Moving for Employment Reasons


  • Philip S Morrison Victoria University of Wellington
  • William A.V. Clark University of California, Los Angeles
  • Kirsten Nissen Statistics New Zealand
  • Robert Didham Statistics New Zealand



While most models of population migration assume that members of the labour force migrate to enhance returns to their labour, major surveys in the USA (PSID and CPS), in the UK (BHPS) and Australia (HILDA) all show that only around 10 percent of all individuals who change residence are motivated primarily by employment reasons. Of those moving between local labour markets only about 30 percent say they are motivated by employment reasons.

We explore this apparent paradox by drawing on evidence from the Dynamics of Motivation and Migration Survey (DMM), which recorded the reasons people of working age, changed their permanent residence in New Zealand over the two-year period 2005 and 2006. The need to solve the employment problem before moving means that reasons offered retrospectively for moving usually reflect a wish to adjust consumption even in the case of those moving between local labour markets. For most people of working age employment remains a necessary condition rather than sufficient reason for moving and this is why the pattern of net flows among local markets appear to support theories of migration change even though few people say they move for employment reasons.


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Author Biographies

Philip S Morrison, Victoria University of Wellington

School of Geography, Environment and Earth Sciences

William A.V. Clark, University of California, Los Angeles

Department of Geography