Academic journal article Social Policy Journal of New Zealand

Gender, Mobility and Migration into New Zealand: A Case Study of Asian Migration

Academic journal article Social Policy Journal of New Zealand

Gender, Mobility and Migration into New Zealand: A Case Study of Asian Migration

Article excerpt


Skilled migration flows into New Zealand are important to the Department of Labour's goal of building New Zealand's workforce and attracting (and retaining) talent to contribute to the nation's economic transformation. Globally, female migrants constitute nearly half of all migrants in developed and developing countries. This global presence of women in migration is also reflected in the increase of women using what have previously been male-dominated migration streams. This research paper focuses on the migration of Asian women into New Zealand for two reasons. Firstly, Asian migrants are a significant and increasing source of skilled labour, which New Zealand is in competition for; and secondly, the 2006 Census shows that in key working-age groups there are significantly more Asian women than men living in New Zealand. The Department of Labour's databases were analysed to calculate trends and gender ratios in migrants entering New Zealand through the Skilled/ Business stream and Temporary categories from 1997/98 to 2005/06 as principal applicants. Our results show that although men dominate the overall Skilled/Business stream and Temporary categories, there is large diversity by nationality and women from some Asian countries are critical players in the migration process. Census data, which represent the net result of inflows and outflows, suggest that there have been more Asian women than men migrating to New Zealand. Department of Labour immigration data do not fully support this overall gendered migration from Asia, but consideration of gender, age, country of origin and migration stream uncovers much complexity within these overall flows.


New Zealand has a long history of gendered migration, and this has affected the overall gender balance in the population. (2,3) Apart from brief periods in World War 1, the 1918 influenza pandemic and World War 2, official records show that from the time of European colonisation through to 1968 there were more men than women in the total New Zealand population. However, since 1968 there have, at each census, been more women than men living in New Zealand. This partly relates to the ageing of the population, with more women, due to gender differences in mortality rates, in the older age groups. However, the census data also show that in the prime working-age groups there has been an increasing imbalance between women and men; for example, the 2006 Census indicated that there were over 57,000 more women than men in the broad 25-49 years age group. Differences in mortality cannot explain this, and while undercount is a factor, a key driver has to be gendered migration (Callister et al. 2005).

Research by Callister and colleagues has shown that when ethnicity is considered, 2001 Census data indicate that the overall imbalance between Asian women and men living in New Zealand was especially pronounced, with 26% more Asian women than men in the broad 25-49 years age group, and 37% more in the 30-34 years age group. (4) Their research also indicates that inward migration has been a component of this imbalance, with the strongest imbalance in flows in the 25-29 years age group. In this age group in the 1995-2004 period there was a net Permanent Long Term (PLT) gain of 9,824 Asian men as against 14,064 Asian women.

There have been people of Asian ethnicity living in New Zealand from the early days of European settlement, but initially the numbers were very small and heavily weighted towards males. However, in the 1980s and 1990s the number of people of Asian ethnicity grew rapidly. This growth is not surprising given that Asia is home to nearly 60% of the world's population, and China is the world's largest country with a population of 1.3 billion people in 2006 (Hugo 2006, 2007). (5) Due to its size, but also its recent liberalisation of movement of people, China is an increasingly important source of global migrants (Hugo 2007). …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.