Migrants delivering an economic dividend – report
Migrants are making Australia wealthy and not living on welfare or stealing the jobs of local workers, a new study has found.
The annual permanent intake of migrants is forecast to add up to one percentage point to GDP growth each year for 30 years, while generating a collective tax contribution of almost $7 billion, according to the report by Treasury and the Department of Home Affairs.
The report makes the case for a big Australia and refutes the idea that migrants were either taking jobs from Australians or had become a welfare burden.
It cites International Monetary Fund estimates showing Australia’s migration program will add up to one per cent of annual average GDP growth from 2020 to 2050, because it limits the economic impact of the ageing population.
“Migrants deliver an economic dividend for Australia due to current policy settings which favour migrants of working age who have skills to contribute to the economy,” the report finds.
While workforce participation and productivity gains are benefits, migrants also are likely to contribute more to tax revenue than they claim in government support, it says.
But the research acknowledges high rates of population growth can still heighten existing pressures on infrastructure and housing, and create congestion.
“To fully reap the benefits of immigration and population growth, Australia must continue to explore and address these issues,” the report says.
Treasurer Scott Morrison said it was “fair” to say infrastructure and housing supply hadn’t kept up with population growth.
“That’s why in this year’s budget we will continue to be investing strongly in infrastructure,” he said.
The research comes at a time of debate within government ranks – and among commentators – on whether to cut immigration levels from the existing 190,000 annual cap.
Former Prime Minister Tony Abbott has been vocal in arguing that reducing migration levels would help drive down housing prices.
But the paper warns of “far reaching effects” of significantly lower economic growth unless current rates of migration are maintained.
“In the absence of migration, Australia’s workforce would begin shrinking in absolute terms by 2020,” it said.
Tracing the history of migration and population growth over 50 years, the report also found that the skilled migrant intake had helped cushion Australia against the full impact of the global financial crisis.
AMES Australia Senior Journalist