Australia Sets its Sights on Skilled Migration

Examining current demographics and policies, a new report out of Australia points to the importance of skilled migration to boost the country’s economy.

Recently, Australia released the 2021 Intergenerational Report, a 5-year study that “examines the long-term sustainability of current policies and how demographic, technological and other structural trends may affect the economy and the budget over the next 40 years.” When presenting the report, Australia Treasurer Josh Frydenburg pointed to the importance of skilled migration to boost the country’s productivity levels over the next 40 years.

How Australia is looking to skilled migrants to aid in economic growth

According to the report, migrants are expected to continue to be the largest source of population growth in Australia, contributing to the economy and offsetting an aging population. The report refers to treasury modeling, revealing that highly skilled migrants “make a higher economic and fiscal contribution during their time in Australia, compared with those migrants who arrive later in life or are lower skilled.”

Frydenburg warned that Australia’s federal budget will remain in deficit over the next 40 years, with average economic growth dropping from 3% to 2.6%. However, this was before Australia began seeing increased COVID cases over the past few weeks. Previously, Australia had experienced relative success when it came to the COVID-19 pandemic, due to its strong defenses of border closures, mandatory quarantine, and aggressive contact tracing. With variants now threatening that success, all eyes are on how the economy may fare with major Australian cities headed into lockdown.

The report points to how COVID-19 has also slowed birth rates and migration, and the need for governments at all levels to ensure that planning and infrastructure provisions keep pace with current and future migration rates, and that migrants have access to essential services so they can meaningfully integrate into Australian society.

Frydenburg pointed to the importance of skills-based migration, saying that “A well targeted, skills-focused migration program can supplement our stock of working-age people, slow the transition to an older population, and improve Australia's economic and fiscal outcomes.” Even with closed borders and visa migration system viewed as outdated, Frydenburg pointed to a series of initiatives currently underway to attract businesses and high-skilled migrants to support Australia’s growth, such as opportunities for those in Hong Kong to come to Australia to help fill critical labor gaps.

Changing the narrative around skilled migration

Australia’s focus on skilled migration points to a resounding need to shift the common narrative around migration, which was recently discussed by a global group of distinguished business leaders on 1 July, including Worldwide ERC® President and CEO Lynn Shotwell. Hosted by the International Organization of Employers (IOE), business leaders went deep into the current war for talent, how migration impacts businesses, and the public narrative on migration, especially in post-pandemic economic recovery worldwide.

“Migration is critically important to business, especially the global mobility and relocation industry that Worldwide ERC® represents,” said Shotwell. She also discussed why government policies that support work from anywhere, are agile, and attentive to employers and workers are needed now more than ever. As in Australia, governments and businesses are developing comprehensive frameworks and policies for skilled migration, and through it all, workforce mobility professionals will be key players.

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