Immigration reform must respect migrants’ rights and stimulate economic growth


In the mid-year economic and budgetary outlook (MYEFO) for 2021-2022, the government has announced that one million jobs will be created over the next four years.

With baby boomers retiring from the labor market at a rapidly increasing rate, this will depend heavily on a sharp increase in the participation rate – but MYEFO assumes this will only increase by 66.1% in November 2021 to 66, 25% compared to prospective estimates – much lower than the current turnout in New Zealand, where it is already 71%.

And a drop in unemployment – MYEFO assumes that it will only drop slightly from 4.6% in November 2021 to 4.25% in mid-2023 – still significantly higher than just over 3.25% currently observed in News -Zeeland.

These marginal improvements will not be enough to reach a million additional jobs over four years. This will require a high level of net migration.

As a result, MYEFO has revised its forecast for net migration in 2021-2022 from minus 77,400 to minus 41,000; in 2022-23 from 95,900 to 180,000 and in 2023-24 from 201,100 to 213,000. The forecasts for 2024-25 remain at 235,000.

Net migration is the difference between long-term arrivals and permanent arrivals minus departures, regardless of nationality or type of visa.

Unlike confused report in the australian, the permanent migration program for 2021-2022 (i.e. permanent visas issued regardless of whether the person is in Australia or abroad) remains at 160,000 as announced in the May 2021 budget and as issued in 2020-2021.

The earlier than expected increase in net migration is due to the postponement of the opening of international borders to December 2021.

In the Budget 2021, the government assumed it wouldn’t be until July 2022.

The Treasury provided few details on the composition of its net migration forecasts, either in the Budget or in MYEFO. We can only speculate on how it happened to these.

Most of the increase in 2022 will be for people who already have visas, especially the more than 100,000 foreign students awaiting admission.

There will also be substantial arrivals of Australian citizens, Australian partners and relatives, temporary and permanent skilled migrants, visa holders from offshore humanitarian programs and long-tenured workers from the Pacific Islands.

From July 2022, there will be the arrival of around 14,000 temporary graduate visa holders who have been excluded from Australia due to the pandemic.

These will be offset by long-term and permanent departures, especially foreign students finishing their studies and not seeking a temporary higher education visa, as well as Australian citizens and permanent residents attracted by job offers. from abroad.

The Treasury knows it: high levels of migration are essential for economic growth

The key to realizing the net migration forecast will be the state of the labor market.

With massive levels of monetary and fiscal stimulus already in the economy, a huge increase in household savings that will start to be spent; a tsunami of government spending ready to be announced ahead of the election; gradual return of international tourists and a index of qualified vacancies at a 13-year high, it is probably inevitable that the labor market will be strong in 2022, as MYEFO assumes.

The surge in arrivals in 2022 will itself further heat the economy.

The government is under heavy pressure from corporate lobby groups to further alter the parameters of visa policy to be more accommodating, especially if unions become more active in demanding higher wages.

But the government must avoid panicking over short-term visa policy changes that have negative long-term consequences, especially if they result in the build-up of long-term temporary migrants struggling to obtain permanent residence.

Ministers Alex Hawke, Alan Tudge, Marise Payne and David Littleproud have already shown a penchant for such policies.

Even if the migration schedule in 2022-2023 is maintained at 160,000, this will require a major shift to the skills flow as the backlog of partner visa applications has been cleared.

In 2022-2023, the government may need to allocate only around 40,000 places for partners against 72,000 currently, thus freeing 32,000 places for the skills sector.

The challenge will be how to attract enough sufficiently qualified migrants. This is opposed to simply lowering selection standards, leaving too many migrants unable to secure employment using their skills or to increase places for commercial investor visas that perform poorly or increase the Global Talent visa. Independent at very high risk.

The fact that around 100,000 temporary graduates already in the country are struggling to find qualified employment at a time when the index of qualified vacancies is at its highest in 13 years. This should be of concern to the government, the international education sector and education quality regulators.

Migration program 2020-21 outcome: Alex Hawke panics over immigration

Unless the education provided to these foreign students has in fact been poor, policy should encourage employers to offer these temporary graduates skilled jobs, thus providing a path to permanent residence.

Allowing this group to develop further and stay in immigration limbo would be very bad policy.

This means that the migration program in 2022-2023 is expected to focus primarily on onshore skill flow, with some growth in the offshore part targeting key skill needs.

However, any incoming government cannot stop there: there are serious visa policy issues to be addressed.

A Labor government can increase the humanitarian program provide permanent visas to those granted temporary protection visas and resettle remaining refugees in Manus and Nauru.

There is no political justification for not providing permanent protection to these people, as long as the return ship policy is in place.

Another challenge is the massive blockage of the visa system, with more than 330,000 people on transitional visas.

Anyone in power cannot ignore this appalling situation. Efficient visa processing with high levels of integrity is essential to the credibility of the visa system. The large backlogs of land applications attract only the unscrupulous.

Tackling the biggest labor trafficking and asylum scam in Australia’s history and preventing it from expanding further once borders reopen should also be a top priority.

With over 94,000 asylum seekers living in the community, of whom over 34,000 are now before the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) and nearly 30,000 now refused at the primary and AAT stages, we will see more and more stories of exploitation and abuse such as one of a retired teacher in Mildura.

Dealing with this and genuinely reducing the overall level of exploitation of migrant workers and wage theft will meet resistance from various corporate lobby groups as it increases costs for their members. But the social cost of continuing to ignore the situation, or simply honoring it, will be even greater.

Finally, we need to restore consistency in the visa system.

Continuous adjustments to satisfy particular pressure groups, including the agricultural lobby and the hospitality industry, have given us a visa system that is illogical and open to abuse.

For example, in recent years the government has made it much more expensive and difficult for an employer to sponsor a nurse or software engineer while making it cheaper and simpler to hire a farm worker who is easily exploitable.

We have converted the student visa into a low-skilled full-time work visa that will leave more and more students in immigration limbo.

Is this really the kind of visa system we want?

Dr Abul Rizvi is an independent Australian columnist and former Deputy Secretary of the Department of Immigration. You can follow Abul on Twitter @RizviAbul.

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