30 Jul 2021

Business leaders excited by number of expats planning to return home

7:27 pm on 30 July 2021

A survey released today suggests almost one in three New Zealanders living overseas are planning to return home, and many will stay for good.

Young woman in international airport looking at the flight information board, holding passport in her hand, checking her flight

New Zealand needs to do more to engage those arriving back in the country, a business leader says. Photo: 123RF

With around one million Kiwis living overseas, business leaders believe a once in a generation opportunity is on the horizon for innovation and productivity in the country.

New Zealand company Kea surveyed 4000 New Zealanders who were either living overseas or had recently returned.

Chief executive Toni Truslove said the results show that New Zealand is in the midst of "an amazing opportunity to benefit from the skills, experience and investment of returning and offshore Kiwis".

Of the 31 percent of New Zealanders intending to return home, a quarter of those will be doing so within two years.

But Truslove believes New Zealand needs to do more to engage those coming home.

"One of the core insights from the survey is that, while a number of business are seeking offshore talent, or distinctively value them within their organisation, Kiwis who are coming back just aren't feeling valued."

The survey also found a disconnect between local business and expatriate salary expectations, with 43 percent of businesses anticipating high salary requests from expats.

But that's not necessarily the case, with half of returnees saying they are expecting to take a pay drop.

Adrian Smith, who recently returned home after 15 years in London, said he felt the time was right for him to be closer to his family.

Like those surveyed, he was aware of the salary decreases likely in New Zealand.

"For me, money wasn't the driver. I thought to myself, if I am going to come home I want to give back - because my education in New Zealand gave me the springboard for everything else that followed."

Many in the business sector say it is a timely opportunity for people to be returning to New Zealand.

Chair of the Productivity Commission Ganesh Nana said the international networks and learnings the returnees have will be a great attribute for business in this country.

"Internationally experienced Kiwis contribute to Aotearoa through distinctive skills, knowledge, and connections that can help lift innovation and the governance of our businesses and industries.

"We should look to capitalise on the strengths of returning and offshore Kiwis to deliver productivity lift and improvements to the wellbeing of all New Zealanders."

Prominent businessman Rob Fyfe said we should be doing everything possible to maximise this opportunity.

""New Zealand is currently experiencing acute skilled labour shortages across a number of industries and roles.

"As this survey demonstrates, there is a long queue of highly skilled, experienced and motivated Kiwi expats keen to return to Aotearoa, as soon as the current border and MIQ requirements can be safely reduced."

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