Pacific Migrants Trends and Settlement Outcomes report
This report looks at the migration trends of migrants from the Pacific from 2012/13 to 2016/17 using Immigration New Zealand data. It also examines the settlement outcomes for Pacific migrants, primarily using data from the 2016 Migrants Survey.
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Migrants from the Pacific have a long history of migration into New Zealand. The demand for labour and the Government’s sense of responsibility to help support its Pacific neighbours, alongside close family linkages and employment opportunities, have driven growth in the number of migrants from the Pacific throughout the years.
In the 2013 Census, Pacific peoples were the fourth largest ethnic group in New Zealand. It is one of the fastest growing population groups and is projected to grow from 344,400 in 2013 to 590,100 in 2038. Despite the general “Pasifika” label, the population is diverse in terms of language and culture and having different migration histories and settlement patterns.
Thirty-eight percent of the Pacific population in 2013 was born overseas - the largest numbers were born in Fiji and Samoa. Pacific migrants tend to settle in Auckland for employment opportunities and its large Pacific communities. Employed Pacific migrants are over-represented in lower skilled occupations, such as labourers, and machinery operators and drivers, and are under-represented in higher skilled occupations, such as managers and professionals.
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Pacific residence approvals have remained stable over the last 5 years - almost half approved under the Family visa stream.
People who wish to migrate permanently to New Zealand enter through 1 of the 3 residence streams of the New Zealand Residence Programme. These are the Skilled/Business Stream, Family stream and International/Humanitarian stream.
In the 2016/17 year, 5,243 migrants from the Pacific were approved for residence. The number of Pacific migrants approved for residence has remained stable over the last 5 years, increasing by 4% between 2012/13 and 2016/17. This growth was driven by the increase in the International/Humanitarian visa stream approvals.
Almost half of Pacific approvals for residence were under the Family visa stream. In 2016/17:
- 48% of these were approved through the Dependent Child resident visa category.
- These approvals have almost doubled in number in the last 5 years.
- The majority were from Samoa (87%).
- The majority were under the age of 20 years and the gender split is relatively even.
- 47% were approved through the Partner resident visa category.
- Migrants from Fiji (40%) and Samoa (31%) make up the majority of those approved.
- The majority were in their 20s and 30s and the gender split is slightly more males than females.
Just over a third of approvals were under the International/Humanitarian visa stream, mostly under the Samoan Quota and the Pacific Access Category. In 2016/17:
- 57% were approved through the Samoan Quota.
- 33% were approved through the Pacific Access Category.
Around one-fifth of Pacific residence approvals were through the Business/Skilled visa stream, which allows skilled migrants with qualifications and work experience to apply for residence. Migrants approved under this visa stream can bring their partner and dependent children (if any) with them. In 2016/17:
- Most migrants (80%) under this visa stream were approved through the Skilled Migrant Category.
- 36% were the principal applicants and 64% were the secondary applicants.
- Migrants from Fiji made up the majority of those approved (93%).
- The majority were in the 30 to 39 age group (44%) and most were males (79%).
- Over half (60%) found employment in the Auckland region, followed by 13% in Canterbury.
- Migrants were more likely to be working as Technicians and Trades Workers (71%).
- 18% of Pacific residence approvals were through the Residence from Work visa category, which has been set up as a step towards gaining residence and settling in New Zealand permanently. Although the numbers are small, the number of approvals under this visa category has more than doubled in the last 5 years.
- Most gained residence through the Talent (Accredited Employer) visa category.
- Migrants from Fiji (70%) made up the majority, followed by Tonga (23%).
Temporary workers from the Pacific continue to grow, driven by the continuous increase in workers under the Recognised Seasonal Employer Scheme
Temporary workers help fill seasonal or short-term skills shortages. In the 2016/17 year, 15,173 people from the Pacific were approved for a temporary work visa. The number of Pacific temporary work visa approvals has been growing, increasing by 20% over the last 5 years.
The Recognised Seasonal Employer scheme enables employers in the horticulture and viticulture industries to meet seasonal labour shortages. The workers employed under this scheme contribute to the growth and success of New Zealand’s horticulture and viticulture industry. The number of Recognised Seasonal Employer workers has increased by 48% over the last 5 years, due to the increase in the cap on the number of workers to meet demand from employers. In 2016/17:
- Around 60% of temporary work migrants from the Pacific came to New Zealand under the Recognised Seasonal Employer Scheme.
- Almost half of the workers approved come from Vanuatu.
- Most were in the 20 to 39 age group and the majority (89%) were males.
The number of approved Essential Skills workers from the Pacific has also been steadily increasing over the last 5 years. In 2016/17:
- Essential Skills visa approvals from the Pacific made up 14% of Pacific temporary workers.
- Fiji was the largest source country of Essential Skills migrants from the Pacific.
- Around half of these workers found employment in the Auckland region, followed by 16% in Canterbury.
- Pacific Essential Skills workers were more likely to be employed as Technicians and Trades Workers and as Labourers.
- Most Pacific Essential Skills workers were in their 20s and 30s and more likely to be male.
One-fifth of those approved were under the Partnership work visa stream. This includes partners of a New Zealander or resident, partners of work visa holders and student visa holders. In 2016/17:
- Just over half of those approved (53%) were partners of New Zealanders (with a likelihood of transitioning into residence).
- The rest (47%) were partners of work visa and student visa holders.
- Migrants from Fiji made up the majority of those approved (65%).
- The majority were in the 20 to 39 age group and more likely to be female (63%).
International student visa holders
International student visa holders from the Pacific remain small and are mostly dependents of temporary visa holders
A small proportion of Pacific migrants come to New Zealand as international students, making up three percent of all student visas approved in 2016/17. The number of Pacific student visa approvals has been consistent over the last five years, decreasing by five percent.
Pacific international students were more likely to be studying in New Zealand as dependents of temporary work or student visa holders. In 2016/17:
- Almost half (45%) of Pacific student visa holders were approved for study at primary and secondary schools, followed by 33% at universities and polytechnics.
- The majority of these students were from Fiji. Fiji was the 10th largest source country of student visa approvals in New Zealand.
- Over two-thirds were under the age of 20 years and more likely to be male (54%).
Transition to residence
Most temporary work visa migrants from the Pacific transition to residence through the Family visa stream
New Zealand’s immigration policies include a defined pathway from temporary to residence for some temporary workers. The visa pathways of temporary work visa holders vary by source country. Temporary work visa holders from Fiji who transitioned to residence were more likely do so through the Skilled Migrant Category (58%), while those from Samoa (65%), Tonga (71%) and Vanuatu (73%) were more likely to transition through the Family visa stream.
More likely to stay
Pacific migrants with residence are more likely to stay in New Zealand
A migrant’s connection to New Zealand can affect their participation in society and their desire to stay in New Zealand. Most Pacific migrants who were granted residence stay in New Zealand on a long-term basis. Almost all (97%) resident migrants from Fiji and Tonga were still in New Zealand 5 years after arrival. Migrants from Samoa have lower retention rates, where 83% are still in New Zealand 5 years after arrival. This compares with 86% for all migrants with residence.
Pacific migrants report similar or better settlement outcomes than other migrants on some indicators
The aim of the New Zealand Migrant Settlement and Integration Strategy (the Strategy) is to help migrants successfully settle and integrate by participating fully and contributing to all aspects of life in New Zealand. The success of the Strategy is measured across 5 outcome areas through 16 high-level indicators. This report shares findings on 7 of the 16 indicators where sufficient data is available for Pacific migrants. The primary source of this data was from the 2016 Migrant Survey.
Overall, Pacific migrants report settlement outcomes on the 7 indicators which are similar or better than other recent migrants. Recent migrants from the Pacific are more likely to report that they feel that New Zealand is their home ‘completely’ or ‘a lot’ (94%) compared with recent migrants overall (82%). Most Pacific migrants also report that they can speak English ‘well’ or ‘very well’. High levels of English language confidence and competence is key to successful settlement.
Pacific migrants are well connected socially – 66% reported they belonged to at least 1 social group or club compared with 59% for recent migrants overall. The most common social group or club Pacific migrants belong to are religious groups (higher compared with recent migrants overall) followed by sports clubs or groups. And within 5 years, 93% of the Pacific migrants who had arrived in 2011 were enrolled in a primary health organisation, compared with recent migrants overall (90%).
Feeling safe in a new environment may affect how quickly migrants settle and whether they decide to stay. Overall, most Pacific migrants (80%) reported feeling safe or very safe in New Zealand, similar to the proportion for recent migrants overall (82%). They were also less likely to report that they were treated unfairly because they were from overseas (37%) compared with recent migrants overall (56%).
Pacific migrants are more likely to report that they are in jobs that match their skills and qualification (68%) compared to recent migrants overall (58%). However, 2015 our research on skilled migrants report that skilled migrants from the Pacific had high employment rates, but they have lower levels of income due to the high proportion in lower skilled work.