* NZ net migration running at decade high
* India, China growing source of new migrants
* Fewer kiwis leaving for Australia as mining boom there
By Naomi Tajitsu
WELLINGTON, June 20 When Elzerie Alcaide moved
to Wellington from Singapore in January, she swapped 12-hour
workdays, vast mazes of shopping malls and a diet of takeaway
food for nine-to-five hours, weekend drives in the countryside
and home-cooked meals.
Alcaide is among the 40,000 migrants, nearly 1 percent of
the population, expected to settle in New Zealand this year,
many of them white-collar workers attracted by a laid-back
lifestyle and promising job prospects in an economy which is
outperforming most developed countries.
"Living in Singapore or Manila can be stressful," said the
33-year old, Philippines-born quality assurance analyst who
recently started working at accounting software developer Xero
"But in New Zealand you can have a good work-life balance,
and the work environment is more family oriented, which is
really nice," Alcaide said during a break at the offices of one
of New Zealand's fastest-growing companies.
Rising immigration is a key driver behind record high house
prices. This has prompted the central bank to raise rates and
has seen the opposition Labour Party calling for a cut in
immigration as it seeks to score political points ahead of a
general election in September.
Immigration has surged in the past year, boosted by
arrivals from China, India and other Asian countries, along with
Britain and the United States. Data due next week is expected to
show the highest net inflows in more than a decade in May.
According to official figures, the last time net migration
inflows were this strong was in 2003-2004, when annual economic
growth leapt as high as 5.6 percent. The economy is expected to
grow around 4.0 percent this year, its fastest clip since then.
On Thursday, data showed growth in the South Pacific nation
accelerated to its quickest pace in over six-years, driven
largely by a building boom.
An economic slowdown in Australia in the past year has both
put the brakes on migration by New Zealanders to their bigger
neighbour, and raised the comparative appeal of New Zealand
among prospective migrants around the world
"Traditionally, when candidates were looking down under
they'd look at Australia as it was the country with the golden
opportunities," said Pete Macauley, regional director, New
Zealand, at Michael Page recruitment agency.
"However, they're now considering New Zealand and they're
exploring the New Zealand market as a potential next move."
Job recruiters in the remote, largely Anglo-Saxon country of
4.5 million say this is a boon for domestic and multinational
companies, which are expanding faster than the home-grown
skilled labour force following years of a 'brain drain' to
The proportion of overseas-born New Zealanders has been on
the rise in the past 20 years - nearly one-quarter of all New
Zealand residents were born overseas in 2013, up from around 16
percent in 1991.
Skilled migrants have been one of the major drivers of this
growth, a category actively encouraged by the government as it
seeks to diversify the pool of labour.
A case in point is the country's budding tech industry,
which stands to benefit from skilled migrants.
As technology exports have doubled since 2005 to NZ$682
million in 2013, the country's fastest-growing export earning
sector is actively recruiting overseas talent as they struggle
to fill positions with local skilled workers.
At the same time, immigration growth has helped push house
prices to record highs, with national values roughly doubling in
the past decade, prompting the central bank to start raising
interest rates this year.
The opposition Labour Party's calls for a cut in immigration
levels is seen as an attempt to exploit the issue ahead of the
elections it is widely expected to lose on current opinion
Recruitment consultant Jonny Wyles says politicians would do
well not to scare away overseas talent.
"The anti-immigration rhetoric we're hearing in the run up
to the election is a real threat to companies that truly aspire
to compete on the world stage if it means we appear less open
and less welcoming to high skilled migrants," he said.
But Alcaide is in for the long haul, attracted by the
prospect of advancing her career here while also immersing
herself in New Zealand's scenic landscapes, popularised most
recently in film-maker Peter Jackson's "Hobbit" movies.
"My friends and I have a running joke," she said. "In
Singapore our hobby was shopping, but here, we bake, we cook, we
go for drives and we enjoy nature."
(Editing by Lincoln Feast and Shri Navaratnam)