Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern had announced that from midnight Wednesday vaccinated New Zealanders will be able to travel from Australia to New Zealand without the need to self-isolate, followed by New Zealanders from the rest of the world from midnight Friday. But the government was still taking advice on when New Zealand should open up to all international visitors. Sir David Skegg, who chairs a group advising the Government, prioritised getting through the Omicron peak and considering that in the decision to be made.
A report prepared by ANZ economists Finn Robinson and Miles Workman said the staggered nature of the current reopening plan meant there was ‘a significant risk’ of a large net outflow of people over 2022 especially considering the Australian labour market was forecasted to heat up over the year.
‘Our closest neighbour Australia has opened up to fully vaccinated tourists, and seen a marked improvement in its labour market outlook – which could have significant implications for trans-Tasman travel and immigration as restrictions ease in New Zealand,’ the report noted.
They also noted there was a lot of uncertainty about the exact timing and magnitude of migration movements. New Zealand has historically seen a net loss of people to Australia with 2020 being the only year in the past few decades where there was a positive inflow.
They were forecasting that the New Zealand unemployment rate would decline slightly from 3.2% late last year to 2.9% later this year, before hovering around 3% over 2023. The Australian labour market was looking particularly strong, and the bank was forecasting the Australian unemployment rate to decline from 4.2% in January 2022 to 3.3% at the end of the year. A narrowing gap between the Australian and New Zealand unemployment rates could translate into a fairly significant outflow of New Zealanders to Australia over the next few years.
‘Something in the order of 20,000 people a year would be consistent with previous flows when the Australian labour market was last as (relatively) strong as we’re forecasting – although the actual number is highly uncertain given all the Covid-laced water that’s flowed under the bridge in the past few years,’ the economists pointed out.