Memo to Liz Allen: Mass immigration = greater inequality

Feverish defender of mass immigration and a ‘Big Australia’, Dr Liz Allen, has hypocritically decried rising inequality across Sydney, where basic infrastructure and services are failing to keep pace with demand:

Professor Nick Parr, a demographer at Macquarie University, said the areas of Sydney among the most advantaged 10 per cent nationwide saw average reductions in death rates between 2012 and 2018 of 14.5 per cent, almost triple the average improvement in the most disadvantaged suburbs…

Professor of Urban Planning at Western Sydney University Nicky Morrison said many people in the western suburbs have to be more car-orientated and sedentary because they commute longer distances to work or to go grocery shopping…

“The concentration of food deserts is particularly pronounced within Sydney’s western suburbs, which compounds the problem of lower socio-economic groups eating poorer diets leading to associated health problems.”

Western suburbs residents have two to three times greater rates of diabetes compared to people living in the east.

A “deepening” divide between “have and have not areas” is escalating as urban heat also takes a toll, Awais Piracha, Associate Professor of Urban Planning at Western Sydney University said.

“I think it (death rate disparities) have something to do with heat and crowding – the two factors that are getting worse for the poor areas more than the affluent ones,” Dr Piracha said. “Heatwaves can be a leading cause of death.

” … with poorer areas of western and southwestern Sydney typically hotter than the affluent north and north-east…

Australian National University demographer Dr Liz Allen said rising death rates point to “a serious policy issue” and are evidence of health inequalities.

“Whether these health disparities are to do with socio-economic factors of the people living in different areas or about the areas themselves (for example access to medical services) is irrelevant,” Dr Allen said. “Sydneysiders, no matter where they live, deserve access to appropriate and affordable healthcare – lives depend on it.”

Nearly all of Western Sydney’s ills come down to rapid population growth:

Western Sydney simply cannot keep up with infrastructure demands: congestion, hospital queues, crowded classrooms, stressed infrastructure everywhere. And housing is forever under pressure, resulting in poor affordability.

The fact of the matter is that Infrastructure Australia’s own projections for Sydney show that travel times and access to jobs, schools, hospitals and open space will all worsen as its populations balloon to 7.4 million by 2046, irrespective of whether Sydney build up or out:

And with Sydney’s populations projected to balloon to nearly 10 million people over the next half century, on the back of mass immigration, it will necessarily see more residents left behind, along with increasing inequality:

Indeed, researchers from the University of Sydney have shown that Australia’s “big cities are engines of inequality”, with inequality worsening as they grow in size:

This analysis showed that while income growth increased as Australian cities got larger, this was concentrated in the upper income categories.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics defines ten income categories, ranging from lowest to highest incomes per capita, with people counts in each category. We found that incomes of poor and middle-income categories grow in proportion with city size, or more slowly. Those of the higher-income categories grow disproportionately faster.

Every citizen should be concerned about this trend. If total incomes and the incomes of top earners grow faster than city size, but not those of lower income earners, then most of the income that makes bigger cities richer is only going to the top earners…

As city housing markets become more expensive, households on lower and moderate incomes spend an increasing proportion of their incomes on housing. The number of locations where they can live in the city becomes smaller, especially when certain pockets show agglomerations of super-rich.

The costs of housing mean the amount of spare income those on moderate and low incomes can invest in themselves and their children to improve their employment prospects (what economists call investing in human capital) becomes smaller. The educational outcomes for their children are often poor. Also, because of rising transport costs, the number of potential jobs they can access gets smaller.

The same researchers also warned against the continued growth in size of Sydney and Melbourne:

Lead researcher Somwrita Sarkar said the findings suggest cities like Sydney and Melbourne have a disproportionate accumulation of the highest income earners who have the advantage of affording the best services and infrastructure while poorer people face being pushed out.

“If we think of income and population distribution as a pyramid what is true is big cities drive a lot of the innovation and economic growth for the whole nation, but what is unappreciated is that the pyramid needs a stable base of a large number of people doing normal jobs to support that innovation,” she told AAP on Thursday.

“If richer and richer people agglomerate in bigger and bigger cities, you push up the prices and you push out that large pyramid base.

“Either you are pushing them out of the city or you are forcing them to live with conditions that are not very sensitive to their wellbeing”…

…the poor spend a substantially high proportion of their income in housing and travel costs, whereas the rich spend, comparatively, a much lower proportion of their income for the same goods and services… certainly concentrating all the development on the big cities is not the way forward if we want this trend to decline.”

Of course, the wealthy elite – the ‘growth lobby’ – are strong supporters of high immigration because a bigger population provides them with a larger domestic market to sell to, thus providing them with lazy profits. At the same time, the wealthy elite’s property holdings inflate in value from all the added demand (and debt), making them substantially richer. They can also lower their wage costs via the mass importation of cheap foreign workers, thus undercuting the local work force.

To the growth lobby, high immigration provides a neat way of privatising the gains from a bigger population while the rest of society – and the poor in particular – socialise the costs.

How can useful idiots like Liz Allen support a policy – mass immigration – that unambiguously lowers the living standards of the incumbent resident populations in our major cities?

Unconventional Economist
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