‘We should have kept higher immigration quota’ says demography professor

June 14, 2019 no comment kartik

Australia would be “an international backwater” without Sydney and Melbourne and should have kept its annual permanent immigration target at 190,000, The Australian Financial Review‘s Infrastructure Summit has been told.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison cut the immigration target to 160,000 annually in March to try to appease voters worried about job security and congestion.

But Peter McDonald, professor of demography at the University of Melbourne, said Australia was facing a potential “labour-supply crunch” because about two million Baby Boomers were retiring from the workforce.

“They’re not going to be replaced at the young end, because the young end is not growing – the young end is flat and even falling because people are staying in education longer. So migration is really the only solution to that … it probably would have been better to stick at 190,000,” he said.

The drop in the immigration target had also made no difference to congestion in Sydney and Melbourne, Professor McDonald said. “Maybe 10,000 of the migration drop would have gone through to those cities, but if the labour demand is very strong in those two cities, and it has been … then they’ll have to get those workers from somewhere and the first place they’ll get them from is Adelaide.”

Many of the Baby Boom generation had also been in lower-skilled jobs that were not being filled by migrants, he said. “And so we’re going to have a shortage of lower-skilled workers and I’m not quite sure what we’re going to do about that.”

Australia had changed dramatically since the end of the mining boom, with workers flocking to Sydney and Melbourne instead of Perth and Brisbane, but big cities were the future, he said.

“Without Sydney and Melbourne Australia would be an international backwater – you have to have those dramatic places to attract the international interest,” he said.

Infrastructure Australia chief executive Romilly Madew said infrastructure projects needed to be planned carefully to ensure they were aligned with Australia’s population growth to keep cities liveable.

Marion Terrill, transport and cities program director at the Grattan Institute, said cities were the “powerhouses” of Australia’s wealth and policymakers should not become so concerned about congestion that they turned their backs on cities.

Source: financial review
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