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Migration program changes a plus for the regions but a potential loss for the economy

"The Government's plan to formalise a drop in the permanent migration program means that we will potentially miss out on a share of the future economic gains the program would deliver for Australia," Ai Group Chief Executive, Innes Willox, said today.

"Dropping the migrant intake 'ceiling' by 30,000 places leaves open the opportunity for even much deeper cuts to migration levels and the potential loss of further economic benefits.

"It is welcome that the emphasis of the program over the forward estimates will remain on attracting skilled migrants. Maintaining around 70 per cent of the program or more for those with skills in demand should be given bipartisan support.

"The efforts to encourage more migrants to settle in the bush will be helpful for those communities struggling to find skilled workers. However, it will need to be carefully monitored to ensure the appropriate migration services are in place for the new arrivals and their families. The Government should also be alert to any unintended consequences which may put pressures on families to stay in areas without adequate employment or support.

"The reduced migration levels go against the Government's own research in a recent report by Treasury and Home Affairs (Shaping a Nation) which found that:

  • Recent migrants account for 65 per cent of the new jobs created in the past five years (to 2018). For full time employment, the impact is even more pronounced, with recent migrants accounting for 72.4 per cent of new jobs created.
  • Migrants contribute more in tax revenue than they claim in social services.
  • The existing labour market had been neither "helped nor harmed" by migration and there was almost no evidence that employment outcomes for those born in Australia have been harmed by immigration – debunking the myth that migrants take Australian jobs.

Migrants have softened the impact of Australia's ageing population, boosted labour force participation, and increased the diversity of Australia's workforce. And, according to the Government's analysis: "The economic and fiscal benefits that migrants have brought to Australia have undoubtedly played a part in Australia's 26 years of uninterrupted growth."

"Ai Group continues to support an annual migration intake cap of 190,000 and a strengthening of the focus on skilled migration categories. There is a compelling argument that migration – and especially skilled migration – delivers significant benefits to national per capita output and income," Mr Willox said.

Media enquiries: Tony Melville – 0419 190 347