Widespread research proves that immigration is the key to Australia’s sustained economic growth. So how can we change perceptions about employing newcomers?
Australia is build on immigration – today more than ever – and it’s the uncelebrated reason behind our economy’s good health. Research published in the Sydney Morning Herald shows that there are now more people living in Australia who were born overseas, as a portion of the population, than at any other time in the past 130 years. And according to an editorial published recently in The New York Times, it’s a major reason behind our nation’s sustained economic growth in the face of the demise of the mining industry and global economic crisis.
Yet despite the widespread proof of Australia’s migrant-driven economic resilience, our enviable immigration story is hardly recognised, let alone celebrated widely by our government or businesses.
Writing for The New York Times, Walkley Award-winning journalist and author George Megalogenis suggests that “Australia has unlocked the secret to its next wave of prosperity.” That secret is immigration. Since 2001, governments have largely let the market decide who to bring into the country. Led by students from India and young professionals from China, they have declared a preference for skilled immigration over other claims when granting residency.
Australia takes a disproportionately large component of the world’s migration flows compared to its population. Despite having just 0.3 per cent of the world’s population, about 2.8 per cent of the world’s immigrants live in Australia.
It’s a policy that has powered economic growth, as well as largely protecting Australia from the major shocks of globalisation; from the Asian financial crisis of the late 1990s, the bursting of the dot-com bubble and the 2008 GFC.
The proof is in the pudding: The surge in immigration has allowed, as Megalogenis reports, “Australia to continue to climb the income ladder when most other rich nations have been losing ground.” In 2001, Australia was the 15th largest economy in the world. Today, it’s the 13th.
“The simple fact is migration has contributed substantially to the growth of Australia and will continue to do into the future,” explains the Committee for Economic Development of Australia (CEDA).
It’s also clear that as Australia’s population ages, immigration will continue to be key to the health of the nation’s economy.
CEDA, an organisation that studies economic and social issues, has recently conducted research that found annual permanent migration could double over the next 40 years and deliver “significant per capita economic benefit.”
However, the report also includes the caveat that the intake of skilled migrants will only benefit the economy, and by extension businesses, if service and infrastructure improvements in major cities improve to cater for population growth. The study also states that businesses and migrants should be rewarded for moving to lower density areas.
Though it’s clear that immigration is the unsung hero of Australia’s healthy jobs market, what’s also apparent when you look at all the research lined up is that Australia simply doesn’t tout the benefits of migrant workers enough. Another issue is that of asylum seekers. While Australia’s harsh message (and appalling treatment) resonates with a local audience, it “compromises Australia’s ability to act as a role model for openness,” says Megalogenis.
While globally fears of migration are multiplying, CEDA research recommends a view to Australia’s successful past policies when looking at the potential benefits of migrants, asylum seekers and refugees in the workforce.