However, the report also found that this could only occur if there is greater focus on the impact of migration on services and infrastructure in our major cities and also calls for a tightening of permanent skilled migration tests and 457 visas.
Releasing CEDA’s report Migration: the economic debate, CEDA Chief Executive, Professor the Hon. Stephen Martin said ensuring continued success with our skills focused migration program requires getting the right mix of migration and also looking at where migrants settle.
“Migration has been a significant driver for our economy, particularly under the skills based approach that has been in place for some time,” he said.
“Australia’s migration program is considered world leading, and the contribution to Australia’s economic sustainability genuine but that’s not to say Australia’s migration program is problem free.
“A focus on skilled migration has served Australia well and that is why we need to make sure that if we are bringing in skilled labor it is to meet genuine skills shortages, which is why we are recommending a more robust evidence based model be put in place for the 457 visa occupation shortages list.
“The CEDA report also recommends shifting to a universal points test for permanent skilled migrants and tightening entry requirements relating to age, skills and English-language proficiency.
“Alongside getting the right skill mix, we also need to ensure that settlement is occurring in the right places and with consideration for the service and infrastructure needs of a larger population.
“The report finds that Australia could absorb a greater migration intake, but this could only be done in conjunction with complementary policy that addresses adverse consequences of population growth such as infrastructure provision, urban congestion and environmental degradation.
“There needs to be better long term planning around population growth, taking into account potential migration patterns.
“We should also be exploring options to encourage settlement in regional areas and in particular Northern Australia, given the focus on driving investment and growth in that region.”
Professor Martin said improvements also need to be made to the working holiday visa program, with the report recommending a cap, and a new guest worker program for specific industries struggling to attract low-skilled workers.
Professor Martin said to achieve the right policy settings, changes should be viewed against three key aims:
• Ensure previous strong community support for migration is re-established;
• That there is fair treatment for both temporary and permanent migrants; and
• That the country continues to reap the economic benefits from the skills that a balanced migration program brings.
“While migration shouldn’t be relied on as the only driver of economic growth in Australia, if the policy settings are right it can deliver significant economic and social benefits for both existing and new residents,” he said.
The report also recommends:
• Increasing penalties for exploiting migrant workers;
• Incorporating the economic and social consequences of migration in future intergenerational reports; and
• Improving settlement services and support, access to English language programs and recognition of foreign qualifications.
Migration: the economic debate is being released in Brisbane at noon with presentations and discussion with Australian Human Rights Commission Race Discrimination Commissioner, Dr Tim Soutphommasane and Ministerial Advisory Council on Skilled Migration Member, Su McCluskey.
Download and read Migration: the economic debate.
Professor Martin is available for further comment and interviews.
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CEDA – the Committee for Economic Development of Australia – is a national, independent, member-based organisation providing thought leadership and policy perspectives on the economic and social issues affecting Australia.
We achieve this through a rigorous and evidence-based research agenda, and forums and events that deliver lively debate and critical perspectives.
CEDA's expanding membership includes 750 of Australia's leading businesses and organisations, and leaders from a wide cross-section of industries and academia. It allows us to reach major decision makers across the private and public sectors.
CEDA is a not-for-profit organisation, founded in 1960 by leading Australian economist Sir Douglas Copland.
CEDA – the Committee for Economic Development of Australia – is an independent, not-for-profit membership organisation.