Covid-19 'brain gain' sees more than 50,000 Kiwis return home amid pandemic

More than 50,000 Kiwis have returned home since the Covid-19 outbreak began around the world, something being described as a once-in-a-lifetime 'brain gain'.

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A leading sociologist says we need to learn more about the New Zealanders now coming home to roost. Source: 1 NEWS

A leading sociologist says we need to learn more about the New Zealanders now coming home due to the pandemic.

Orion Scott has spent the last few years studying and working in Paris and New York as a fashion designer.

Now she's home, with a stack of overseas experience up her sleeve.

"The fashion industry took it quite hard, especially in my industry where we were styling for events," she told 1 NEWS.

"[It's] a different perspective I guess, on not only my work but also for myself."

As the pandemic rages on, it's expected even more Kiwis will return from around the world.

Massey University sociologist Paul Spoonley says many of New Zealand's best-skilled workers are overseas.

"So as a diaspora, we have a higher proportion of higher skilled people in other countries than nearly any other country," he says.

But more details on who exactly is returning remains a mystery.

Spoonley says the Government has missed an opportunity here, and something as simple as a survey while in managed isolation would help to understand how these returning New Zealanders fit in.

"With migrants we know the jobs they're coming for, the skills they're bringing, where they're going," he says.

"And we know nothing of that for returning New Zealanders."

That information, much like a census, would also identify where there were housing shortages or gaps in the future job market.

"We've got a huge problem in front of us," Spoonley says.

"There are all sorts of sectors and employers and regions which rely absolutely on either temporary or permanent migration."

Scott is working on her own label here, but she's already thinking of the US again.

"The industry for me is a lot better over there for me, what I want to do career-wise," she says.

"I will eventually go back, but it's always nice to know home is a... 72-hour plane ride away."

The next challenge will be getting talented Kiwis to stay when the world opens back up.