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Double Australia’s Skilled Migrant Intake, Says Report

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The number of temporary migrants in Australia at any time is 10 times greater than the annual permanent migrant entry of approximately 190,000.

A new report says doubling Australia’s migrant intake could dramatically drive future economic growth.

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The report, from the Committee for Economic Development of Australia, known as CEDA, titled “Migration: The economic debate,” says skilled migration in particular has always been a significant driver for Australia’s economy.

But it’s calling for a cap on working holidaymakers, reviving the possibility of a guest worker program to fill low-skilled roles.

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The CEDA report says doubling Australia’s migration intake to 400,000 by the 2050s could dramatically drive economic growth.

But the report’s authors add this should only occur if gaps in infrastructure, urban congestion and environmental impacts are adequately addressed to cope with new arrivals.

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CEDA chief executive Stephen Martin says higher migration would deliver a 5.9 per cent increase in gross domestic product per capita.

“The question about the benefits that would come clearly have to be offset by considering things like where are those people going to settle. If they are continuing to into the capital cities of Australia, particularly Sydney and Melbourne, that potentially can play into congestion problems and so on. So as a consequence our report has also recommended that government policy should be tweaked to provide some encouragement for migrants coming to Australia to go to regional areas and we believe that by changing the point system this would be one way of encouraging that sort of population distribution.”

Professor Martin says improvements also need to be made to the working holiday visa program, with the report recommending a cap, and a new guest worker program for specific industries struggling to attract low-skilled workers.

The number of temporary migrants in Australia at any time is 10 times greater than the annual permanent migrant entry of approximately 190,000.

These are mostly skilled 457 visa-holders, New Zealanders, students and working holidaymakers.

Professor Martin says while temporary workers such as seasonal workers and backpackers add billions of dollars to the economy, CEDA is recommending further restrictions on unskilled workers.

“Some of the restrictions that need to be slightly tightened so that when people are coming, as is the case with 457 visas, they are coming for real jobs and they are not simply aren’t being part of an influx of people coming with potentially unskilled qualifications that can’t be applied in specific sectors. There should be a review of what that means, that review should take into consideration whether or not there is the potential to affect the ability of local people to get jobs, but importantly as well the qualifications that people are bringing into this country and whether they are meeting the skills shortages that can clearly be more tightly identified.”

The report also calls for a tightening of entry requirements around age, skills and English-language proficiency.

It seeks tougher penalties for those who exploit migrant workers, and extra resources for Australia-based English language programs.

The Chairman of the Federation of Ethnic Communities Councils of Australia, Joe Caputo, welcomes the call to increase skilled migration.

But he has concerns that the effect of the proposed changes might reach beyond the economy.

“One of the things that we disagree with the report on is the question of guest workers. Australia’s history of migration has been that you bring migrants to this country not as guests but as permanent residents and we strongly believe that we should continue to do that and not develop a guest-worker system. And when you bring people to this country they should be on par with everyone else and that is why Australia has developed an inclusive, cohesive and harmonious multicultural society.”

The report is the second to call for change in two months, following the release in September of a Productivity Commission investigation into the country’s migrant intake.

Su McCluskey is a member of the Ministerial Advisory Council on Skilled Migration.

She says developments in migration policy need to take a very broad perspective.

“Certainly there is a clear link between population growth and productivity. We do know that we need to increase productivity gains to be able to increase our economic prosperity and so we really do need to be looking more broadly at a policy context that looks at what are the skills we need for future jobs from both a domestic and overseas perspective.”

Online Source: SBS Hindi.

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