Population numbers reveal plan desperately needed for labour and skills shortages

A plan is urgently needed to implement a strong migration program and reopen our borders as soon as vaccination allows following population growth numbers released by the ABS today. The data revealed a population increase of just 35,700 in the year to March 2021, less than a tenth of the increase in the same period a year prior.

While the population naturally increased by 131,000 (293,500 births and 162,500 deaths), Australia’s net overseas migration represented a loss of 95,300 (115,000 overseas migration arrivals and 210,300 departures). This is down considerably on net overseas migration of 241,300 in the year to March 2020, where it contributed almost two thirds to our overall population growth.

“The skill and labour shortages experienced over the last 12 months are a direct consequence of the decline in overseas migration. These shortages mean thousands of businesses are operating below full capacity,” ACCI chief executive Andrew McKellar said.

“To realise the economic benefit to Australia, we should be planning to not just restore migration to its previous levels but also for the future. We must review our migration settings to ensure that we can fill skills gaps across the economy. These shortages will increase more rapidly once our economy recovers when we move beyond lockdowns.

“The labour force figures also released today show that almost 150,000 jobs were lost in August, mainly in NSW. While half of the economy is currently in lockdown, labour and skills shortages will become increasingly severe when we reopen without the entry of skilled migrants.

“Migration is one of the most effective mechanisms to deliver substantial economic benefit to all Australians, as well as improving the age profile of our workforce.

“Young skilled migrants contribute enormously to our economy and society. To restore population growth to previous levels, address skills shortages and get the economy operating at its full capacity, it is imperative that we hit the 80% vaccination target as soon as possible.

“Business desperately needs a solution to these shortages. Trials for bringing back international students, skilled migrants and working holiday makers must be expedited immediately.

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