Tuesday 5 July 2022

Population policy?

Ganesh Nana writes in BusinessDesk on immigration and population policy

The Productivity Commission’s “Immigration – Fit for the future report” highlighted that the key driver of population changes, and the only component of the population growth the government can meaningfully influence, is immigration. Instead of a population policy or plan, the commission called on the government to regularly issue a coherent and transparent immigration GPS. We see this recommendation as entirely consistent with the Infrastructure Commission’s call for a national population plan to establish clearer and more transparent expectations of population growth. 

Further, an immigration GPS would be a strategic plan specifying objectives and priorities, linking immigration policy to the labour market, education and training policies, and promoting a longer-term outlook. 

It increases certainty for the businesses, communities and service and facility designers and providers by presenting a likely long-term population pathway. 

In reality, past immigration policy has been a de facto, in-disguise population policy for New Zealand. The proposed immigration GPS would remove that disguise. 

If a population policy is too contentious, an immigration GPS would – at the very least – improve transparency and certainty, enable public engagement on where we are heading, and explicitly and more effectively guide community and business investment decisions.

It's worth thinking through what this would cash out into.

Kiwis resident abroad can come and go as they please - barring pandemics.

Whenever NZ is looking pretty good relative to the rest of the world, they'll be more likely to come back or to fail to head abroad in the first place. Whenever NZ is doing poorly relative to the rest of the world, they'll be more likely to leave or to fail to return.

If you're trying to use immigration in some kind of countercyclical move around those flows, it means being real tight on immigration when the economy here is booming relative to overseas, and being a lot looser when the economy here is tanking relative to overseas. 

That doesn't seem to make any obvious sense if you think that the pool of potential migrants to NZ is broader and more interesting when NZ is faring well compared to other places, and the opposite otherwise. 

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