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NZ ‘brain gain’: What returning Kiwis are looking for

New Zealand's brain drain is now in reverse gear, with several thousands of expat Kiwis planning to return home over the next few years. But what are they looking for?
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After several decades of ‘brain drain’, 2020 marked a turning point for expat Kiwis living abroad. According to a new survey by the Kiwi Expatriates Association (KEA), more and more New Zealanders are considering returning home and being part of the recovery.

Whether you’re already planning to return to our shores or just weighing your options, here’s what other NZ expats think about it. 

Half of expat Kiwis surveyed are planning to return

As part of their ‘Unleashing the Potential of our Returning Kiwis’ report, KEA surveyed over 15,000 New Zealanders living overseas, including the UK, Australia, US and Canada. 

Almost half of respondents (49 per cent) were planning to return, with 24 per cent of those planning to arrive in the next 12 months, and the remainder over the next four years. Covid-19 is a key factor for most Kiwis returning or willing to return, but even if things went back to ‘normal’, 75 per cent of those intending to return would stay permanently. 

A once-in-a-lifetime population shift

Many returning Kiwis will likely bring back invaluable skills and experience. Twelve per cent of those intending to return were in the technology and science sector, 10 per cent were in academia, nine per cent in infrastructure and 3 per cent in agribusiness.

“Due to global instability and a desire to be closer to family, these affluent senior professionals are bringing their international ideas, experience and perspective back to New Zealand, with the majority planning to stay permanently,” said KEA chief executive Tony Truslove. 

According to the survey, a large majority of respondents will potentially be looking for senior positions, stating their employment category as senior, manager, director, owner or C-suite.

A boost for regional New Zealand?

Apart from 32 per cent of respondents signalling they intend to reside in Auckland, the remainder were looking at moving to regional New Zealand – including 22 per cent who were leaning towards a region they had never lived in before.

This may help reinvigorate our regional economy, with a flow-on effect on property demand and prices in the regions – just how big an impact, it’s too early to tell. Twenty per cent already owned an investment property in New Zealand, and of those who have recently returned or plan to come back in the next two years, 62 per cent planned to buy a residential property. 

Challenges and opportunities

Twenty per cent of respondents would like to invest in a business, and 11 per cent intend to start a new business. 

Interestingly, most respondents have been living overseas for a number of years. Some of them will be returning to a very different New Zealand from when they left, so it may take time to adapt and adjust. But for those that see through the challenge to the opportunity, New Zealand may be the world's oyster. 

Resources for returning Kiwis

Planning to call New Zealand ‘home’ again? You may be eligible for certain Government services when you move back. Here are some examples:

Coming back from the UK? Don’t forget about your UK Pension

If you’re moving back to New Zealand from the UK, then transferring your UK pension to New Zealand is worth considering. Give us a call on 0800 UK 11 NZ to book a meeting, or learn more about UK Pension transfers here. We look forward to assisting you. 


Disclaimer: Please note that the content provided in this article is intended as an overview and as general information only. While care is taken to ensure accuracy and reliability, the information provided is subject to continuous change and may not reflect current development or address your situation. Before making any decisions based on the information provided in this article, please use your discretion and seek independent guidance.