Vibrant New Zealand economy, tranquil lifestyle stoke migration boom

Fri Jun 20, 2014 4:16am EDT
 
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By Naomi Tajitsu

WELLINGTON (Reuters) - When Elzerie Alcaide moved to Wellington from Singapore in January, she swapped 12-hour workdays, vast mazes of shopping malls and a diet of takeaway food for nine-to-five hours, weekend drives in the countryside and home-cooked meals.

Alcaide is among the 40,000 migrants, nearly 1 percent of the population, expected to settle in New Zealand this year, many of them white-collar workers attracted by a laid-back lifestyle and promising job prospects in an economy which is outperforming most developed countries.

"Living in Singapore or Manila can be stressful," said the 33-year old, Philippines-born quality assurance analyst who recently started working at accounting software developer Xero.

"But in New Zealand you can have a good work-life balance, and the work environment is more family oriented, which is really nice," Alcaide said during a break at the offices of one of New Zealand's fastest-growing companies.

Rising immigration is a key driver behind record high house prices. This has prompted the central bank to raise rates and has seen the opposition Labour Party calling for a cut in immigration as it seeks to score political points ahead of a general election in September.

Immigration has surged in the past year, boosted by arrivals from China, India and other Asian countries, along with Britain and the United States. Data due next week is expected to show the highest net inflows in more than a decade in May.

According to official figures, the last time net migration inflows were this strong was in 2003-2004, when annual economic growth leapt as high as 5.6 percent. The economy is expected to grow around 4.0 percent this year, its fastest clip since then.

On Thursday, data showed growth in the South Pacific nation accelerated to its quickest pace in over six-years, driven largely by a building boom. An economic slowdown in Australia in the past year has both put the brakes on migration by New Zealanders to their bigger neighbor, and raised the comparative appeal of New Zealand among prospective migrants around the world   Continued...

 
Elzerie Alcaide is pictured on Wellington's waterfront June 16, 2014. Alcaide moved to Wellington from Singapore in January, she swapped 12-hour workdays, vast mazes of shopping malls and a diet of takeaway food for nine-to-five hours, weekend drives in the countryside and home-cooked meals. REUTERS/Naomi Tajitsu