The Economics of Going Places with Julie Fry and Hayden Glass

The Economics of Going Places with Julie Fry and Hayden Glass

The history of economic development in New Zealand is steeped in immigration.

Our young nation has been built upon the diverse skillsets and contributions of many generations of migrants from the Pacific Islands, Europe, Asia and the Americas, all seeking opportunity and adventure. This is one of our greatest strengths - diverse communities allow for multiple perspectives towards solving complex problems, encouraging people to think globally and act locally to contribute towards our collective economic prosperity as a nation.

Many countries, increasingly recognising the value of creative migrants, are engaged in a global race for talent as illustrated in our Idealog article last December, exploring what New Zealand can learn from the world’s top five startup visas. However, New Zealand has a unique potential to stand out as an Incubation Nation for global citizens; a country that is recognised around the world as the place to be to build and incubate globally impactful solutions.

In an emerging era of global citizenship, New Zealand has a lot to gain from capturing world-class talent, as more people are living global lives and new destinations are becoming more accessible. New Zealand is becoming more attractive to top talent in ways it hasn’t before. Its small size and history of resourcefulness make it agile for innovation, while political stability provides freedom to place deep roots and invest long-term. Friendly communities and a culture of integrity create a sense of home that appeals to purpose-driven migrants, and most people fall in love with a lifestyle that is hard to match.

While the economics of migration have been widely discussed in New Zealand, it is more challenging to measure beyond the benefits of jobs filled by migrant workers, and examine whether immigration can create larger transformational shifts in our national and local economies.

Addressing this issue, economists Julie Fry and Hayden Glass have published a new book, “Going Places: Migration, Economics and the Future of New Zealand”, that puts the economic contribution of migration under the microscope, and explores future opportunities for New Zealand. Hot off the press, their book is in stores today, and can also be purchased online.

We caught up with Julie and Hayden to get the low down on what New Zealand can do to improve our economy through changes to migration policy.

What is the case that “Going Places” makes for changes to immigration policy in New Zealand?

Julie Fry: It’s about how we can update our immigration policies to encourage more smart, creative people born overseas to come here and build ventures. Also how we can view the huge number of Kiwi expats living overseas as a national asset, who can connect us to the world and promote New Zealand as a great place to work and live.

Going Places Julie Fry Hayden Glass

Why do we need to attract more of these kinds of people from overseas?

Hayden Glass: We’ve had skilled migrants coming into New Zealand for more than twenty five years now, but their overall impact on productivity has been small. One reason for that might be that we focus on fit, rather than diversity: more than ninety per cent of our economic immigrants are employed six months after arriving in New Zealand, one of the best employment rates in the world.

We advocate adding to that talent force, by bringing in people who are looking to try different ideas and create new ventures, and creating easy ways for them to make bigger economic, social and civic contributions.

What value can Kiwi expat networks provide to New Zealand?

HG: New Zealand is a country that wants to be connected to the world. Having new immigrants living here, and having Kiwis living overseas is a way to maintain that global connectedness. In the book we say we should diversify the number of countries we have close connections with. We’re already well connected to Australia, it would be good to build bridges with other countries further afield.

What we’ve found in researching the book is that in the long run, immigration has a small positive impact on New Zealand’s economy. But we think there is also great value in diversity: teams of people who don’t think the same way tend to work better together, and you get better results. Embracing diversity is best done at the level of an individual organisation, so we’re trying to make it easier to achieve at a national and political level through improved immigration policy.

JF: Our diaspora network, Kea, runs a service that introduces New Zealanders to successful expats who can provide advice and mentoring and help them develop their businesses. Other countries have used their diaspora networks to create significant economic value. ChileGlobal members were instrumental in helping establish a new R&D centre in Santiago, for example. They provided direct investment and worked with the University of Chile to set up a tailored programming course to produce qualified engineering staff to run the centre. Our World Class New Zealand network could have a similar impact if we invested more time in understanding what members are enthusiastic about.  

What was the most surprising finding for you, while researching this book?

JF: I knew before we started writing that immigrants had made a major contribution to the technology sectors in both the United States and Israel. What I didn’t understand was how much the match between the environment those migrants entered and their skills and personal characteristics mattered for the end result. New Zealand has tried just bringing in super smart people without requiring them to have jobs, and we ended up with lots of very-well qualified taxi drivers. That’s why we recommend targeting people who share and are inspired by New Zealand’s values, as well as being smart and well-connected.

HG: I didn't realise just how much New Zealand relies on economic migrants having jobs as a filter for the type of people that we will accept. I knew that job offers were important but actually we are much more focused on job offers than other developed countries. This is great for ensuring speedy settlement but it limits us in attracting people who aren't just coming here to work for someone else.


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