Australia’s “unnecessarily complex” skilled migration system should be revamped to ensure the country can attract the workers it needs to maintain a strong labor market, according to a new report.
The Deloitte Access Economics report, released on Sunday, found that Australia’s labor market has been a remarkable success during the COVID-19 pandemic, as evidenced by the unemployment rate falling to a nearly 50-year low of 3, 4% in July.
The labor force participation rate, which is now hovering around a record high of 66.4%, is also positive.
The report’s lead author, David Rumbens, said government spending had boosted the labor market, but warned that it was now largely up to the private sector to keep it going.
Mr Rumbens said pandemic-era border closures, combined with a tight labor market, meant there were now more vacancies than unemployed.
“Net migration abroad was positive for the first time since the onset of COVID,” Rumbens said.
“Over 29,000 net people arrived in the December 2021 quarter, although this only unravels about 26% of the 113,000 net people lost to overseas migration in the previous 18 months.”
With skilled migration at a fraction of pre-pandemic levels, Deloitte partner Fiona Webb urged Australia to show it was “open for business” by cutting red tape.
According to the report, this comes against the backdrop of a shift in the economy towards a more skilled and knowledge-based workforce, with jobs in the sector expected to increase by around 2.1% or 39 300 workers per year by June 2032.
“Along with the policy to ensure we develop the skills needed for the future in Australia, we need to focus on overhauling our unnecessarily complex skilled migration system to ensure we can also attract workers with the skills we need,” Ms Webb said.
“The top priority is to send a clear signal to the world that Australia is open for business. Our border policies in the age of the pandemic have created a persistent level of uncertainty among potential skilled migrants.
“They want to know that they will be able to enter and leave the country without complications and have greater certainty about longer-term options for staying in Australia, i.e. pathways to permanent residency.”
The report also urged Australia to expand its humanitarian migration program, describing the long-term benefits of doing so as “profound” for economic and social parameters.
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