NZ graduates join brain drain
By SARAH HARVEY - Sunday Star Times
Last updated 05:00 02/05/2010

Kiwis are once more heading abroad to live as the world economy picks up, leading experts to warn that New Zealand faces being "hammered" by the brain drain.

Bernard Hickey, of financial website interest.co.nz, says if nothing is done to entice Generations X and Y to stay at home, the number of skilled graduates tempted abroad by bigger salaries and better careers will balloon.

The latest figures from Statistics New Zealand show that in March, 6441 New Zealand residents left with the intention of staying away 12 months or more, up slightly from the 6304 who left in March 2009.

The figures show that the decline in departures, which saw 62,000 people leave the country in 2009, compared to a whopping 84,000 in 2008, has been reversed, and figures are expected to climb further.

Of those who left in the first three months of the year, the biggest single group by occupation was teachers, with 708 departures. Also leaving in high numbers were medical practitioners, engineering professionals, hospitality workers, health and welfare support workers, salespeople, and labourers.

There are already an estimated one million New Zealanders living and working overseas. A report last month by Pricewaterhouse Coopers London, Talent Mobility 2020, said the number of people working outside their home country would increase by 50% over the next decade.

"The globally connected nature of trade, technology, capital, and regulation will necessitate a significant swell in the movement of employees between countries, leading to increased use of short term and `commuter' international assignments," the report said.

The report also indicated the "brain drain" is not just a New Zealand problem, with 80% of more than 4000 graduates surveyed in the UK also wanting to work abroad.

But Hickey said New Zealanders, in particular, needed to be talking about the "brain drain" issue as "any increase in a global trend for highly skilled people to go overseas is going to hammer New Zealand harder than anyone else".

Hickey said a staggering 23.8% of New Zealand-born graduates lived overseas, compared to 3% of Australian-born graduates.

Hickey said the decision by Prime Minister John Key not to impose a property and land tax meant we had seen the largest intergenerational transition of wealth in New Zealand's history essentially, the young were poor and debt-loaded and the old were rich.

He predicted more of the next generation would leave the country once they graduated from university, put off by looming debt and the burden of baby boomers reaching retirement.

"Baby boomers selfishly borrowed money to push up property prices, refused to pay for their retirement and were happy to pass on the country's debt to the next generation.

"Basically, with the way things are now, we are encouraging Generations X and Y to buy a one-way ticket to Oz."

Generation Y are those born 1981-95, Generation X 1965-80, and baby boomers 1946-64.

Student Job Search chief executive Paul Kennedy agreed New Zealand needed to do more to make Kiwis stay.

He said his not-for-profit organisation had changed its philosophy in the past six months from attracting students to part-time jobs to trying to help students find careers.

Kennedy said now up to 70% of the jobs on their books were skilled jobs. "New Zealand has to ensure that the things that attract, retain and develop talent in New Zealand are greater or sufficient at least to get our fair share of an increasingly mobile talent pool."

From here.