The chair of the Migration Council of Australia (MCA) and big business lobbyist for the Australian Industry Group (AIG), Innes Willox, penned an article in The Australian this week claiming that “now is not the time to cut migration” because of “skills shortages”:
Australia does not have a population problem but we do have a skills problem and we do need to get much better at planning our cities, regions and our infrastructure…
Ai Group’s feedback from a wide range of businesses in a variety of sectors including manufacturing, construction and defence suggests that skill shortages are re-emerging as a leading concern for businesses… Ai Group members are increasingly telling us that they are having difficulty sourcing skilled labour, particularly in regard to science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) skills and other trade-related and technician jobs…
For all sorts of reasons, the education and training systems have fallen short of delivering the trained workers our economy needs in the right places, at the right time, and there is no sign of this changing materially over the next five years. This means our economy will continue to require a significant supply of skilled labour through the various temporary and permanent visa streams…
Nobody is going to accuse MB of not supporting the cause of Australian industry. But the argument that Australia needs to maintain a turbo-charged skilled migrants intake (both permanent and temporary) to alleviate skills shortages was recently shot to pieces by the latest Department of Employment skills shortages report, which showed that Australian skills shortages “continue to be limited in 2016-17”, and that there are a high number of applicants per job.
The report also stated that there was a record number of Aussies studying at university:
Of whom many graduates cannot gain meaningful employment:
And the report concluded that “significant shortages are unlikely to re-emerge in the short term” because “new supply of qualified workers from the higher education system is likely to remain high” and “there will be softer demand for some Professions resulting from weaker activity in key sectors and changes to work arrangements, such as offshoring and automation of some routine tasks”.
Willox’s claim that skills shortages are re-emerging in areas like engineering is also laughable and debunked by the Skills Shortages report, which showed an incredible 40 applicants per job:
Willox’s claim that Australia’s congestion problems “applies as much to natural increase in population as it does to increases from net migration” is also a bald-faced lie. As noted by the Productivity Commission in its Migrant Intake Australia report, Australia’s population would barely increase if net overseas migration was zero:
Let’s be honest for a moment. If skills shortages were pervasive across the economy, Australia would be experiencing strong wages growth. The fact that wages growth is running near historical lows highlights the lunacy of Willox’s argument, as does the high level of labour underutilisation across the economy.
Even if he was telling the truth, then why aren’t AIG’s members training the local workforce, rather than taking the short-sighted fix of importing a ‘skilled’ migrant? Stealing skilled workers from developing nations stifles their development and is morally repugnant.
This is classic rent-seeking behaviour by Willox aimed squarely at lowering labour costs for big business and boosting the number of consumers, with the broader community footing the bill indirectly via increased congestion, higher housing/infrastructure costs, a deteriorated environment, and overall worsening quality of life.
Willox wants big business to privatise the gains from mass immigration while socialising the costs on everyone else.