I was just reading this good article from Ryan Greenaway-McGrevy on interest.co.nz. He argues despite a lot of publicity recently around record migration we still have far to many kiwis contributing their skills and experience to other economies. What do you think... is having 1 in 6 kiwis living abroad a failure for New Zealand or a natural result of being a small geographically isolated country in an ever globalizing world?
Personally I think it's entirely understandable that young kiwis want to go and explore the world. They always have and I'm pretty sure short of a massive global conflict wreaking havoc elsewhere they always will.
What does concern me somewhat however is those who leave for reasons other than for a grand adventure broadening their horizons around the globe.
Greenaway-McGrevy points out 1 in 4 Kiwi's with tertiary degree now live abroad, which means the ever squeezed NZ taxpayer who is funding 80% of those education costs (soon to be 100%) has done a lot to help the economy's of other countries. That to me regardless of if there has been a slowing in recent years is quite alarming, especially considering we do have a skills shortage for good people in our country across most sectors.
This election a lot has been made of pouring more money into educating our own, so that we don't need to import talent. However with porous boarders, a high global demand for skills and the economic means to travel our educated Kiwis are always going to be at risk of flying the coop. One could argue we wouldn't be as short on talent (we would be short of houses) if even a quarter of those globe trotting Kiwis came home to roost.
It's not that simple though, being a small country playing in the global pool for talent we are competing with far bigger cheque books and you cannot blame our best and brightest for chasing marquee career opportunities and top dollar aboard. One answer to that issue is higher wages but that's a long hard road, so we end up filling the gaps where we can with the best people we can afford, either domestically or via immigration.
Now some of the gaps are glaring, most to be fair being in industries and roles where not everyone requires a tertiary education such as construction, tourism and hospitality or in new industries where training globally has struggled to keep up with the pace of change, such as software development. That quite rightly so begs the question..... are we training people in the wrong skills here in NZ? We export academics, accountants, bankers, marketers and the like, partly due to the best ones seeking oversees opportunity's and bigger pay cheques but also party because lets face it we have too many arts and certain types of commerce grads for our domestic skills market. At the same time we bring in builders, programmers, plumbers and chefs...?
So I ask is a massive boost to tertiary funding via free education the answer when 25% of those who receive this education are residing abroad and we are bringing in record numbers of other to fill our real skill shortages? If students are free to choose to study what they like and then free to live and work where they like the ROI seems to be questionable on this investment.
There is no black and white answer and its going to take a more holistic re-think in terms of how education, immigration and our economy link together in a increasingly open world (both physically and technologically). It is something the government should have high on the agenda, rather than the xenophobic arguments we seem to be having around migration coupled with the ideological ones around access to free education.
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