Does increased population create jobs and economic growth ?

For many years it has been the opinion of some that immigration to SA should not increase or be put on hold as we don’t have enough jobs to support the local labour market.

Immigration and population growth is often viewed negatively, however, I firmly believe that we should adopt and embrace a more targeted and specific migration programme in order to grow our population, reduce the aging demographic of our State, create new jobs and training opportunities and to increase economic activity and confidence in the SA economy.

The Migration Council of Australia report titled ‘The Economic impact of migration’ states,’ “For too long the economic contribution of migration to Australia has been significantly undervalued”.

The Immigration Departments ‘reviewing the skilled migration and 400 series visa programmes’ discussion paper states, “migration to Australia has been critical in supporting economic development and sustaining Australia’s labour market needs”.

Michael Pezzullo, Secretary of Department of Immigration and Border Protection in his speech ‘Immigration and Nation Building in Australia: Looking Back, Looking Forward’ said, “a permanent migration programme is so crucial for our long-term economic prosperity and our demographic health.”

The DIBP secretary also emphasised the importance of a targeted migration program.   “If a nation’s immigration programme is well crafted and targeted, and migrants enjoy high levels of economic participation, as distinct from high levels of social exclusion and welfare-dependency, immigration has beneficial impacts in terms of growth in the demand for goods and services; increases in national income, and living standards; improved labour participation; expansion of the economy’s productive capacity; and growth in household consumption and public revenues,” Mr Pezzullo said.

The 2015 Inter-generational Report (IGR) has revealed that migration will be the key to tackling Australia’s ageing population.  The Australian Bureau of Statistics revealed that South Australia had one of the oldest populations in Australia.

Currently SA’s population growth is 0.9% against the national average of 1.5%, in real terms this represents an annual increase in SA of approximately 14,300 people against 354,600 nationally.

SA is approximately 7.5% of the total population of Australia, yet we only attract about 3% of temporary 457 visas, 4% of spouse visas, 5% of international student numbers and 6% of the skilled migration program which includes business migration.

It can also be seen that not only do we under achieved in terms of our share of the migration program, our population growth rate is second only to Tasmania in terms of the lowest in the country.

Economic activity in SA is less than the national average, unemployment is higher than the national average and comparatively business and consumer confidence is also very low making it very challenging for local businesses to remain competitive and grow.

I believe that a targeted migration program in SA has the ability to boost population growth, create new jobs and training opportunities and to support economic activity and growth throughout South Australia.

There are many statistics and economic reports detailing the importance of the Australian skilled migration programme, however, no economic research has been specifically undertaken to provide data about the importance of a targeted economic migration programme and population growth in SA.

The federal Immigration Department is currently undertaking the biggest review of the Australian skilled migration programme in the last 20 years and once complete, this will shape the framework of Australia’s skilled migration programme for the next 20 years.

In order for South Australia to capitalise and share in the benefits that a targeted skilled migration program can deliver we need to ensure that South Australia has equal access to a programme that will underpin and foster greater economic growth and development.

My concern is that without any independent economic research articulating the need for migration programmes that support the South Australian economy, we will miss out on the tremendous opportunity that this review offers.

There is no doubt about it, changes are urgently required to the structure of Australia’s migration programme to ensure that all jurisdictions are able to benefit from and share in the economic prosperity that a targeted migration program can deliver.

We have a responsibility to ensure that we do everything possible to ensure our voice is heard and changes to the migration programme are made which support South Australia and other regional and low population growth areas of Australia where economic activity is less than the national average.

Mark Glazbrook is the founder and director of Migration Solutions, has been involved in the migration profession for over 18 years and is a former state president and national board member of the migration institute of Australia

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