In the lead-up to Labor’s Employment Summit, Sustainable Population Australia (SPA) has supported the call by unions for an income threshold for skilled migrants to be well above average earnings.
While unions have suggested $90,000 as a pay floor, and the Grattan Institute $70,000, SPA recommends the government should seek to apply one that is equivalent to the 75th percentile of weekly earnings ($85,852 p.a. in 2019) to skilled visa holders.
SPA national president, Ms Jenny Goldie, says the push by business leaders for a restoration of mass immigration will continue to suppress wages for Australian workers who have suffered wage stagnation since 2013.
“We recognise that there is a skills shortage in some sectors,” says Ms Goldie, “but the blame for that can be sheeted home to the previous Australian government that steadily reduced funding for universities and TAFE, as well as employers not funding their own training needs, including state governments who employ most health workers.
“There is also the ethical question of Australia poaching skilled workers from other countries which have borne the cost of their education and where those skills are in similar demand.
“Thus the whole concept of a pay floor for skilled workers must be a stop-gap measure until Australia trains all the workers it needs,” says Ms Goldie.
“Australia cannot afford to return to immigration-fuelled high population growth rates of the past decade. Apart from manifold environmental reasons, not least carbon emissions, infrastructure has fallen behind population growth dramatically.
“The high cost of housing is already causing social stress. Even where new homes are being built, often in housing developments on the urban fringe, these areas are poorly serviced in terms of public transport, health and education. Infrastructure simply has to catch up so all Australian residents, be they migrant or native-born, can have access to services they need to function.”
Ms Goldie hoped the Employment Summit would allow a fresh look at the effect of mass immigration on workers’ welfare.
“Labor is meant to be the party for workers. It has an obligation to not only help them have a liveable wage that rises with inflation, but also a liveable environment, one that is not degraded by too many people demanding too many resources.”