WHAT: New Zealand’s effective strategy in the start of the coronavirus pandemic has attracted many New Zealand expatriates back to the country. It is expected that as many as 100,000 (10%) of the country’s displaced population will return. This will provide a “brain gain”, where citizens who would otherwise have assisted other countries, such as Australia, with their skills/knowledge, instead return – to New Zealand’s benefit. However, the country must still find a way to keep returnees when the pandemic is over. The returnees otherwise risk leaving again due to a relatively small labour market in the country. New Zealand can hope that the reason for returning is linked to security and gratitude over the way the country handled the pandemic, and that returnees can therefore find incentives to stay. This is contrary to people who are forced to return to their home countries (due to deportation, visa expiry etc.) and usually feel resentful about the situation.
SO WHAT: Returning to countries based on their coronavirus strategies can be beneficial to nations that have had successful ones. But countries such as Sweden or the United Kingdom, where governments’ actions have been criticized, may in the longer term have a greater challenge in attracting citizens to return. In the worst case, it can instead make citizens leave and move elsewhere. Although Sweden is doing relatively well – in large part due to an influx of short-term corona refugees appreciating more generous restrictions and limitations – confidence may need to be rebuilt in the longer term before the country is seen as safe to live in.