Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and his Treasurer Jim Chalmer will hold a Jobs and Skills Summit in Canberra on September 1-2 with big business and big unions the invited guests of honor. You could call it a type of local ‘economic forum’ as Albanese has said the aim of the summit is to discuss ideas for Australia to ‘grow back stronger’ after the pandemic.
Australia’s unemployment rate is at a record low of 3.4% meaning the labour market is tight with businesses and the care industries needing more workers. Pre-pandemic mass migration was the lazy solution to solving jobs and skills shortages as businesses had a greater pool of labour to choose from.
Federal and state governments have loved mass migration as it was the lazy way for them to achieve their political goals of expanding the economy, which increased their tax revenue so they could spend more on infrastructure and announce further health and education funding to satisfy voters come election time. It was a Ponzi scheme as more new immigrants were needed to keep the fiscal churn producing and staffing more government services.
The most recent ABS Estimated Resident Population (ERP) of Australia was 25,766,605 at the end of December 2021. Given Australia recorded its 25th millionth Australia in August 2018 this shows just how much our population growth has slowed since mass migration to Australia was frozen when the international borders were closed in March 2020 when covid was spreading around the world in its original Wuhan strain.
You can see the sharp decline on this ABS graph is due to net overseas migration going into negative territory during the pandemic border closures.
Many Australians who had seen over the past 20 years what mass migration had brought to our nation saw the pandemic border closure as one of the few silver linings of our pandemic response. Ordinary Australians in the suburbs have learned in the 21st century that bigger isn’t always better.
Australian house prices are some of the most expensive in the western world. Freeways and highways become clogged and construction to expand these takes years and causes road disruptions in the interim. The lost productivity when workers are commuting to and from work is why work from home is still popular post the lockdowns.
Australians also learned that diversity isn’t our strength. Gang shootings and aggravated crimes such as home invasions, carjackings, and snatch/smash and grabs are now a regular occurrence in suburban Sydney and Melbourne.
The international press coverage of the 2021 NSW and Victorian lockdowns and police state response caused extensive damage to Australia’s previous reputation as a tourist and migrant destination.
Although Australia’s international borders fully reopened to all foreigners regardless of covid vaccine status on July 3 international tourism and migration numbers have not bounced back. Many foreigners based on the 2021 press reports of Australia feared they would be stuck in a quarantine camp for two weeks (even though they are no longer used) or there could be snap lockdowns or border closures at any time leading to them being trapped and stranded.
Governments from both major parties have expressed desires to reopen the migration floodgates again. NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet declared in October last year that he was in favour of a big NSW. The new Albanese Government has expressed a desire to increase the annual migration intake from 160,000 to between 180,000 and 200,000 a year and expand the definition of skilled migrants including tradies, IT specialists and aged care workers.
The most recent Age/Sydney Morning Herald Resolve Political Monitor found only 20% of voters polled favoured returning to mass migration to fill the jobs and skills shortage. With wage growth not increasing with the rate of inflation despite the tight labour market this is not a surprising result.
It should of course be noted that the official unemployment rate only counts those Australians who are actively looking for work. It does not count those Australians who are still not allowed to work because of their own personal medical decisions not to take the covid vaccine which still excludes them from jobs in healthcare, social care, the justice and correctional professions and many corporations still have a vaccine mandate. Lifting all of these mandates would increase the pool of local labour.
It is hard to predict what will result from the Albanese Government summit next week, the Liberal Party is not attending labeling it a talkfest. It could lead to nothing but a few thought bubbles or the outcome (which will be determined by the government) could be that mass migration along with some new incentive programs to entice them to Australia is the only way forward.