January 15, 2018

There and back again: Why Kiwis are coming home


Over the years, the media has sporadically claimed that Kiwis are coming home. This time, however, due to a perfect storm of current events and favourable exchange rates, it’s not just a media buzz – New Zealanders really are returning for work. In 2016, the country saw a net loss of only 3,500 New Zealand citizens, compared to the 39,400 that were lost in 2012 (data courtesy of Statistics New Zealand). This is the lowest it’s been for 25 years.

New Zealanders returning home can show employers they're able to work in new cultural environments.
Workplaces in New Zealand have to be mindful of our Maori heritage and Kiwis who have lived abroad can show they are able to work in different cultural environments.

Are we ready?

Some employers might be worried about the effort it will take to try and assimilate a returning Kiwi back into their communities. However, don’t be closed to the idea of hiring someone in this position. “It might cost you a little more upfront to bring a Kiwi home from overseas, but if they’re the right person for the job (and often they’ve learned a huge range of skills while abroad), it’ll be much cheaper in the long run,” says David Hollander, Director at JacksonStone & Partners.

The secret is to think outside the box. Often, an employer will say they’re aware that the perfect person might not exist, but when it comes down to the crunch, they’ll only accept people who meet their exact requirements. This means they’ll end up having a long search to fill the position. If you can get over the difficulties of assimilation, however, Kiwis returning home are an excellent way to widen the available talent pool.

An open mind

It’s important that Kiwis coming home know how to market themselves as a great prospect for a potential employer. They need to show both how they’ve grown in their role overseas, but also that they’ve not lost touch with New Zealand. This means showing how the skills they’ve learnt apply in a New Zealand context.

Kiwis who have spent time abroad are at an immediate advantage when it comes to showing that they’re still capable of working in the New Zealand environment. “Workplaces in this country have to be mindful of our multiculturalism, in particular our special relationship with the Maori,” says David. “Simply by virtue of having worked overseas, you can show you’re capable of working in different cultural environments, which will transfer very well back here.”

It’s important that, just like employers, Kiwis returning approach the New Zealand job market with an open mind. There might be a difference in salaries and the way things are done, but it won’t take long to get used to this slightly new way of doing things.

Cities like Wellington and Tauranga are enticing returning Kiwis over Auckland.
The Auckland bubble isn’t enticing returning Kiwis, who are choosing other cities like Wellington and Tauranga to make their home.

A boost for the regions

This need for an open mind is perhaps one reason why the Auckland bubble doesn’t appear to be enticing returning Kiwis. Instead, the trend is providing a boost to New Zealand’s regions. “People coming back to New Zealand are going to Wellington or Christchurch, or making a lifestyle choice to go into the more regional areas,” explains David. “Wellington is on a roll because of it, and so are places like Hamilton and Tauranga – these areas are seeing new jobs, rising house prices and more economic activity.”

And it’s not just Kiwis that are coming here. At JacksonStone, David’s seen applications coming from all over. “New Zealand is going really well at the minute. Our economy is performing well and we’ve got a stable government. In this time of global political uncertainty, New Zealand is the safe haven that many people are looking for.”