Work visas outstanding – a simple chart

To repeat my point in my earlier post, I don’t greatly care which country our economic immigrants come from.  The skills and ideas they bring are what matter most in terms of the prospect of economic benefits to New Zealanders.  The data suggest that typical skill level is a lot lower than successive governments have suggested.

But in this chart I simply take the annual MBIE data on the country of citizenship of holders of outstanding work visas (all types of work visas, but not including students here on student visas but with work rights) and group the countries by continent.   The data are all from MBIE’s Migration Trends and Outlook tables.

share of work visas

Over those years, the number of outstanding work visas increased from  94,370 to 132,781.

The advantage of these data is that they show outstanding stocks, so remove all those who have come and then gone again.   The disadvantages are that:

  • the most recent data relate to the year ending last June.  However, as the chart suggests, the patterns don’t seem to change that much from year to year.  The chart is unlikely to be misleading about the current position,
  • the chart includes people on working holiday visas.  Ideally, we would look at them separately, but for those focused on the Asia vs other split the working holiday vias numbers are dominated by European countries (UK, Germany, France, with only South Korea and Japn in the top 10, well behind the big three)
  • the chart doesn’t include those here on student visas exercising their legal rights to work.    Those numbers will be totally dominated by people from Asian countries.

To repeat again, I’m interested in the policy settings, and the overall (including distributional) economic effects.   But it is still worth clearing away attempts to muddy the water, and the Herald’s suggestion, using inadequate PLT data, that temporary migrants on work visas are not dominated by people from Asian countries, is misleading at very best.

6 thoughts on “Work visas outstanding – a simple chart

  1. Will the Herald publish this graph?

    Out of curiousity are there any figures for country of birth rather than origin? In other words data on those who had migrated more than once.

    When I attended my citizenship ceremony I was struck by the attitude of new citizens – those from Southern Africa were jubilant with friends applauding, POMs like myself slightly embarrassed being seen on a stage (although I will never forget receiving a red rose from the mayor – the only time I’ve been given a flower by a man) and some of the young Asians clearly irritated that they had to attend, doing a quick slouch across the stage. I wondered if they only got citizenship as a means of moving on to Australia.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Not too sure why anyone would want to go Australia as a kiwi on a Special Resident Visa. You are treated as a dirt class kiwi with no government benefits in the event of unemployment or sickness. And if you are convicted for a even a minor criminal offence they chuck you into some prison island.


  2. PLT data also double counts international students. The first time they get counted is when they they come in as students. They are then counted again when they get their work visa after studies. So net migration gains of 72,000 is somewhat grossly exaggerated.


    • I think Statistics NZ is rather incompetent in their regular hyping of the Net Migration numbers. They should at least try and eliminate the double counting of international students when they convert to work permits.


  3. The statistics from government agencies these days are increasingly questionable . Police, MSD, Employment, Immigration, Water quality, Government debt etc. etc. Too many spin doctors and media manipulators. I distrust any stats issued in Government press releases and often repeated by the MSM media. Your efforts in digging deeper on some of this stuff is appreciated and much needed. I’m picking our Brexit is coming later in the year. You can’t fool all the people all the time.


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