Australian industry lobbies for increase in immigration

27 January 2014


The Australian Industry Group, (Ai Group) a pressure group that lobbies on behalf of Australian industry, has called on the country's Coalition government to raise the number of immigrants admitted each year from 190,000 annually to 220,000 with immediate effect.

The Chief Executive of Ai Group, Innes Willox, has written to the Australian immigration minister Scott Morrison urging the government to increase skilled immigration in particular.

In his letter, dated 19th December 2013, Mr Willox says that immigration is necessary 'to support positive growth in our population and especially in our adult workforce, due to relatively low rates of natural population growth'.

Deepening impacts

He says that Australia is facing 'deepening impacts' from the fact that the native work force is ageing. 9% of Australian employees are over 60 and 17% are aged 55 or more.

There are also skills shortages in 'key growth industries' such as 'mining services, engineering, infrastructure and health services'.

Mr Willox also predicts an upturn in the Australian housing construction sector as the global economy continues to recover in 2014 and 2015 which will lead to further skills shortages. There will also be severe skills shortages in the mining sector which is expected to grow strongly, he says.

Skills shortages increasing

Mr Willox writes that Ai Group surveys of industrial employers show that over two thirds of Australian construction employers experienced difficulty in finding skilled workers with the right skills in the six months to September 2013 (67.7%), up 2% from the previous survey six months earlier.

The letter says that skills shortages are 'even more serious in relation to occupations requiring Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) skills which Mr Willox says is 'deeply concerning'.

He cites research from the Australian Workforce and Productivity Agency which predicts that Australia will need 2.8m workers with 'higher-skilled qualifications' by 2025.

Australia needs more skilled workers

For Australia to provide these workers from among the native population, it would have to increase the number of Australians leaving the education system with 'higher skills' by 3% every year until 2025.

Mr Willox says that 'a larger skilled migration program will be necessary to manage this situation and to assist in smoothing the path to future growth across the economy'.

There is some evidence that immigration minister Mr Morrison may be receptive to the Ai Group's suggestions. He has already taken steps to increase the number of skilled migrants coming to Australia.

Skilled immigration accounts for two thirds of total

The Coalition government has announced that the skilled migration stream will now account for over two thirds of immigration in the 2013-14 economic year.

Mr Morrison told The Australian newspaper on January 2nd 2014 '"The economic contribution of skilled migration exceeds all other forms of migration. Skilled migrants have the lowest rate of unemployment and the strongest English skills - key drivers of successful integration into society'.

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