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Australia’s workforce would shrink without migrants – study

27 July 20170 comments

Migration is having a dramatic and positive impact on Australia’s workforce, according to a new study.

In the last half decade, 80 per cent of new staff hired have been new migrants and without them worker numbers in Australia would have actually fallen.

As controversy intensifies over the number of foreign workers in Australia, population expert Professor Peter McDonald says those who say migrant workers are “taking our jobs” are completely misguided.

“Most of the long-term unemployed in Australia have low skills, and that’s their problem,” said Professor McDonald of the University of Melbourne’s School of Population and Global Health.

“But it’s not because of migration. And, if anything, migration, by leading to greater investment is actually creating jobs for that group.”

Since 2011, employment in Australia has grown by 730,000 people, and 600,000 of them were new migrants.

And currently Australia’s jobs growth is the strongest it has been in 29 years. The unemployment rate is stable at 5.6 per cent and last month a net 14,000 jobs were created.

Full time employment increased by 62,000 jobs last month but this was offset by a reduction of 48,000 part-time positions.

Annual employment growth was running at 2 per cent – the fastest since April last year.

There were 154,000 positions created in the four months to June.

Professor McDonald says migration has transformed the nation’s workplace.

“The Australian labour force would have aged quite a lot without migration. Migration makes a very big difference to the age structure of the labour force by bringing in young workers, whereas all our growth at the moment without migration is with older workers,” he said.

His study found, without migration, the number of people under age 55 in the workforce would have slumped by more than 140,000.

But with new workers coming in from overseas, the numbers climbed by more than 450,000.

By contrast, among older workers, there would have been a boost of almost 270,000 without migration, a number only slightly higher with the five-year influx.

Recent research by the Migration Council of Australia found migration plays a critical role in Australia’s present and future economic wellbeing and will boost Australia’s GDP per capita by 5.9 per cent by 2050.

The research’s co-author Henry Sherrell said the research showed the clear economic benefits of migration.

“Our research refutes the idea that migration reduces then capacity of Australians to find work. The reality is that migration plays a role in addressing inequality and in generating opportunities for lower income workers,” Mr Sherrell said.

“The impact of migration is highly positive. It brings an improved employment to population ratio, drives higher consumption while migrants draw less on government services and contribute a net fiscal benefit through taxes paid,” he said.

Mr Sherrell said that there was no evidence anywhere in the world showing migration having a negative impact on employment.

“Our current migration programme will add 14 million people to the population by 2050, and without it our GDP per capita would be 6% lower,” he said.


Laurie Nowell
AMES Australia Senior Journalist