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Brain drain to Australia hits another new high

Tuesday 21 Aug 2012 1:27 p.m.

In both directions, the majority were Kiwis

In both directions, the majority were Kiwis

By Dan Satherley

Despite promises from the Government to reverse it, the brain drain to Australia has hit a new high for the third month in a row.

According to Statistics NZ, a record 53,900 people left New Zealand for Australia in the year to July.

Only 14,000 came back the other way, resulting in a record exodus across the ditch of 39,800 people.

In both directions, the majority were Kiwis, says the Council of Trade Unions.

"Before being elected the Government was quick to criticise the emigration of Kiwis to Australia," says CTU secretary Peter Conway.

"But now it appears to regard this loss as business as usual."

Mr Conway says the exodus is the result of "big pay increases" for bosses, whilst workers face "casualisation and mistreatment".

"We need to lift the minimum wage, promote industry bargaining, which in Australia covers 60 percent of the workforce compared with 18 percent here, and boost productivity while ensuring the benefits flow to workers," says Mr Conway.

The years to April and June both also set records for losses to Australia. The number moving across the ditch has almost doubled in number since 2007, when 27,200 Kiwis moved to Australia in the year ended November.

The outflow has impacted New Zealand's population growth, which in May measured its slowest year-on-year rise in a decade.

At the 2008 election National promised to end the brain drain. In the lead up to last year's election, Prime Minister John Key blamed the global financial crisis, saying Australia had weathered it better than New Zealand.

"That's been an ongoing problem for about 30 or 40 years so it's not something you can turn around overnight, although we are making progress in some areas," Mr Key told Radio New Zealand in November.

EPMU secretary Bill Newson said the Government's failure to stem the tide shows their "hands-off" approach isn't working.

"The National Party campaigned strongly on closing the wage gap with Australia and stemming the exodus of Kiwis across the Tasman, but in government they’ve presided over a growing wage gap and a lost generation of Kiwi workers," says Mr Newson.

"After four years it’s time for the government to take responsibility, change course and come up with a plan to lift wages."

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