ANZ anticipates Fiji population growth as overseas migration slows

Fiji is poised to witness an increase in labour force expansion and economic activity, starting in 2025, due to changes in trends in international migration, says the ANZ Bank.

A new report from ANZ Research projects a slowdown in the surge of migrants leaving Fiji for opportunities abroad

In 2022 and 2023, approximately 25,627 individuals, equivalent to 3% of Fiji’s population, migrated overseas destinations, marking the highest recorded number since 2005.

The surge in overseas departures was predominantly driven by Fijians seeking study and work opportunities in Australia and New Zealand.

However, ANZ Research analysts Kishti Sen and Tom Kenny write that the high migration numbers were a temporary phenomenon, driven by specific circumstances.They state that Australia and New Zealand have since tightened visa eligibility rules and made pathways to permanent residency more stringent, and that the need for high migration numbers in these destination countries has run its course.

The expiration of student and work visas is also expected to prompt an increase in arrivals in Fiji over the next two years, they say.

The accommodating migration policies of both countries, particularly post-pandemic measures allowing Fijians on student visas to work up to 40 hours a week, facilitated this unprecedented migration wave, the ANZ economists note.

The report underscores the need for strategic policy measures to address potential labour shortages stemming from long-term population stagnation.

“A longer-run concern is the persistent slowdown in population growth (from 2.12% over 1966-76 to 0.55% over 2007-17). If this continues, it will create labour shortages,” they write. 

Sen and Kenny suggest the Fiji government has several options to address this, including incentivising economic participation among the elderly population and revisiting immigration policies to attract skilled labour within the working-age demographic.

The report underscores the critical role population dynamics play in shaping economic activity, emphasising that long-term GDP growth hinges on factors such as labour force expansion and productivity enhancements.

The report also provides insights into the complex interplay between migration, population dynamics, and economic activities to steer Fiji towards a path of sustainable development.