migrant workers

Skilled foreign workers don’t take jobs from Australians, it is claimed

by Ray Clancy on August 14, 2017

in Jobs in Australia

As Australia gears up for more major changes in visas and citizenship application standards, it is suggested that it is wrong to suggest that migrants take jobs from young people.

For several years various employment groups, industry associations and the Government has claimed that too many skilled workers from overseas mean fewer jobs for Australians.

(tashatuvango/Bigstock.com)

But a conference in Melbourne has heard that if it was not for immigration, Australia’s population would be ageing faster than it is.

Migration is transforming the age profile of the labour force, with young migrants, predominantly in their 20s, accounting for 80% of the growth in the workforce in the past five years. Employment grew by 730,000 people between 2011 and last year and, of this, 600,000 were migrants arriving in that period.

Demographer Peter McDonald of the University of Melbourne told the Melbourne Institute Economic and Social Outlook Conference that there would have been no increase at all in the number of workers younger than 55 over the past five years.

‘All the workforce growth would be at ages 55 years and over. The migrants coming in at a young age change the age structure of the labour force. Most of the other growth is older women increasing their participation rates, while the population is increasing at older ages,’ he told the conference.

He argued that older and younger workers most of the time are not substitutes, they’re complements. ‘Younger workers have the hi-tech skills while older workers have the experience. It’s a good thing to have the mix,’ he added.

McDonald pointed out that the main issue with unemployment is those who have been without a job for an extended period and migrants are not in the same labour market as people who don’t have jobs.

‘There are some areas where there is competition between migrants and non-migrants but the main picture is not that. Unemployed Australians are largely people who are very low-skilled. They are early school dropouts. Sometimes they get jobs in a boom period, when labouring jobs increase, but most of the time they stay out of the workforce,’ he added.

Hewever, professor Barbara Broadway, told the conference that tougher standards for visas should be welcomed. ‘Tests measuring the aptitude of workers applying for visas under skilled migration schemes should be standardised across Government and employer sponsored programmes,’ she said.

‘This would even out discrepancies between the systems and a perception that overseas workers being sponsored by an employer face a lower bar. An employer sponsor uses a different test compared to the Government and it’s difficult to defend. It’s too easy for employers to sponsor migrants because the test is pretty slack,’ she explained.

She added that unemployment rates, particularly among local, low skilled workers, could be addressed by changing the policy settings.

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