Growth in Waikato limits migration loss

JENNA LYNCH
Last updated 05:00 07/02/2013

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Fewer Waikato people are crossing the ditch in search of a better life as unemployment slowly falls here at home.

The number of jobless looks to be slowly dropping in the Waikato region with 3699 people receiving the unemployment benefit in December 2012, compared with 3834 in December 2011 and 4608 in December 2010.

According to Statistics New Zealand migration figures, the Waikato region lost 2015 people to overseas destinations in the December 2012 year, and 2064 people in the previous year.

Waikato Chamber of Commerce CEO Sandra Perry said this relatively high number surprised her, as she could see a lot of growth in the region.

She said that although there was a net loss in international migration, she has seen a lot of internal migration - especially from Christchurch.

"There are people moving to Hamilton because there is work here," she said.

She had also seen many "small-business startups" and larger businesses move to the area in the past 12 months, something that would not have occurred without regional growth.

But it seems the slowing Waikato exodus is bucking the nationwide trend: New Zealand suffered a net loss of 38,800 people to Australia in the December 2012 year.

New Zealand Council of Trade Unions economist Bill Rosenberg said the rising cost of living and falling average wage meant people are finding it significantly harder to get by, and national statistics showed many were considering a jump across the ditch.

"Last week, migration figures for the 2012 year showed the highest loss of people to Australia since Statistics NZ began recording this in 1979. More people left New Zealand permanently to all destinations than any previous year in New Zealand's history," he said.

"Wages and salaries are not the only reason for this, but they are a big one."

Mr Rosenberg said the fall in the average hourly wage from $25.27 to $25.25 was worrying and wages must be boosted to raise living standards for New Zealand families.

"Wages and salaries make up almost three-quarters of household income. They are the way the great majority of New Zealanders get to share the income this country generates. But for many families, their wages are inadequate to provide even a modest standard of living.

"There needs to be a focus on wages, with a significant increase in the minimum wage, stronger legislative support for collective bargaining, and widespread adoption of a living wage as essential ingredients," he said.

Mrs Perry agreed that wages were not keeping up with inflation, but said New Zealand had come out of a recession relatively unscathed and people needed to focus on what they did have.

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"We need to keep working harder while our country is in such a great recovery mode," she said. "We're quite lucky that we've got jobs."

jenna.lynch@waikatotimes.co.nz

- Waikato Times

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