Australia’s immigration system is at risk of losing public confidence, undermining its long running success. The government needs to make policy changes to put migrant workers and employers back on equal footing.
The successful “Brexit” campaign to leave the European Union illustrates the consequences of failing to properly manage public perception of immigration. Changes to the United Kingdom’s immigration policy were producing economic benefits and helping to plug gaps in the UK labour market. However, opponents successfully blamed the EU’s free movement of labour for increased immigration and various social and economic problems.
Australia’s situation is different, but there is weak regulation of the employers who hire migrant workers, especially temporary visa holders who are often susceptible to being mistreated. This is serving to marginalise migrants in the labour market and broader society.
Large intakes of economic immigrants have not led to major political upheaval in Australia. Aside from occasional spikes in support for Pauline Hanson’s One Nation, anti-immigration parties have failed to establish ongoing influence. Labor and the Coalition have supported expansive economic immigration policies for much of the post-war era.
The impact of economic immigration on Australia’s population, economy, and labour market is virtually unmatched. Since 1945, immigrants and their immediate descendants have accounted for over half of the nation’s population growth.
More than one in four workers in Australia were born in another country. The foreign-born population as a share of total population is higher in Australia than in any other OECD country, except for Luxembourg and Switzerland.
Australia’s immigration policies have changed significantly in recent years. They have shifted increasingly towards temporary immigration, focused on skilled, working holiday and international student visas.
Read More: theconversation