Jobs summit: set immigration level in context of how many people this continent can support
In the lead-up to the Jobs and Skills Summit, an environmental advocacy group has called on the Treasurer Jim Chalmers to resist pressures to accelerate Australia’s population growth with a massive increase in immigration.
The national president of Sustainable Population Australia (SPA), Ms Jenny Goldie, says that lower population growth, and a stabilised population size below 30 million for Australia, will have benefits for the environment, carbon emissions, housing affordability, infrastructure congestion and wages growth.
“Decisions on jobs and immigration have to be set in the context of how many people this continent can support,” says Ms Goldie. “The recently released State of Environment 2021 alarmingly reveals how our environment is deteriorating and that population growth has ‘high impact’ on biodiversity.”
Ms Goldie says pressure by business on the government to lift immigration to 200,000 is more about wage suppression than a genuine solution to skills shortages.
“Issuing more permanent visas doesn’t place migrants in skilled jobs, it just creates more disadvantaged and exploitable job-seekers,” says Ms Goldie. “Employers can already sponsor unlimited numbers of temporary foreign workers, but stronger measures are needed to ensure they don’t displace Australians.”
SPA calls for boosting the minimum salary that must be paid to skilled migrants, to stop rorting of the skilled migration program by employers.
“The Temporary Skilled Migration Income Threshold (TSMIT) is far too low to ensure imported workers are filling genuine gaps, not undercutting Australian job-seekers,” Ms Goldie says. “It should be at least 10% greater than the median full-time wage, which means the current TSMIT should be no less than $90,000. Currently it is set at a ridiculously low $53,900.
“There are ample opportunities for increasing the participation rate of existing Australian residents in the workforce. The government is already looking at allowing aged pensioners to earn more while retaining their pensions. Roy Morgan surveys show unemployment is 8.5%, with a further 8.6% of workers underemployed, indicating that official unemployment statistics underestimate the Australians seeking work.
“If 200,000 more migrants are going to be added to Australia’s population every year, where will they live? Too many Australians are already experiencing housing stress (either mortgage or rental) and, without a significant improvement in housing supply, this stress will only be exacerbated by so many new immigrants.”
Ms Goldie says filling skills shortages through immigration can only be a short-term solution.
“In the end, we have to train our own, either through universities or TAFEs. That requires extra funding, but in the end, it will be cheaper than accommodating and supplying infrastructure for millions more residents,” she says.
Our first media release and submission to the Jobs and Skills summit can be read on the SPA website here.
Increased immigration won’t fix jobs and skills. Find out how to make your voice heard in the lead up to the Jobs and Skill summit here.
Let’s rethink a Big Australia. Find out more here.