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Cost of living, salaries see record number of Kiwis eye move offshore

The latest Consumer Snapshot (a nationwide poll of more than 500 people) from business management platform MYOB, found that 4% of those polled have decided they are moving overseas to live and work now that borders are reopening. Based on population data from Stats NZ, this could be equivalent to around 200,000 New Zealanders.1

An additional 20% of those surveyed (potentially equivalent to approximately 1,025,000 people based on population data), said they are actively considering moving offshore. In comparison to pre-pandemic trends, according to Stats NZ just under 41,000 Kiwis left New Zealand to go overseas for at least 12 months in 2019.2

When asked why they were considering a move, the Snapshot revealed:

  • Half (50%) of those looking to move abroad believe they can get a better salary overseas

  • 44% have considered moving overseas because the quality of life or cost of living is better overseas

  • Around a third (34%) said they want to experience living and working in another country

  • Just over a fifth (21%) said they are looking into moving overseas because New Zealand doesn’t offer them the lifestyle they are after.

MYOB Head of Employee Services, Felicity Brown, explains that while the number of New Zealanders who have decided they will move offshore far outstrips pre-COVID-19 migration, if even half of those currently considering a move do decide to go, the impact to the local New Zealand economy will be felt deeply.

“This has the makings of a real crisis in the local jobs sector with the lack of available employees making it even more challenging for many businesses to operate or expand to meet local demand,” Felicity says.

“At the moment, worker shortages are hitting home across the board – from tourism, hospitality, construction and trades to healthcare and the tech sector – so a large movement of Kiwis offshore is going to be felt throughout the economy. For many local SMEs, it is impossible to compete in an international market where businesses overseas may be able to offer potential employees more money for similar roles, and we’ve been hearing concerns around this very scenario from SMEs predicting this outcome over the past 12 months.”

Salary perceptions driving travel

Those considering a move overseas for a bump in their salary believe they can earn an average of around $23,000 more working in a role offshore, compared to the same role in New Zealand.

A little over one-fifth (21%) of those surveyed estimated their salary would increase by NZ$15,000 - $20,000 if they were to move overseas in a similar role, while 19% expected an increase of NZ$20,000 - $25,000, and the same amount also expected an increase somewhere between NZ$10,000 - $15,000. More than one-in-10 estimated they could benefit by between NZ$25,000-$30,000.

While there are a number of companies and international markets targeting New Zealanders with job offers and packages, Australia looks to be the largest beneficiary from New Zealanders looking for new opportunities overseas.

Nearly three-in-five (58%) New Zealanders who have looked into travelling overseas to live and work have thought about moving to Australia, while 8% said the UK, 7% said the US, and 6% have thought about moving to Europe.

Incentives to stay

It is no surprise then, that an increase in salary is also the key factor that would influence a decision to stay in New Zealand, according to 54% of those considering moving overseas. This was followed by ‘a significant decrease to the cost of living’ (48%) and ‘if house prices went down/became more affordable’ (37%). Improvements to the healthcare system (27%) and if a new government was elected (20%) are also notable considerations rounding out the top five.

“It’s never been more important to offer the right incentives and likewise continue to review our immigration settings so more skilled workers actively consider moving to New Zealand to experience life here and fulfil demand. Local businesses need greater access to a larger pool of employees,” Felicity Brown explains.

“In the meantime, for local SMEs eager to try and retain talent without having to dig into their cash-strapped reserves, it’s worth considering what other benefits could be offered – such as flexible hours, paid training and development courses, or even internal promotions or moves that offer new opportunities. Showing employees they are valued helps to increase loyalty – something which will be crucial in the coming months.” 


About the MYOB Consumer Snapshot

Research for the MYOB Consumer Snapshot was conducted by independent data and market research firm, Dynata, between 3rd -14th June 2022. In total, 509 New Zealand consumers were invited to complete the online survey and the final make-up and weighting of the sample was in line with nationally representative statistics by age, gender, and region.