Immigration and “using statistics much as a drunk uses a lamppost”

Vernon Small looks at the non-illuminating approach to The immigration debate: Please leave your logic at the border

Another month, another record immigration number.

Cue another round of political point-scoring.

It probably took Labour all the restraint it could muster to wait a full 90 minutes to react to the latest data, showing a net 71,900 had come into the country and a total of 129,500 “migrant arrivals” on these shores in the last 12 months.

Leader Andrew Little has reiterated Labour’s plan to cut migration numbers by “tens of thousands” but refused to name a figure.

Which makes his criticisms a waste of time.

Labour would, he said, “better match migrants with the skills our industries need, accelerate investment in vital infrastructure and build the houses that a growing population needs”.

The last two – infrastructure investment and house building – are necessary responses but not in themselves an immigration policy. Matching migrant skills to need is closer to the mark, but begs a number of questions. Which skills? How highly skilled? How many?

They are also the questions Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse partly tried to answer with his move to “remuneration levels” as a proxy for skills. But he too failed at the crucial hurdle, talking only airily about “control” of immigration without answering the key question: How many?

It’s impossible to answer ‘how many’ when a significant proportion of movements out of and into New Zealand are New Zealanders who are not controlled at all.

But both men are guilty of familiar political crimes – keeping it vague or, as the old saying goes, using statistics much as a drunk uses a lamppost; for support rather than illumination.

While Opposition politicians – yes, Winston, you too – toss around the big numbers on record migrant flows and the highly variable “net migration” numbers, they are not the figures that are easily in their power to affect (though they do signal the level of pressure on school, hospitals, housing and roads).

The ebb and flow of New Zealanders, and others with the right to come here, is out of politicians’ control.

So we are left with vague claims, policies, assertions and insinuations.

At the border they show up as dominant in the statistics: 43,700 work visas and 23,900 student visas in the latest data, with a total “non-New Zealand citizen” inflow of 73,200.

If politicians want to look somewhere for a solution, they should start there.

In 2005 some 9650 student visa holders came in. In 2008 that rose to 13,139 and it hit 23,861 in the latest March year – actually 3800 lower than the February figure.

In the work visas category the growth is equally stark. The number was 17,056 in 2005, 21,883 in 2008 and 43,725 this March.

Over the same period numbers of those coming in on a “residence” visa have barely moved; from 14,943 in 2005 and 17,772 in 2006 to just 16,763 in the latest 12-month period.

Unless there has been a sudden slump in the skill level of the Kiwi workforce, there is clearly something else going on here.

Yet according to the number crunchers, the vast majority of work visas is approved onshore, so they do not necessarily show up in the information collected at the border.

And once someone is here, there can also be changes in how long they stay and in the types of visas they move on to.

If the Government or Opposition want to “control” immigration they need to look at the number and skill levels of those granted a visa both inside the country and out, not waffle around or indulge in “dog-whistling” about the country being swamped by migrants.

But it’s election year, and winding up anti migrant rhetoric doesn’t matter to politicians wanting votes.

The whole debate crackles with emotion and is electric with false leads and half truths.

Take one example: that the boom in migrant numbers is being driven by returning New Zealanders.

In comparative terms – how many are coming back and leaving compared with the days of a “Westpac Stadium-sized” exodus – there has been a big shift.

However, as Statistics NZ itself pointed out, more New Zealand citizens are still leaving the country each year than return as migrants. There was a net loss of 1300 citizens in the year to the end of March 2017.

The net migration of non-New Zealand citizens was actually 73,200; higher than the total “net migration” figure of 71,900 because of the net outflow of Kiwis.

As Westpac economist Satish Ranchod has pointed out, arrivals only account for half of the strong pick-up in net migration since 2012.

But the changing flow of New Zealanders in and out of the country makes it difficult to plan ahead with the number of migrants allowed to come here.

Sadly it is too potent an election issue for the Opposition to grant the Government a free pass in return for a spot of “tinkering” around visa requirements.

After all, the international debate about migration, and tensions in Europe and the US, did not get where it is today by a rational analysis of the options.

National are trying to patch over an imperfect immigration policy, while Little seems to be trying to compete with Peters for votes of those who have concerns about immigration numbers, as well as those who are just anti-immigration because they don’t like people coming here who ‘are different’.

It’s shaping up to be a nasty and un-Kiwi-like election.

Leave a comment

41 Comments

  1. David

     /  27th April 2017

    National have been way too slow to sort this out, much like housing they seem to be tone deaf and living in a wellington bubble and it will be their undoing this election.
    There is considerable discomfort in Christchurch at the sheer numbers of young Indian men (no females unless they are hidden) who are “studying” here but staff most petrol stations and supermarkets which are entry level jobs for NZers. The locals in that young age group find them quite pervy which seems a common complaint, cultural thing perhaps.

    Reply
  2. Blazer

     /  27th April 2017

    just like housing,turning a blind eye to immigration has worked out o.k…for the Natz.

    Reply
  3. Corky

     /  27th April 2017

    Its not fugging rocket science:

    1- Get your polices worked out.( maybe 2 years to get it right)
    2- Stop all immigration and bed in your procedures.
    3- Resume immigration under new protocols.
    4- If infrastructure concerns become critical implement step one immediately.

    Reply
  4. “It’s shaping up to be a nasty and un-Kiwi-like election” … Really!!?

    With a few exceptions, nastiness and the blame game … ‘create-an-enemy’ … are the hallmarks of NZ elections, be the enemy Muldoon, unionists, Maoris, immigrants, dole bludgers, sole parents … or whoever … whichever ‘other’ becomes the target …

    This one will be as ‘true Blue’ Kiwi as any in the past …

    The problem is actually globalisation … and no-one, but no-one, is going to tackle that …

    “Stop all immigration” … That will have raised a few guffaws in the halls of power … if anyone there read it …

    Reply
    • Corky

       /  27th April 2017

      Who wants to stop all immigration? That would be idiocy. At my doctors surgery, there are 12 doctors, 10 are immigrants. I’m lucky. I can just understand mine.

      Reply
      • Okay Corky …. So, ummm …. Why did you write “Stop all immigration” … ?

        Yep, we reneged on our responsibility to train our own doctors, burdening those we did train with massive student debt so they’d race-off overseas immediately upon graduating …

        Wouldn’t good capitalist theory say just go find yourself another doctor … ?

        (Tehehe, sounds like you need a second opinion anyway bro!) …

        Reply
      • Gezza

         /  27th April 2017

        Funniest thing. Years ago was in ED at Welly with my Mrs. She was never great with accents & had a little difficulty understanding the Indian lady at the admission desk, but with my help we got there in the end., Then we both had a little trouble understanding a couple of things a Malaysian Chinese nurse asked as she did the obs in the cubicle.

        The nurse then told us Dr Dunstan Ormsley (or something) would be coming along soon to see my lady & that he was English, & my wife said “ooh good, at least I’ll be able to understand him”. When he turned up, I dunno whereabouts in England he was from, but the blighter’s accent was so bloody thick he was virtually incomprehensible & we had to ask him to speak slowly please.

        Reply
        • Corky

           /  27th April 2017

          Lol… ‘eeup, by guumm, let me luuk’ at ya chart. He was probably from the North, or Teeside.

          Reply
          • Gezza

             /  27th April 2017

            North I think. I thought I’d heard most English accents. My Mrs couldn’t understand the folk interviewed on a doco on the Yorkshire Ripper but I could, so I translated. But this laddie mangled the English language in a way that was utterly foreign to me.

            Reply
        • Conspiratoor

           /  27th April 2017

          A taffey from the vullies G. It were a pub in Cardiff where I first heard my mother tongue mangled to the point I had no idea what the man was saying. And before you say it, not a drop hitherto had touched my lips

          Reply
  5. Corky

     /  27th April 2017

    Get it right my fanatical blogster. Don’t be disingenuous.

    Tehehe…how lower case.

    Reply
  6. Alan Wilkinson

     /  27th April 2017

    There are only two issues:
    1) Let the good people in and keep the bad ones out.
    2) Let the private sector deal with the resource needs without bureaucratic strangulation.

    The rest is crap.

    Reply
    • 1) Who decides who’s good and who’s bad? As with the convicted Chinese Meth importers the other day, Kim, Heng, Wong, Sung & Wu, they probably looked ‘good’ upon entry and started to behave ‘bad’ once they got here … after which time we apparently made no effort whatsoever to monitor their activities, even with red flags like them buying outlandish quantities of expensive goods and property … and filing no tax returns …

      2) What ‘resource needs’? Do you mean labour? Private sector demand has got us into this situation, either regardless or in spite of “bureaucratic strangulation” – some effort at border control, immigration oversight and supervision – which nowadays largely means bureaucratic efforts to favour and appease the private sector …

      IMHO, if the market ruled unrestrained, immigration would be even more rife than it is now, because the market favours one thing above all else … the cheapest …

      Reply
      • … With the world divided into First, Developing and Third World nations, imbued with commodity price inequality and disparity, including commodified labour, the globe with its curves and horizons is hardly a labour-market “level playing field” … now is it?

        Reply
      • Alan Wilkinson

         /  27th April 2017

        All resource needs. Wherever there is a problem there are bureaucratic fingerprints on it.

        Who decides good and bad? That is what the immigration dept is for, implementing policy set by the Govt. IMO, good character and ability to support themselves are the sole criteria.

        Reply
        • Corky

           /  27th April 2017

          Blindingly obvious… why do people need to complicate things?

          Reply
          • Alan, all those Chinese P freaks appeared to have ‘good character’ and the ability to support themselves … These things are easily faked … That’s how drug mules work …

            People don’t complicate things Corky … Things are complicated …

            The deepest seated ‘problems’ in our society have the slimy fingerprints of greedy, wanton capitalist financiers all over them … Most of what we call bureaucracy being an attempt to ameliorate their rapaciousness …

            Reply
            • Alan Wilkinson

               /  27th April 2017

              For those that slip through the checks, detect and ship out.

              What are the “deepest seated problems in our society”?

            • That’s a big discussion Alan … definitely worth having sometime … somewhere … and one the world must have eventually …

              I’ll lead with ‘Market Society’ Commodification, Wage Slavery and ‘Resource & Markets’ War … to name a few …

            • Alan Wilkinson

               /  27th April 2017

              Market society = giving people what they want
              Commodification = enabling trade by assigning value
              Wage slavery = giving people a better standard of living by increasing their efficiency
              ‘Resource & Markets’ War = what happens when trade is blocked

            • Gezza

               /  27th April 2017

              Correction:
              Market society = selling community resouces, assets & debts to private owners for their personal gain
              Commodification = turning a country’s people into into human resources & pricing them as low as possible.
              Wage slavery = increasing efficiency by keeping as many sectors’ as possible’s wages as low as possible, to maximise returns to rapacious owners, executives & shareholders
              ‘Resource & Markets’ War = what happens when the above leads to massive offshoring of jobs, uncontrolled immigration, displacement of locals, corruption, rocketing national debt, & it starts to screw up large countries’ infrastructure, job supply, savings, & personal safety & security. So governments move to regulate the markets to survive. Because a country & its people aren’t a market.

            • I couldn’t have said it better myself Gezza …

        • Trumpenreich

           /  27th April 2017

          “IMO, good character and ability to support themselves are the sole criteria.”

          So you don’t think that race has anything to do with it?

          Do you believe NZ would still be NZ if it was reduced to a white minority – say 30% white, 70% the rest.

          Could you point to a thriving 1st world country with a liberal democracy that is minority white as proof of your Globalist viewpoint on race?

          Reply
          • Alan Wilkinson

             /  27th April 2017

            I don’t think race has anything to do with it. I do have serious reservations about religion and beliefs though. Those have to be filed under character. Also education under ability to support yourself.

            I guess Singapore comes close to your request depending how liberal you want your democracy.

            Reply
            • You jest, surely Alan …. Singapore!? … described by Wiki as “Unitary dominant-party parliamentary republic” …

              A bit like pre-WW1 European ‘Parliamentary democracies’ which were actually Monarchies with nobility-ruled governments elected by the gentry …

            • In other words … Yeah, yeah … I’ll have my liberal democracy totalitarian thanks …

            • Trumpenreich

               /  27th April 2017

              “I guess Singapore comes close to your request”

              Sorry, no prize. Singapore is a technocracy, a very successful one economically, but one where there is little toleration of dissent and a controlled opposition – kind of like Hong Kong.

              Only white majority countries have achieved a decent level of personal freedom – both political and economic – plus built the kind of institutions that cultivate and sustain that culture.

              Importing colourfuls en mass will destroy that, you can already see it happening with the growing social, economic and political destabilisation in Europe and the USA.

          • That’s not the point Trumpenreich … Alan’s point is that entirely regardless of race, exactly such a thriving First World economy could be created by giving free reign to anarcho-capitalism of the Ludwig Von Mises, Murray Rothbard, Swiss-School, theoretical and utopian variety …

            What evidence do we have of this? Well, to differing degrees it worked really well creating the White majority nations you now uphold as models of ‘liberal democracy’ … achieved by slaughtering and/or subjugating millions upon millions of indigenous peoples … who, in many places, remained a majority in their own countries and territories for quite some time after the Whites arrived, some to butcher and annihilate … some to treat … or make treaties …

            America is the prime example … ‘Land of the Free’ … where the process also ‘worked’ especially well, formerly because of the addition of slavery to the mix … and latterly because of the ‘criminalisation’ of black people under an obscure clause in the 13th Amendment …

            Have a look at the film ’13th’ … “from slavery to mass incarceration” …

            Reply
            • Trumpenreich

               /  27th April 2017

              Not interested in viewing Progressive agitprop vids.

              Dredging up historical “injustices” is stupid. For most of history life has been brutal and short for humans with little or zero recourse to justice.

              Slavery.

              The Mohammedans enslaved huge numbers of white Christian Europeans, white female sex slaves were traded in market places. But total silence from Progressives like you PartisanZ, no Hollywood directors, celebrities, singers, writers are wringing their hands and demanding compensation and that the muzzies need to pay up for “hi$torical inju$tice$”. Only when it is negroes, or more accurately whites can be blamed, do you suddenly claim there is an “i$$ue”.

              Negroes in Africa were sold off by their tribal leaders or as prisoners of war by other negroes for profit. The buck should stop there, if you insist on “addressing historical grievances”.

              Arabs made a killing from the African slave trade. They got lots of money, go shake down them.

              Whites abolished slavery generations ago, while in Africa, slavery is still a thing.

              BUT, you still have not answered why non white majority countries are 3rd World dumps or authoritarian to various degrees, or usually both.

              Are you really going to try and claim that China is a totalitarian hellhole because of Evil Whitey?

              Take a look at the “Rainbow Nation”, South Africa, it has gone backwards rapidly since the end of Apartheid. The negro opposition leader is on record as saying things were way better when the whites were in charge.

            • Trumpenreich

               /  27th April 2017

              I said dredging up historical “injustices” is stupid. I mean that from the point of view of someone with intellectual integrity.

              From the point of view derived from Marxism ie Progressive, it makes excellent agitprop material to attempt to destabilise a Western capitalist democratic societies.

            • Trumpenreich

               /  27th April 2017

  7. Jay3

     /  27th April 2017

    Jacinda Ardern and Michael Wood represent two of the electorates in Auckland with large Asian immigrant populations, yet we haven’t heard a peep from them in defence of these communities in the face of the latest racist commentary over immigration policy. Some representatives they have turned out to be. Following on from Labour’s dog whistling over Chinese house buyers I guess it isn’t surprising but it is extremely disappointing that Labour has apparently decided a bit of Asian bashing is a legitimate election strategy.

    Reply
    • Yep, the whole shibang is really caught between a rock and a hard place Jay3 …

      I wonder if National think they can succeed electorally on immigration now, having largely created the situation, by maintaining the status quo, doing nothing and keeping their heads buried in the sand?

      Some representatives they are turning out to be …

      Reply
    • Blazer

       /  27th April 2017

      stating facts that everyone but the Govt recognises…..is hardly ‘Asian bashing’.

      Reply

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