New Zealand’s Engaged Diaspora an Asset
The number of New Zealanders scattered around the globe is massive. Back in 1999 Brian Sweeney, founder of nzedge.com which originated the idea of a Kiwi Diaspora, put the number at one million of us living overseas. This estimate has become a popular benchmark, though some estimates are higher depending on how the calculation is made.
Many of our ‘best and brightest’ are working in a wide range of different positions and industries. From award winning dance sensation Parris Goebel and chef Peter Gordon (pictured) to actor Cliff Curtis and Walmart president and CEO Greg Foran.
Writing for Interest.co.nz, reporter Stephen Forbes asks “With an expat community of over one million New Zealanders living abroad, what are we doing to make use of these people and their skills?”
Forbes quotes Massey University sociologist Paul Spoonley, who says he doesn’t think we’re doing enough as a country to take advantage of this global community of New Zealanders.
“We’ve got the second highest diaspora in the OECD [as a percentage of our population], we’re second only to Ireland. And when you look at their skills you realise a lot of our most skilled people are overseas,” Spoonley says.
“We don’t necessarily want them back. But we want to use their skills and networks. What can we do to engage with them where they are? In a global world you’ve got to have global policies and given the size of our diaspora I think it’s a missed opportunity.”
In 2016 international data company Statista released figures showing the percentage each OECD country has of its native-born population living abroad. Based on 2014 data Ireland had 17.5 per cent of its population living overseas, while New Zealand came in a close second with 14.1 per cent.
“There was a bit of enthusiasm from the Labour government in the 2000s [to harness skills], but it has never morphed into anything more substantial,” Spoonley says. “There just seems to be a reluctance to have a comprehensive national policy.”
But he says it can be done and refers to the Philippines as a good example. In 1980 the Filipino government established the Commission on Filipinos Overseas (CFO). A government agency responsible for promoting and upholding the interests of Filipino emigrants and permanent residents in other countries.
The New Zealand organisation Kea is one group that has made harnessing expats as its central mission.
Original article by Stephen Forbes, interest.co.nz, March 30, 2019.