Thursday, 17 October 2019


I've just finished John Gibney's A Short History of Ireland, 1500-2000 (Yale University Press, 2017). Near the end (pp236-7) he recounts how
The Republic of Ireland in the 1980s was a state gripped by a recession, burdened by a huge national debt, and ravaged yet again by emigration on a huge scale: more than sixty-one thousand people left Ireland in 1988 alone, with two-thirds of them departing for the United Kingdom ... The spectacular economic growth of the 1990s saw emigration, a traditional litmus test of Irish economic performance, reverse; Ireland instead began to receive immigrants ... The upsurge in the southern economy had an impact on the emigrant flow: young Irish people were staying at home during the boom, as there were now jobs to be had
So, how do we fare on that "traditional litmus test"? Here's the annual net flow of New Zealand citizens over the past 40 years or so. Over the period we lost very nearly 800,000 people, nearly all to Australia.

New Zealand's a great place from many perspectives, but let's not kid ourselves. We've been hopeless at closing the gap in the standard of living between here and Australia, which is the big driver behind that loss of 800,000 Kiwis. When it comes to the final verdict on our economic performance, people have voted with their feet. And how many people really believe that, under this government or its recent predecessors, there's been an urgency to turn it around?

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