New Zealand has a long history of gendered migration and this has affected the overall gender balance in the population. According to official records there were more men than women living in New Zealand from the time of European colonisation through to 1968.3 However, since 1968 at each census, there have been more women recorded than men living in New Zealand. This partly relates to the ageing of the population with, due to gender differences in mortality rates in the older age groups. However, the census also shows that in the prime working age groups there has been an increasing imbalance between women and men. For example, 2006 census data indicates over 57,000 more women than men in the broad 25-49 year age group. Previous research attributes this gender imbalance to four main factors (Callister, Bedford and Didham, 2006). These are:
• gendered migration out of New Zealand,
• differences in census response rates by women and men,
• differences in mortality rates, and
• gendered migration into New Zealand.
In this early research, when permanent and long term migration (PLT) into New Zealand was considered, the data showed that there were slightly more female non-New Zealand citizens arrivals than males between 1995 and 2004 for those aged between 20-49 years. Between 1995 and 1999, there were 13 percent more women than men and in the second period 5 percent more women than men.
Interestingly when ethnicity was considered, 2006 census data indicates that the overall gender imbalance was especially pronounced between Asian women and men living in New Zealand. For example, there were 37 percent more Asian women than men in the 35-39 year age group. This was three times more than that of the total population.
While there have been people of Asian ethnicity living in New Zealand from the early days of European settlement, the initial numbers were very small, but with significantly more men than women. For example, there were only nine women to 4,995 men in 1881 (Te Ara Encyclopaedia of New Zealand, 2007). While migration policy had an effect on some of these flows, other factors, like the nature of the economy has always been a key driver 6 (Te Ara Encyclopaedia of New Zealand, 2007).
However, during the 1980s and 1990s the number of people of various Asian ethnic groups grew rapidly and the Asian region is likely to continue to be an important source of migrants for all industrialised countries (Hugo 2006).
While there has always been some female component to migration flows, over the past 20 years the gender balance of international migration flows has changed considerably and developed in response to a number of factors. These include gender selective demand for foreign labour, economic development and subsequent changes in gender relations in countries of origin and countries of destination. According to the 2003 ILO report, female migrants constitute nearly 51 percent of all migrants in developed countries and about 46 percent of all migrants in developing countries. In most developing regions females are increasingly migrating independently not just as dependants or family members (Sorensen, 2004). Castles and Miller (2003) have described the consequences of all these trends as an “increasing feminisation of migration at a global level”.
Despite a growing significance of the global feminisation of migration, including the feminisation of labour market related migration, this area has attracted little research or policy attention in the New Zealand context. Patterns of gendered migration from Asian economies have received even less attention in the New Zealand context, despite the growth in migration from these countries. This report attempts to provide a starting point for discussions about gendered migration, particularly from various Asian nations.