Sunday, March 31, 2013

Immigration, Lies and Statistics Used by NZ Herald

[Update 2013-04-08: is a good interactive site to look up stats for migrants around the world. (not to be confused with migration rates each year which this post is about) Their stats for migrants in NZ as of 2010:
  1.  UK: 260,085
  2. China: 85,447
  3. Australia: 68,629
  4. Samoa: 55,401
  5. India: 47,411
  6. South Africa: 45,587
  7. Fiji: 41,288
  8. South Korea: 31,509
  9. Netherlands: 24,175
  10. Tonga: 22,445
  11. Others: 280,095 (calculated)]

NZ Herald story headline:"Asians dominate NZ immigration"
Let's see how their headline actually stacks up. (tl;dr: NZH is full of shit)

Besides hand-waving about temporary visitors and students, their main statement about actual immigration is this:
"Despite the UK still being the biggest source country for permanent residents, Professor Spoonley noted, the combined total from China, India and the Philippines more than doubled the British."

The numbers I get from the source data for permanent and long term arrivals in the year to Feb 2013 vs 2012, as percentages of the total: (all source data)

Asia declined from 31.84% to 31.72% (though up slightly in absolute terms)
Europe declined from 28.99% to 28.20%
Americas declined from 8.92% to 8.75%
Africa and Middle east - 4.56% to 4.12%
Oceania excl Aus declined from 5.25% to 4.97%
Australia increased from 16.55% to 17.94% (90% of the overall increase)
"not stated" increased from 3.88% to 4.31% (an absolute 13% increase)

So really, the story told by the data, without pandering to demands for provocative headlines is that immigration increased modestly (1.9%), with most of that growth coming from Australia, and a notable trend for more people to not state their country of origin. "Asians" are actually declining as a share of immigration.

And what about their claim about China, India and Philippines combined being more than double the UK? well:

For the year to Feb 2013, the UK actually wasn't the biggest source country for permanent and long term arrivals like it was in 2012, Australia was. Also, China India and the Philippines combined only contributed 18% more than the UK.

Well, maybe they were talking about just the month of February. There seems to be a seasonal pattern with long term arrivals from China and India where many more come in February than in an average month. There is also a slight opposite effect with those coming from the UK.

For just the month of February, again the single largest contributing country was Australia, but the claim about China, India and the Philippines is closer to the mark. They were between them 194% of the contribution from the UK. In fact, in 2012 they were 241%, so if this claim was printed last year, it would have only been misleading, not false. (misleading because it was not explained as part of dramatic seasonal effects and only valid for one month of the year)

So, where were they looking to get their facts? well, despite the article clearly mentioning immigration, these stats were actually for *net migration*. The actual figures behind this:

2011 - 228% (+11,600 net vs +5,100 net)
2012 - 222% (+11,800 net vs +5,300 net)
2013 - 209% (+12,400 net vs +5,900 net)

So yes, there is a number that "more than doubles the British",  but this number they used (net migration) is:
a) not about immigration, it is just as much about emigration (when commenting on "immigration", they should have used arrivals data only)
b) nothing new (it has been true for at least the last 2 years and probably much longer)
c) actually on a course to no longer be true in another year or two.
d) the next paragraph in the article refers to this as a "rapid rise in numbers", which is a lie. The rise in net migration (because that's what he's quoting) from China (+605), India (-109) and the Philippines (+152) combined (+648) is nearly the same as the rise from the UK (+638), and barely over a quarter of the rise from Australia (+2394).

The figures the Herald quotes only work in their claims like this because so few kiwis emigrate to Asia. For every 2 immigrants from the UK, there is 1 emigrant to the UK (14,000 vs 8,100). For China, there is only 1 in 3 (7,900 vs 2,400), for India, 1 in 5 (6,200 vs 1,400), and for the Philippines, more like 1 in 7 (2,400 vs 370). A more honest headline based on the exact numbers they used (comparing net migration from the UK with China, India and the Philippines combined) would be "UK dominates NZ emigration" (excluding Australia), though this is also nothing new. If they had used data without misrepresenting it, i.e. if they used the permanent and long term arrivals data, they would not be able to make their dramatic claims.

In Summary, "Asians" do not dominate NZ immigration, they make up 32% of it, and this figure is declining. The UK is not the largest source country for immigrants, Australia is, though the UK takes 2nd with a very large margin. The combined total immigration from China, India and the Philippines did not more than double the British. It's just that unlike Australia and Britain, kiwis don't emigrate to Asia in nearly comparable numbers. Of course, the NZ Herald could never say that, because it just isn't provocative enough, and who wants to let the truth get in the way of a good story?

[Update 2013-04-02: re-wrote a few sections for an utterly marginal improvement in clarity]

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