Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Mike Hosking: Government at risk of missing out on brain gain opportunity


Is it really an historic wave ?

KEA (Kiwi Expats Association), as we told you yesterday, have done some excellent work on who the expats are that have arrived back, what they bring by way of skills, where they are heading to, how long they are staying, and what they plan to do here when they settle in.

This of course is something the government should have done, but this is not a government to seize opportunity.

We have an MIQ system seemingly unable to expand, a lack of private involvement in getting skills into the country, a lack of coordination on who should be brought in and by who, no idea who those are who are back are, what they’re doing and whether they are staying.

This all seems piece meal, a kind of suck and see approach and we hope it all works out.

The kea numbers look good in terms of investment. Lots will start businesses, any will employ people, a decent number seem to be headed for the regions.

But to call this a wave is an interesting term. Its 60 000. KEA says 250,000 could come home in the next two years and another 250,000 after that

Those numbers we need to be wary of. Why are they returning home? Covid. Will Covid still be an issue in two years. No - if it is we are all buggered.

So is it really a wave, or will it go back to what it has always been.

Expats who have done their time were always coming home anyway, and they are at least in part replaced by the new young things wandering off for their OE.  

Obviously anyone who comes back for good needs to be tapped into. A certain level of coordination is required - the more we know the more we can do.

And skills are always short, so KEA is right in many ways. This is a good news story.

But there is another side and what we should also be watching out for is Australia and the brain drain.

What we know is a certain group of people go where the going is good - that’s why we have so many returning home. We are Covid free, and that beats London, Los Angeles and Madrid right now.

But what we also know is Australia is a magnet, always has been the lights are bright and the money is good.

New Zealand can’t be and will not be an isolated haven forever. Australia is on the verge of re-emergence and will once again be competing for our talent. Whether it’s newly arrived back or already here and just waiting for a green light.

The KEA numbers show we have an opportunity, a rare maybe as they say, once in a lifetime chance

But what are we doing with it? Given the government don’t even have the data on who these people are, do you reckon they’ve even got a plan going forward?

And given they don’t, how long before it’s an opportunity missed?

Mike Hosking is a New Zealand television and radio broadcaster. He currently hosts The Mike Hosking Breakfast show on NewstalkZB on weekday mornings.

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