Silver lining to brain drain as rangatahi set sights on the world

By Stefan Dimitrof

With the labour market already feeling the squeeze,  some employers are concerned that reopening borders will see a rush of rangatahi and skilled professionals leaving Aotearoa, for lucrative opportunities overseas - ushering in brain drain. Overseas, this is known as the 'Great Resignation'.

Massey University economist and Te Au Rangahau director Matt Roskruge says it’s not as concerning as that but agrees that because of the Covid-19restrictions  over the past two years rangitahi are keen to see the world.

“They want to get out there and have their OE and get some experience. It's perfectly natural, fantastic for our economy and there are lots of good things with our young people travelling and working.”

What Roskruge is more worried about is a global worker shortage as there is a lot of demand for skilled workers.

'Borders re-open'

"We are seeing those people who are in their mid-careers that are not going for their OE - they’re not thinking about coming back in a hurry - professionals, tradies, doctors and nurses”.


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Roskruge says people have been mentioning the brain drain for 20 plus years and he doesn’t think it is bad as it's made out to be.

“I think it's political opposition trying to find talking points and put the government under pressure as the borders re-open.”

'Bring in more entrepreneurs'

While younger people may be heading off for their OE, he is pleased more skilled people may arrive.

But there are industries that are going to have a hard time getting staff, such as district health boards and universities, he says.

He is particularly interested in finding a way to entice more potentially lucrative people to Aotearoa’s shores: “Not the usual agricultural or horticultural workers who come for a gap year or two but how do we bring in more entrepreneurs, professionals or people that want to make the next Rocket Labs or another Twitter”.