hitchhiker
Regional migration of trades workers
Key findings

It is important for a workforce to be mobile to be able to respond to both one-off and cyclical changes in demand for their labour. This study explores the mobility of New Zealand’s trades workforce. In recent years we have found a net flow of experienced workers out of main city centers, mostly Auckland and Canterbury, while the smaller regions of Bay of Plenty, Waikato and Northland have seen a significant influx of workers.

When looking at attributes of workers we find younger tradies were more likely to migrate both within New Zealand and overseas, identifying that most of this mobility is coming from the younger workforce.

Introduction

Over time, New Zealand’s demand for different labour types shifts. This demand change may be one-off or cyclical and can occur in different parts of New Zealand. This demonstrates the importance of a mobile workforce that can migrate to where they are needed. For instance, following the events of the Christchurch earthquakes the rebuild saw a high demand for the construction workforce and the mobility of the workforce responded to this showing an influx of workers into Canterbury during this period.

Workers are taken IRD tax records each calendar year. Their location during the time of work is the region they have spent the longest time over the year of work. Movements are tracked to the region they spend the longest time in year after being found in the workforce, regardless of whether they are still working in the trades.

Overseas movements for 2018 are not reported due to incomplete overseas spells records in 2019, meaning we cannot determine whether many spells in 2019 are short term holidays or long term movements.

Flows between main centres

The following chart shows the flow of workers between the main centers in New Zealand. It is clear to see from this chart that the biggest movement is no movement. Each year 90 - 95% of workers will remain in the same region in the following year. Smaller regions are grouped into an other category, however breakdown of flows into each region are available further below.

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Methodology

Year cycle: Calendar year

Note: Overseas movements for 2018 are not reported as 2019's overseas spells records are incomplete, meaning we cannot see return dates for many trips and cannot distinguish whether they are short term holidays or long term spells.

Workforces are defined from IRD tax records each year. These workers are matched to the regional council they have spent the most time in over the year they are working as well as the following year, regardless if they are still working in the industry. Flows of workers are tracked between these regions.

Migration by employment status

Of those workers who migrated in the follow year we breakdown movements based on their employment status. Self-employer workers includes sole-traders, contractors and employers. Overall, employees are more likely to move both overseas, and regionally compared to their self-employed counterparts. We see this hold true across all age groups apart from 15 to 24 year old self-employed workers who match their employee counterparts in terms of movements. This is likely because self-employed under 25 are much more likely to be contractors than employers than their older counterparts.

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Methodology

Year cycle: Calendar year

Note: Overseas movements for 2018 are not reported as 2019's overseas spells records are incomplete, meaning we cannot see return dates for many trips and cannot distinguish whether they are short term holidays or long term spells.

Workforces are defined from IRD tax records each year. These workers are matched to the regional council they have spent the most time in over the year they are working as well as the following year, regardless if they are still working in the industry. Flows of workers are tracked between these regions.

Migration by age

Younger workers are significantly more mobile, both regionally and overseas, than those aged 35 and up. Each year 5% of under 35 year old workers are expected to move regions, and a further 5-6% will move overseas. On the other hand only 2% of all workers aged 35 and up will move region in New Zealand, and 2% overseas.

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Methodology

Year cycle: Calendar year

Note: Overseas movements for 2018 are not reported as 2019's overseas spells records are incomplete, meaning we cannot see return dates for many trips and cannot distinguish whether they are short term holidays or long term spells.

Workforces are defined from IRD tax records each year. These workers are matched to the regional council they have spent the most time in over the year they are working as well as the following year, regardless if they are still working in the industry. Flows of workers are tracked between these regions.

Regional inflows and outflows

The below chart summaries the inflows and outflows of trades workers within a region each year, showing the origin of new workers, and destination of workers leaving. When the counts of workers moving between regions are low, instead of being suppressed they are summarized into an 'Other' category.

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Methodology

Year cycle: Calendar year

Note: Overseas movements for 2018 are not reported as 2019's overseas spells records are incomplete, meaning we cannot see return dates for many trips and cannot distinguish whether they are short term holidays or long term spells.

Workforces are defined from IRD tax records each year. These workers are matched to the regional council they have spent the most time in over the year they are working as well as the following year, regardless if they are still working in the industry. Flows of workers are tracked between these regions.

Net flows by region

This chart summarizes the net regional flows each year. In recent years there has been a large outflow of workers out of the main centers Auckland and Canterbury, while Waikato, Bay of Plenty and Northland have had the largest net gain of workers.

The filters on the right allow you to limit the chart to only inflows, outflows, or also consider the outflows overseas.

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Methodology

Year cycle: Calendar year

Note: Overseas movements for 2018 are not reported as 2019's overseas spells records are incomplete, meaning we cannot see return dates for many trips and cannot distinguish whether they are short term holidays or long term spells.

Workforces are defined from IRD tax records each year. These workers are matched to the regional council they have spent the most time in over the year they are working as well as the following year, regardless if they are still working in the industry. Flows of workers are tracked between these regions.

Net flows over time

This chart summarizes the net regional flows in a region over time. We note that the pattern of experienced workers leaving Auckland has started since 2003, however is only a recent event for Canterbury. This is likely a result of the influx of workers during the Canterbury rebuild period (2011-2014) are now returning to their home regions.

The net inflow of workers into the regions surrounding Auckland (Waikato, Bay of Plenty and Northland) seems to follow a similar cycle of an influx of workers between 2005 - 2010 period, outflow between 2011 - 2013, and influx post 2014.

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Methodology

Year cycle: Calendar year

Note: Overseas movements for 2018 are not reported as 2019's overseas spells records are incomplete, meaning we cannot see return dates for many trips and cannot distinguish whether they are short term holidays or long term spells.

Workforces are defined from IRD tax records each year. These workers are matched to the regional council they have spent the most time in over the year they are working as well as the following year, regardless if they are still working in the industry. Flows of workers are tracked between these regions.

Disclaimer

Access to the anonymised data used in this study was provided by Statistics New Zealand in accordance with security and confidentiality provisions of the Statistics Act 1975, and secrecy provisions of the Tax Administration Act 1994. The findings are not Official Statistics. The results in this paper are the work of the authors, not Statistics NZ, and have been confidentialised to protect individuals, households, businesses, and other organisations from identification. Read our full disclaimer here.

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