Migration Council chair pimps skills shortages lie

By Leith van Onselen

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.

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Comments

  1. “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.”

    Translation: We haven’t been investing in training, and we don’t intend to begin. We can’t get workers at the low wages we could like.

      • I’d suggest we’d do well to understand that the government is us, and the economy is us and our agent, the govt has to stop being an agent for capital and become a mediator in the capital vs labour conundrum and work so as it uses its capacity as our agent (the peoples) not the 1% or 10% but all people to deliver prosperity with the resources available to it. That includes social inclusion, equity, elimination of the transfer of national income to profits and ensure the social contract that our labour provides to build a better society for future generations is rewarded and that we all have a stake in the real resources being used to meet these ends.

        Not the ends of a global capital market.

        More importantly, wisdom may ensue whilst uncovering the epistemological and ideological structures of the meta-narrative of our time. It is this that informs the reasoning behind these self interested, unaccountable policy makers and policy influencers whom have captured the political economy through a ‘rugged individual’ managerial revolution.

        I’d like to hear all ideas about the role of government, especially reasons for the motherly teat it extends to executives, domestic and multinational corporations. Wise me up, @Wiley Wolf.

      • I don’t agree that the government is us. I’m sure some people get into government with good intentions but they soon find they have to toe the party line, and if the party is in the pockets of the big developers, banks and business people, then you can be pretty sure that the needs and wants of the rest of us are ignored. Not only that, but when they see pollies with their snouts in the trough, it’s only too easy to do likewise.

      • Thanks for your thoughts @md.
        I have empathy for what you describe, which is a dysfunctional state.

        Yet it still remains, the social construct of government itself has no agency, ‘those we vote to represent the metaphorical ‘us’ in the construct we call government do. The action or manner (the agency) of controlling or regulating people is what is referred to as government.

        It could be reclaimed or left to be further diminished or even usurped by unelected vested interests.

      • drsmithyMEMBER

        Government is not really “us” when we have relatively little – and decreasing – ability to directly influence its operation.

        Certainly it’s more “us” than a dictatorship – and it’s frustrating not to see more people leveraging what little influence they have – but when all our politicians really have to worry about outside of nakedly criminal behaviour or utterly egregious abuses of power, is a ~4 yearly performance review, with barely a 50/50 chance of being disciplined even then, well…

  2. An absolute miracle that Theresa May is allowed to cut immigration hard – even though nowhere near 28% of Britain is foreign-born and has not been in the last 400 years.

    Ever since the Conservative-Liberal Coalition assumed power in 2010, with David Cameron elected on an impossible pledge to reduce net migration into Britain to the “tens of thousands”

    some experts have predicted that a third of the UK’s estimated 17,000 curry houses could face closure over the next decade.

    So Britons can still eat curry – I fail to see a problem.

    If this labour doesn’t have the correct documentation, restaurants can find themselves saddled with a fine of £20,000. “The border forces are raiding local business every week,”

    😁

    The result? The unemployment rate in Britain is at a 42 year low.

    • She’ll be one of those evil “neoliberal” “Tories” that the faux intellectual crazy lefties on this site are always bleating about.

      • St JacquesMEMBER

        Neoliberals find borders intolerable. No, sho’s more an old style conservative, but confused by the neoliberal strain left in the Tory party by Thatcher.

      • @Andrew
        More like she’ll be one of those tg iron maidens puppeteer in to to clean up the mess. Dirty work more palatable when instigated by a pretty ooops ‘female’ face a la Maggie Thatch – although from recollection s/he was hated by workers of the north and generally lauded by peers and contemporaries (behind the scenes. #puppetry #enjoytheshow

    • Rubbish. She’s just from the same playbook as Dutton – be nasty to people because it makes you look tough and plays to the racist element of the electorate.

      The problem with this is it alienates a large % of the electorate who actually don’t support calling refugees cockroaches and the like (not saying May did this, but she helped create the environment that allowed such a comment to be published in a mainstream national newspaper). Secondly, she has presided over a department that has shown unparalleled incompetence and callousness, trying to deport people who have lived their whole lives in the UK for the sake of a single piece of paper. Or just based on completely wrong information. Thirdly, she’s allowed Brexit and immigration to become a completely confused debate. Cameron has to take most responsibility for this with his stupid “tens of thousands” policies which couldn’t possibly be delivered under EU membership (and look where that led).

      The problem with this is that it stops us having the proper conversation – which is, the South of the UK in particular is full, we’re not building houses or infra, young people are being crowded out of the job market etc. And what are the right policies to fix that, immigration included. These debates become much harder because of unnecessary and incidendary rhetoric from the likes of May.

      Same thing happening in Aus, and it’s not to be welcomed. Discussions about immigration, infrastructure and the like do not need to be clouded by this sort of rhetoric.

  3. I am so over the skills shortage CRAP! If business & Government employers in Aus were serious they would train people like they used to in the 1840’s, 1850’s, 1860’s, 1870’s, 1880’s, 1890’s, 1900’s, 1910’s, 1920’s, 1930’s, 1940’s, 1950’s, 1960’s, 1970’s, 1980’s (part), 1990’s (less part) then the (nothing) ??????’s. So we bring heaps of skilled (?) people in from 3rd world to fill our ever so important jobs for no price at all; then our kids go to HECS/HELP UNI & can’t get a job, STEM crap & bull dust..? Why would an Aussie kid do STEM at an AusUNI? Why can’t we now plan for the furture & train people? What has changed so much that it can’t possibly happen now, why do we now in the last 30 years & increasingly the last 10 years need to bring outsiders in to fill the jobs; (if there are any)?

      • Exactly. The only way to fix this is vote against the LNP/Labor/Greens Coalition.

        Seriously, when we see burger flippers as a skills shortage, utterly unskilled migrants clogging everywhere we go, while Australian kids are on the dole.

        FFS we’re being treated like idiots. Grow up and wake up Australia.

        You’re being conned.

      • See this graph and weep:

        Why ?

        What’s an acceptable level of foreign-born residents ? When does it become “bad” and what are the inevitable outcomes of it becoming “bad” ?

      • Drsmithy

        I’ll tell you when it’s enough. When enough people don’t give a fk about Australia they’ll vote to fill their pockets while destroying Australia’s and Australians futures. They have alternatives. So do their kids.

        Your attitude disgusts me. You should be ashamed of yourself. How about turning your lefty extreme views to looking after Australia and Australians?

      • When enough people don’t give a fk about Australia they’ll vote to fill their pockets while destroying Australia’s and Australians futures.

        Good thing nobody born here would do that !

      • Drsmithy

        Sure mate. Like the Irish born girl I know that hates the magpies warble. Find me an Australian born that “hates it”.

        What happened to you that makes you hate Australia and Australians so much. Serious question.

        I’m a brown skinned (not tanned, brown, that’s right) Australian with a foreign born parent and have an allegiance and patriotism similar to most Australian born people Ive met in all corners of Australia.

        You mate are a shameful human. I wouldn’t be surprised if you were a planted shill.

      • So let’s get this straight. You make 10+ posts every day moaning and bitching about all the people – who are almost entirely native-born Australians – selling out the country, yet you are arguing that being born here makes someone implicitly more loyal to the country than being born overseas.

        I don’t think you’ve thought your cunning plan all the way through. Kinda like Jacob who keeps banging on about Norway being the best country in the world and trying to relate that back to percentage of foreign-born residents, when (from memory) 3 out of the top 5 countries in the list that Norway is #1 on have similar levels of foreign-born residents to Australian.

      • “You make 10+ posts every day moaning and bitching about all the people – who are almost entirely native-born Australians”

        There you go again. Your MO is to conflate and distort an argument.

        I am saying the 30% of foreign born Australians have less loyalty to Australia than Australian born.

        How you can twist that into the BS above is incomprehensible.

      • Why ?

        What’s an acceptable level of foreign-born residents ? When does it become “bad” and what are the inevitable outcomes of it becoming “bad” ?

        Dr Smith – you know all the answers to that, that’s why you are here, and vote SA – and maybe to sh!tstir a bit as well 🙂

      • Alby

        Drsmithy is a pro big Australia Green.

        Intelligent, thinking people with integrity vote SA, Smith does not fit.

      • Dr Smith – you know all the answers to that, that’s why you are here, and vote SA – and maybe to sh!tstir a bit as well 🙂

        My point is more that in and of itself it’s a meaningless number. Switzerland, New Zealand and Israel have similar levels of foreign-born residents. Singapore and Hong Kong, two places some people love to put up as model countries/economies, are ~40% foreign born.

      • drsmithy

        “Switzerland, New Zealand and Israel have similar levels of foreign-born residents. Singapore and Hong Kong, two places some people love to put up as model countries/economies, are ~40% foreign born”

        That’s your example to say we should do the same is it? New Zealand as reported here all the time has gone to sht. Singapore, no one that has a choice wants to live there (Australian, European and American emigrants kill themselves because it’s so bad). Hong Kong has the highest prices on earth and the congestion deters more people.

        I couldn’t be bothered sifting through it, but it doesn’t look easy to become an Israeli citizen unless you’re Jewish. Or at least your citizenship is extremely limited re pension, voting etc. I’m going to call that new Isreali citizens are automatically loyal to Israel……https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Israeli_nationality_law

        “Not too long ago, the Swiss voted in a referendum to limit immigration and make it easier to expel foreign-born residents….Though Europe’s elite, for understandable reasons, would like to down play such intense anti-immigrant feelings”

        Yep, sounds like the Swiss are going great too.

        Got any other great examples?

  4. Essentially, Innes Willox is bemoaning the lack of success that a decades long skilled migration program has held in addressing skills shortages.

    What a foghorn.

  5. Who will be convinced by this kind of shrill ? The reality is its counter productive and will elicit even more anger, so give them all more rope while pointing to the personal and professional gain being made at everyone else’s expense.

    • Who will be convinced by this kind of shrill ?
      * Dr Demography
      * Michael Pascoe & others at Fairfax
      * The Guardian & other SJW rags
      * Half of the News Limited journalists
      * Business Council of Australia & like minded entities

      Leith is doing a cracking job showing that we don’t have skill shortages, but it is a David and Goliath battle where the big money is siding with Goliath and the majority of the population is behind David.

      • In a democracy all standing behind David we should be getting change.

        The problem is the way we’re voting.

        We need a coordinated way to get rid of the LNP, Labor and Greens Coalition.

      • I’m with you. He’s a paid plant to drive opinion towards Big Australia Greens.

        Who else other than the Greens can so well argue for a big Australia at the same time as not developing enough for more housing?

      • AND convince the young fools to vote entirely against their own interests.

        Money has bought the Greens. I have zero doubt.

  6. “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.”

    Spot on the money. Simply saying what so many journalists and commentors cannot bring themselves to admit.

      • Stop it with this nonsense. Even the most marketing-blinded fool would not argue that AI and Robotics are a signifcant driver in today’s Australian economy.

        They will be in the future, no doubt. But probably at least 15 years from growing beyond a blip.

  7. Ramp up the language.

    “Australia, you’re being treated like idiots by LNP, Labor, Greens lobbyists and big business. You’re being conned”

  8. St JacquesMEMBER

    There’s absolutely no doubting there are *significant* ™ skills shortages – just look at all those booming wages in various sectors the last six years, the economy is in danger of overheating….oh wait on !

    • Mining BoganMEMBER

      Politicians.
      Journalists.
      Business leaders.
      Morning TV hosts.

      There you go. Four examples of jobs filled by idiots with no obvious ability.

      Looks like a shortage to me.

      • St JacquesMEMBER

        You doubting Thomas. There’s nothing that cannot be fixed by crushing wages. All problems are due to wages. How can we compete with Bangladeshis? hmmmm????? Lower wages mean higher profits mean a stronger economy. Therefore even lower wages mean an even stronger economy. If in each cycle you lower wages again, you get a stronger economy OK? Now get with the program.

      • Politicians.
        Journalists.
        Business leaders.
        Morning TV hosts.

        Common theme? High wage earners, pushing big Australia.

        Like I said months ago, Wilkinson earning $1m a year is everyone’s problem.

        Boycott The Project and morning shows.

      • Ric. You said recently you had no issue with women ( in the context of Labor women). Then you had a pot shot at Reba Meagher, and now Lisa Wilkinson. Why not have a go at Karl S instead of Lisa Wilkinson?

      • Cristian

        You can’t label me a misogynist (that’s what you’re doing) because I omit to mention Carl (who I have mentioned before).

        When I think of a politician that disgracefuly ordered police not to report crime I think of Rheba. When I think of a recent disgustingly overpaid pro population anti Australian “journalist” I think of Wilkinson.

        She’s used the system to boost her pay cheque. Bit bizarre she’s happy to sit next to Carie who does more but earns less than half. Integrity plus. You should be asking questions of her not me.

  9. How have successive governments failed to train Australians to cook hamburgers etc?

    Why are we even discussing this utter BS. They’re laughing at Australians believing this rubbish. It’s a joke they’re telling us the 400k annual population growth is a result of filling skills. It’s ridiculous.

    Tell them they’re full of it. They need to present a better argument because we’re not even close to believing their BS.

  10. St JacquesMEMBER

    Let’s not forget what the Migration Council is and represents – it is a blood sucking leech representing businesses that basically leech off Australian society through selling-out Australians. It is rent seeking of the worst kind. Immigration is about border control and the welfare of the citizens – it should never ever be in the hands of private businesses.

  11. reusachtigeMEMBER

    This guy is right. We need to import much more cheap human capital to keep costs down and profits up, and to increase the vibe of our otherwise boring cities!

  12. I’m all for skilled immigration in science and robotics, the future where Australia should start to really invest. But stop bringing in IT and accounting professionals that add no value, whilst at the same time these over qualified Masters students perform transactional roles which then get sent offshore, back to their country

    • When we get some coverage of AI managed convoys of trucks doing the run from Ipswich QLD to Broadmeadows VIC, then the punters will realise the wheel has turned.

  13. Doing PR for the Australian Industry Group must be so easy: write a PR release/Op-Ed in 2001 and just re-use every 6 months ever since. This could be easier than being the PR for the Nats.

  14. no skills shortages, just a severe disconnect between the training and employment pipeline. there are no entry level jobs as employers refuse to create them, especially because they can get experienced labour on tap from overseas.

    • St JacquesMEMBER

      Precisely. Why train up inexperienced Australians who know their rights? They think it;’s “their” country. Oh, so little do they know.

  15. Easiest way to fix the skills shortage argument is to set the 457 threshold at median wage and review annually. if there is a really a skills shortage no one would have issues paying a median right?

  16. The arguments vis a vis skill shortages are looking slightly shaky. The rest of what Wilcox says is pretty spot on – inadequate planning and infrastructure provision. I suggest this is because Governments plan or attempt to plan for the permanent migrant intake of 200k and ignore the two million plus additional persons in Australia at any given time. Many of these individuals are here for duration ranging several years to decades.

    The most recent (2016) complete data for temporary entrants to Australia

    646,830 Special category (subclass 444)
    565,760 Visitor
    355,760 Student
    150,220 Temporary Work (Skilled)
    148,500 Working holiday
    127,110 Bridging
    60,090 Other temporary
    37,240 Temporary graduate (subclass 485)

    2,091,490 additional persons over and above base population including permanent migration in a single year. Every year.

    • There’s one number you need. Population grew one million in 2.5 years. 400k per year.

      If there’s a million temporary residents this week, last week or last year or decade, it’s not changing the impact.

      • How?

        Today there’s 24m plus 1m temporary.

        2 years from now, there’s 24.8m plus 1m temporary.

        The only change is 0.8m permanent. Temporary come and go but the overall number is the same.

  17. Isn’t it amazing what you can do with circular logic?

    Australia needs to grow
    Immigration is growth
    Infrastructure is not keeping up
    Lack of skills holding infrastructure back
    Immigrants have skills
    Australia needs to grow

    loop forever

    • One does not even need such high-level thinking as circular logic to reach the following conclusions:

      Bad news = Good news

      Good news = Bad news

      Solution to a problem caused by low interest rates = cut rates

      Solution to a problem caused by overpopulation = increase population

      Tax cuts = increasing tax revenue

      Solution to escalating house prices due to too much demand = increase demand

      Solution to escalating land prices due to too little supply = restrict land supply

      What’s next on the list?

      • Oh wait, I forgot:

        Solution to mass shootings = more guns

        Solution to income disparities = increase disparities

  18. If we really have skills shortages, why can’t corporate Australia train Aussies to do the jobs? These lies in support of big Australia are sickening.

    • MediocritasMEMBER

      Or lean on the public sector (local or foreign) to pay for educating people, then complain about paying taxes (which are used to pay for that education). Cake, in hand, in stomach, choose one.