More leaving after high school, with out degrees and landing better roles

Heading away on the big OE has long been a rite of passage for many young Kiwis, who have often made the trip after a hard slog at university.

But getting a degree isn't much of an issue these days; more people are choosing to head off around the world earlier - with an increasing number now making the trip fresh out of high school.

Just over 16,000 people participated in this year's Every Kiwi Counts Survey 2015. Graphic / Colmar Brunton
Just over 16,000 people participated in this year's Every Kiwi Counts Survey 2015. Graphic / Colmar Brunton

And they don't necessarily fit the stereotype of free and single, working in a bar or as a tradie and living in flats with a dozen other Kiwis.

More are Maori, they're earning a good wage and the top sector they work in is health and community services.

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Of the participants, 13,729 were expat Kiwis living in areas around the world. Graphic / Colmar Brunton
Of the participants, 13,729 were expat Kiwis living in areas around the world. Graphic / Colmar Brunton

Just over 16,000 people participated in this year's Every Kiwi Counts Survey 2015, by New Zealand global network Kea, with research firm Colmar Brunton. Of the participants, 13,729 were expat Kiwis living in areas around the world including Australia, Europe, North America, the United Kingdom, South Asia and 1 per cent who called the Middle East their new home.

Twenty per cent of people said their highest qualification was secondary school - up from 15 per cent two years ago.

The number of people (24 per cent) whose highest qualification was a diploma or a certificate is also slightly up from 2013, when it sat at 21 per cent.

Twenty per cent of people said their highest qualification was secondary school. Graphic / Colmar Brunton
Twenty per cent of people said their highest qualification was secondary school. Graphic / Colmar Brunton

There was also a marked drop in those armed with a masters degree. In 2013, 14 per cent of expats held such a qualification, compared to 10 per cent this year.

Kea global chief executive Craig Donaldson said more expats were choosing to chase a life overseas more quickly nowadays, in comparison to previous years where traditionally, an OE would come after a degree.

"Now people are a lot more impatient. You go straight away after school for your gap year. You're not doing your big three or four-year university thing. You might be doing a three or six-month tertiary course then head off overseas," Mr Donaldson said.

"You're into the workforce quicker and become a lot more passionate about New Zealand at a way earlier age."

Those who represented the biggest groups were young couples and older couples (both 17 per cent) who did not have children.

And although many are setting up life in Europe (25 per cent), the majority of people, at 43 per cent, live in Australia.

The top three sectors expats worked in were health and community services, property business and professional services and education. Graphic / Colmar Brunton
The top three sectors expats worked in were health and community services, property business and professional services and education. Graphic / Colmar Brunton

The top three sectors expats worked in were health and community services, property business and professional services and education. A small percentage of people (3 per cent) were also involved in national government or administration and defence.

Mr Rees said the decision to move back - particularly for those living in places like London, where the financial gain was better - was less about career opportunities, but the timing fitting in with personal circumstances.

Expats were earning well overseas, with 40 per cent earning in the $50,000 to $100,000 bracket, compared to 29 per cent of Kiwis earning the same amount here.

Expats were earning well overseas, with 40 per cent earning in the $50,000 to $100,000 bracket. Graphic / Colmar Brunton
Expats were earning well overseas, with 40 per cent earning in the $50,000 to $100,000 bracket. Graphic / Colmar Brunton

Auckland-based company International Exchange Programme NZ has been helping young Kiwis aged 18-35 find jobs in the US for almost 10 years.

Programme co-ordinator Natalie Morris said although they required students to have at least a year of tertiary education under their belts, they regularly fielded inquiries from parents of students in years 12 and 13.

"Getting life experience seems to be the big option now."

Convergence Partners recruitment consultant Dave Rees said more and more Kiwis living overseas were starting to consider moving back home for a number of reasons.

Mr Rees said expats moving back were of a
Mr Rees said expats moving back were of a "very high calibre". Graphic / Colmar Brunton

In this year's survey, more than half of expats said they were more likely to return to live in NZ; the top three reasons being: NZ is considered home, the Kiwi lifestyle and because of family or marital connections or obligations here.

Mr Rees said expats moving back were of a "very high calibre".

"It says a lot about how highly they prize the Kiwi lifestyle that they are willing to make substantial salary sacrifices. I know of some extreme cases where Kiwis working in high-paying banking roles overseas have taken pay cuts of as much as 90 per cent when returning home."

In 2013, 14 per cent of expats held such a qualification, compared to 10 per cent this year. Graphic / Colmar Brunton
In 2013, 14 per cent of expats held such a qualification, compared to 10 per cent this year. Graphic / Colmar Brunton

Being away from home is what Kiwi expat Jemma Stewart says is the "selfish" move she and husband Zane Thompson have loved for four years now.

The 31-year-old lawyer, originally from Hamilton, decided to move to London in 2011 when she and then-partner Zane, 34, were looking for a change.

"I wasn't tempted by Auckland at all and I was feeling at that point that if I didn't go, I would never have gone."

The couple enjoyed two years in London, where both were able to stay in their professions - Ms Stewart at a law firm and Mr Thompson as a banker.

They didn't return to New Zealand while away, but have since travelled frequently between New Zealand and their new home in Melbourne over the past two years.

The couple are still in their professions and enjoy their life in Melbourne. But they will definitely move back home in the next five years, when they plan to have children.

"At the moment, our lives are selfish. It's okay when it's just the two of you, but not when you have kids. I want our kids to grow up and be able to go outside. At our apartment now, there's no grass.

"In Melbourne, it's all about private schools and getting your child into the right kindy, which I don't like. I want my kids to just go to the primary down the road."

The series

Today:

Who are our expats?

Tomorrow:

How do they view New Zealand?

Friday:

what do they think about various topics