Skilled migration tests for people moving to Australia should be stricter and the number of 457 visas cut back, according to a new report.
The analysis from the Committee for Economic Development of Australia (CEDA) support immigration growth but says that there needs to be a greater focus on the impact of growing migration.
It explains that permanent migration could be doubled over the next 40 years and deliver significant per capita economic benefit, but only if the impact this will have on major cities, where the majority of immigrants tend to go to, and the country’s infrastructure is taken into account.
CEDA chief executive, Professor Stephen Martin, said ensuring continued success with a skills focused migration programme 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. Australia’s migration programme is considered world leading, and the contribution to Australia’s economic sustainability genuine but that’s not to say Australia’s migration programme is problem free,’ he pointed out.
‘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 labour 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,’ he said.
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,’ added Martin.
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.
Martin said that there needs to be better long term planning around population growth, taking into account potential migration patterns and Australia 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.
Martin added that improvements also need to be made to the working holiday visa programme, with the report recommending a cap, and a new guest worker programme for specific industries struggling to attract low skilled workers.
‘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 concluded.
The report also recommends increasing penalties for those found to be 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 programmes and recognition of foreign qualifications.