We must debate and determine our demography

Venkat Raman
Auckland, December 17, 2023

Our front-page story in the December 15, 2023 Digital Edition of Indian Newslink highlighted an inescapable fact: our immigration inflow is getting out of hand and it is time to not only exercise better control but more importantly, decide on our demographic balance and determine what kind of nation should New Zealand be in the next 50 years.

We have had a record number of arrivals this year- 245,600; although there were 116,700 departures, the net migration continues to be high.

Prime Minister Christopher Luxon said that we should have proper audits and checks in place to manage the migrant numbers.

While New Zealand is one of the few countries that depend on immigration for employment and economic progress, successive governments must decide the need for a foreign workforce, their settlement in New Zealand with their families, the education of their children and other socio-economic aspects.

A sound Population Policy

We need a sound Population Policy to define our demographic balance, understand the demand for skills and manage the supply accordingly.

We have often stressed the importance of a sound Population Policy that determines the demographic profile of New Zealand, a fool-proof system of immigration and a mechanism that is responsive to the changing needs of the economy are among the factors that will help in sustainable growth.

As a country with a small population of five million, New Zealand will need sound human capital and such capital must be diverse and suitable to our specific needs. Regional Development Minister Shane Jones had expressed the need for such a discussion but there was no follow-up.

According to StudySmarter, an ed-tech startup from Munich, Germany, Population forms the core of a country’s profile and progress.

“Overpopulation can lead to over-consumption and increased pressures on resources and services such as health care and education. A country can also become underpopulated, which is often unsustainable and can lead to economic loss due to the fact there are fewer adults of working age in the population. Population policies, implemented by governments, are a series of actions that are introduced to a country to adjust the county’s population size,” it said.

Policy components

StudySmarter has recommended governments examine their past and present population demographics and predict future population and demographic trends and changes.

“This will lead to the most suitable population policies being chosen for the country. Different population policies have different components. Therefore, three main elements are considered when deciding on a population policy, these are fertility, mortality, and migration,” it said.

During his previous term as Minister (2017-2020), Mr Jones had a few ideas to mitigate the immigration problem: freeze short-term migration, improve the social infrastructure and end worker exploitation.

Before Covid-19, New Zealand received about 20,000 people every year, worsening the prospects of exploitation because of their vulnerable status.

Mr Jones said that New Zealand employers had been addicted to ‘this type of labour flow,’ and that the emerging issues would undermine social cohesion.

“I am a product of biculturalism. “I do understand that what I say rankles and offends the multicultural advocates and indeed some in the Indian community. My vocabulary has been dismissed as too muscular and overblown. I am willing to take it on the chin that some of my language is bombastic but I want to say to you that I am a politician whose ancestry goes back a 1000 years in this country and I want people to focus on the lingering and continuing problems that wash up in our district court and our high court and leaders of the Indian ethnic community cannot walk away from that,” he said.

A public debate on the Population Policy is imperative and the process must begin as a multi-party approach with all political parties agreeing to participate in the national debate and encourage people to have their say.

New Zealand is a migrant-dependent nation. It will be so for a length of time and all that talk of managing the indigenous population and optimisation of inherent human resources has never worked and there is no hope that they will in the future.

Achievement of these elements will enable New Zealand to address the current shortage of skilled and unskilled labour and assist in the growth of businesses.

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