Abul Rizvi, former Deputy Secretary of the Department of Immigration and one of the architects of Australia’s faux ‘skilled’ migration program, continues to shill for a ‘Big Australia’, even with the economy facing its biggest downturn since the Great Depression:
If only 30 per cent of long-term temporary entrants depart, net migration in 2020 would be even lower than during the Great Depression when it fell to negative 12,117 in 1931.
If 50% of long-term temporary entrants depart, Australia would experience negative population growth for the first time since 1916. The only two other years we have had negative population growth was 1795 and 1779.
Not even during the Great Depression did Australia experience negative population growth.
Current Government policy appears designed to simultaneously achieve negative population growth, exacerbating the recession and making recovery much more difficult…
So what can we expect in terms of the depth of the coronavirus recession and the speed of recovery?… if net migration does move significantly into negative territory, history tells us that correlates with much higher levels of unemployment, as well as larger numbers of people who become destitute. Thus a policy to force net migration down faster will make recovery all the more difficult…
Population ageing since the GFC has contributed to slowing global economic growth and to Australia’s slow growth of the last decade.
This is highlighted in the steady decline in the average hours worked per month per adult in Chart 4.Population ageing in the developed world and in Australia will add to the challenge the Government faces in designing its recovery from the coronavirus recession.
The key will be to stop the curve in Chart 5 from falling too sharply.
Recovery from that decline can be assisted if the Government does not insist on forcing Australia to experience negative net migration and possibly negative population growth.
No matter what the economic circumstances are, Abul Rizvi’s solution is always the same: more immigration. And this is always centred around spurious economic arguments.
Let’s get real for a second. Australia has run one of the strongest immigration programs in the world since the Howard Government threw open the flood gates in the early-2000s on the back of Abul Rizvi’s policy:
Following this ‘Big Australia’ policy change, Australia’s population growth has dwarfed other developed nations, running at more than 2.5 times the OECD Average:
Abul Rizvi’s suggestion that mass immigration has bolstered Australia’s economic performance is easily debunked.
As shown below, Australia’s GDP per capita growth under Rizvi’s mass immigration policy has been unflattering, lagging the OECD’s, despite Australia benefiting from a once in one hundred year mining boom:
This performance is even worse over the most recent decade, with Australia’s per capita GDP growth lagging all other major advanced nations:
The situation on the income side of the equation is even worse, with Australian households recording zero real disposable income growth over the past seven years and last decade providing the lowest annual average growth in 60 years:
This sluggish household income growth was driven, in part, by Australia’s chronically high underemployment and labour underutilisation, which has created chronic labour market slack and held down wage growth:
One of the reasons for this persistent labour market slack is the huge volumes of temporary and permanent migrants continually pouring into Australia under Abul Rizvi’s policy.
With Australia now facing mass unemployment, alongside falling incomes, the absolute last thing workers need is for 2.3 million temporary migrants to remain in Australia competing with locals for scarce jobs. This will not only keep unemployment and underemployment high, but also place additional downward pressure on wages.
The same applies for the permanent migrant intake, which has set aside 108,000 places for so-called ‘skilled’ workers:
With skills shortages virtually non existent across the economy, and mass unemployment looming, there is also zero rationale in maintaining such a strong permanent migrant program.
Blind Freddy can see that Abul Rizvi’s ‘Big Australia’ policy has not delivered for ordinary Australians in a narrow economic sense. And the picture is even worse when one counts broader impacts like the crush-loading of infrastructure and housing across the major cities, which have unambiguously shredded living standards.
Once the coronavirus crisis has passed, and international travel bans are lifted, the Morrison Government must ignore Abul Rizvi and send large numbers of “temporary” visa holders back to their home countries, as well as halve the permanent migrant intake.
This is the only way to better balance labour supply with demand, as well as safeguard living standards. It would also merely return immigration levels back to sustainable historical norms.