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‘Dispel doubts about borders’ to bolster skilled migration

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Deloitte says the government has to offer pathways to residency and offer certainty about ease of travel.

By Philip King 10 minute read

Australia needs to dispel lingering doubts about its border policies to encourage skilled migrants and offer them certainty so they will be able to readily come and go, according to Deloitte Access Economics.

Two years of closed borders and net departures had depleted Australia’s workforce and the priority was to signal “pathways to permanent residency” for potential white-collar workers, it said in its quarterly Employment Forecasts report.

National leader of global employer services Fiona Webb said: “Alongside policy to ensure we are developing the necessary skills for the future within Australia, there needs to be a focus on overhauling our needlessly complex skilled migration system to ensure we can also attract workers with the skills we need.”

She said in the wake of this week’s 3.4 per cent unemployment figure – a near half-century low –  Australia had to “clearly signal” it was open for business.

“Our pandemic-era border policies created a lingering level of uncertainty among potential skilled migrants,” Ms Webb said.

“They want to know they will be able to get in and out of the country without complication and have greater certainty about longer term options to remain in Australia – that is, pathways to permanent residency.”

The report expected white-collar employment to grow by 205,200 jobs in 2022–23 and at annual average of 1.6 per cent over the next decade, outpacing general employment growth.

The property and business services sector would accelerate faster, at 2.1 per cent on average or 39,300 workers per year until 2031–32.

Around 113,000 people had been lost to overseas migration over the first 18 months of the pandemic and despite a rebound in arrivals, Australia’s workforce had yet to recover.

The report’s lead author, David Rumbens, said with the labour force participation rate near a record high of 66.4 per cent, it was crucial that Australia restored the net loss and there was some hope in the latest figures.

“The good news is that there are still more people arriving in Australia permanently, or long-term, than there are leaving – a strong indication that net overseas migration in Australia was positive through the first half of 2022, albeit a fraction of what it was before the pandemic,” Mr Rumbens said.

He said next month’s Jobs and Skills Summit was “a rare opportunity” for collaboration between business, unions and government to solve the problem.

While economic growth was expected to slow and inflation would run ahead of wages, “there are still opportunities for white collar workers in Australia and it may still be some time before the number of unfilled job vacancies returns to more normal levels”.

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Philip King

Philip King

AUTHOR

Philip King is editor of Accountants Daily and SMSF Adviser, the leading sources of news, insight, and educational content for professionals in the accounting and SMSF sectors.

Philip joined the titles in March 2022 and brings extensive experience from a variety of roles at The Australian national broadsheet daily, most recently as motoring editor. His background also takes in spells on diverse consumer and trade magazines.

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