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Migrants fuelling brain boost

7 June 20181 comment

Migrants are creating a skills and intelligence explosion in Australia, according to a new OECD study.

The study, a global analysis of the education standards of labour forces, lists Australia as the only country where migrants have higher average educational standards than native new entrants to the labour market.

It found 62 per cent of recent migrants have tertiary education, compared with 55 per cent of the young new entrants.

Recent migrants accounted for 40 per cent of the growth in Australia’s tertiary educated labour force over the decade to 2015, compared with 23 per cent in the US and 16 per cent in Europe, the study found.

The study shows Australia’s focus on skilled migration means that educational standards of the workforce is rising rapidly, with both migrants and new entrants to the labour force having much higher education standards than retirees.

The number of people in the workforce with tertiary qualifications rose by an estimated 37 per cent in the decade to 2015. This was less than the 40 per cent growth in Europe, but higher than the 21 per cent figure in the US.

The rise in Australia’s tertiary educated workforce was more than three times the 11 per cent rise in the workforce overall.

The OECD report shows that while migration has a temporary effect on the age of the workforce, it can raise education standards.

The report identified an understandable gulf between educational standards of new entrants to Australia, with refugees and family reunion migrants having lower education than the resident population and migrants seeking career opportunities have higher qualifications.

The profile of Australia’s labour force is also shaped by retirement trends and work participation of older workers, the report says.

It says retiring baby boomers meant a 14 per cent drop in participation in Australia’s labour force over the same period, while lower participation rates among older aged workers reduced numbers by 4 per cent.

This was offset by the 20 per cent growth in young Australians entering the labour market and 9.5 per cent growth in migrants.

The OECD study says retirement in Australia has been higher among those with lower educational standards.

Because of higher educational standards of migrants and young Australians, overall educational standards of the labour force are rising.

Over the decade to 2015, the OECD estimates that the number of people with low education standards has dropped by almost 60 per cent in Australia, due mainly to the retirement of almost one million people with low education.

Australia has also benefited from growth in workforce participation by tertiary educated prime-aged workers, adding 16 per cent to the growth of the tertiary educated workforce.




Laurie Nowell
AMES Australia Senior Journalist