistics, there has been a constant increase in immigration statistics. For the year 2015, the number of immigrants increased by 9.74% from 2010, or about 92,000, which doesn’t seem a lot.

In addition to the low inflow, only between June 2021 – 2022, 60,700 people left New Zealand for good. Annual net migration shows a loss of 11,500 folks in the last year.

For departures in June 2022, New Zealanders were the largest group, with about 24,600 people leaving. Also, citizens of the following countries left New Zealand in 2022:

  • China – 5,300
  • The UK – 4,500
  • India – 4,300
  • The US – 2,600 people

It’s probably not surprising to see New Zealand citizens as the leading group of people to leave. This all comes down to the high cost of living, people leaving to progress in their careers, and much more.

That said, 2021 and 2022 statistics are mainly influenced by COVID-19. Usually, New Zealand sees an annual surplus of people arriving in the country vs leaving. For instance, in February 2020, there was a surplus of about 85,000!

1. Careers and salaries

The main reason the majority of people emigrate from New Zealand is to make progress in their careers and get higher salaries.

Although the job market in New Zealand is flourishing, however, the number of jobs offered and vacant positions are often limited.

The areas of jobs aren’t very diversified, with a lot of career choices falling into the same category. Meaning professionals in some particular fields might not be able to find a job in New Zealand at all.

The wages vary depending on the industry, but the average median wage in New Zealand is approximately NZ$29.66 per hour as of February 2023 (excluding taxes).

When compared to the cost of living, this income is on the borderline of just supporting the basic needs of an individual.

2. High cost of living

As mentioned above, although the average median income seems suitable enough, in the face of the rising cost of living, it seems barely sufficient. This is why many New Zealanders, especially fresh graduates, are heading off to explore the world.

As of March 2022, Stats NZ found that 7,300 more people have left the country than entered. From petrol prices to renting houses, buying groceries to childcare — everything has been affected, and people need support.

This could be due to the unaffordability of the sky-high living costs after COVID-19. Yes, there is no doubt that the pandemic hit every country in the world; but it wouldn’t be wrong to say that it hit the young in New Zealand very hard, considering how they are fleeing.

In 2022, inflation has been on the rise, which has further soared our cost of living. Many people call the current situation a cost of living crisis. Today’s rate of inflation is 6%.

Read more on the cost of living in New Zealand.

3. Real estate market

The real estate market is thriving and competitive everywhere in the world. If you thought the condition of the real estate market was just satisfactory a few years before, then consider what a disaster it would be right now!

The price of residential housing property in Auckland as of 2022 has reached the mark of NZ$1.35 million. With inflation hitting hard, the prices are expected to rise even higher in 2023.

To avoid the trouble of housing markets and prices, people are leaving New Zealand in search of new lands to fulfil their dreams.

4. College tuition and student debt

In New Zealand, paying school fees is a dream come true! Why? Because state schools or government schools offer free education to children till high school!

But as soon as you open the doors to college and universities, you start dreading the student debt you are going to accumulate. It’s a nightmare, no joke! It’s a very challenging thing to pay off all the debt in the required time.

According to the Student Loan Scheme Annual Report 2022, 146,994 students had borrowed from the loan scheme, and the overdue borrowers were 106,612.

The number of loan borrowers keeps increasing, and the number of re-payers keeps decreasing.

Why do people move from New Zealand to Australia?

Wonder where the majority of the people move from New Zealand? Surprisingly, it’s neither the US nor the UK – it’s Australia!

As of 2021, Stats NZ reports that about 5,800 people migrated from New Zealand to Australia in just a single year (which is a significant number for a small population of the whole country).

But what are the perks that are driving Kiwis to Australia? Hang around to find out!

1. Salaries

Let’s call it how it is. Most people move to Australia because of the higher wages, they are simply higher. Many Kiwi go over the ditch to make and save money. After several years, many of them return back home to buy a desired house, however, they face a cut in income.

All prestige jobs are significantly better paid in Australia, including doctors, lawyers, financial workers, and consultants. It’s generally worth trading off your location for a better paycheck if it’s what you are after.

Trade workers such as labourers, butchers, builders, and plumbers also get paid better in Australia.

2. Weather and climatic conditions

One of the most important reasons why Kiwis tend to move to Australia is because of the weather conditions. Although the climatic conditions in both countries are almost similar, Australia is more on the hotter and less temperamental side.

The overall weather of New Zealand is quite a hassle as it mostly stays cold all year long. It has a temperate climate, with lots of rainfall and little variation in the summer and winter months.

To get away from such a constant season, Kiwis shift to Australia. The climate is continental and allows a full experience of all four seasons. It also has varying climate zones all across the country, so you have many choices to pick from.

3. Diverse job opportunities

What the job market of New Zealand lacks is diversity. This is not to say that there aren’t sufficient job opportunities in New Zealand, but that the diversity of Australia’s work industry wins fair and square.

People migrate to Australia to expand their services and to look for more exposure. The fields to work in allow a chance for more career options, especially for the younger generation.

The competition in the job market also depends on the population and investment of both countries, but if you are to earn a good cost of living, then Australia is the better option.

4. Quality of life

The quality of life or well-being of a country is defined by multiple factors such as political stability, civil rights, health, climate, cost of living, and popularity.

Both countries have their pros and cons, which sets them apart, but on a balanced scale, Australia has more pros.

In terms of health, both countries have very good values on the spectrum. Although Australia is winning in this category with a lead of 87%, New Zealand is not so far behind with just a difference of 6%, which makes it fall at 81%. The climate of Australia is also way better than New Zealand, with 90% to 36%.

Australia also offers many lifestyle options, from nightlife parties to mesmerizing art and music in Melbourne and quieter lifestyles in Tasmania.

5. International connections

When it comes to things like international connections, business investments, and collaborations overseas — Australia has the upper hand. Unlike New Zealand, Australia knows how to make its image in front of the entire world.

In a fast-moving world like ours, it’s crucial to make connections, have exposure and keep up with things. When settling down, people look for first-world countries that have it all, from A to Z.

Australia’s international connections help it to be better connected with the world. This is the reason why Kiwis and immigrants are leaving New Zealand to move to Australia. The latter also offers a lot of rights for expatriates.

Top destinations to move to from New Zealand

New Zealanders have it in their blood to travel to new places, explore foreign lands and discover diverse cultures. Besides Australia, what other options are there to move to? Let’s take a look down below.

The most popular destinations for Kiwis to move to are the United Kingdom, the United States, and, amusingly, Singapore — yes, you heard that right!

The United Kingdom is a land far, far away from New Zealand. With a diversity of cultures and civilizations abiding there, it attracts the majority of youth to go there.

The best thing is that the cost of living is lower than the income, which means that you can save up money, for once!

The job market is extremely large and allows room for growth and involvement as well. For Kiwis who like to travel and party, you’ll surely fall in love with the UK.

Another option is obviously – the United States, the land of big dreams and great opportunities. New Zealanders move there to look for various job opportunities and a better lifestyle.

The greatest driving force that pushes Kiwis to the United States is better education. With the ever-increasing student debt, people look for colleges and universities that will give them the maximum output.

Singapore is the perfect option for you if you are interested in culture, heritage, and standing on your own feet. It is a prime location for immigrants looking to work or live abroad.

From education to the job market, industrialization, and urban homes — Singapore is a bright and exciting place for living and adventure both. New Zealanders find it attractive for its rich culture, cleanliness, non-existent crime, and welcoming work culture.

But beware — the shift from New Zealand’s cold and chilly weather to Singapore’s heat and humidity will be no less than a nightmare.

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