A warning to Britain on Australia’s immigration system

The Economist reports that the UK Boris Johnson Government is desperately seeking to emulate Australia’s ‘skilled’ immigration system:

As Britain and Australia begin negotiations on a trade deal, the Tories are in the grip of Ozophilia. Boris Johnson, who picked up a pair of skimpy shorts and a widened vocabulary on his gap year at Geelong grammar school, holds Australia up as a model of prosperity outside the European Union. The government is creating an “Australian-style” immigration system, which will discriminate by skills and qualifications. The prime minister has even attempted to rebrand an ugly no-deal exit from the eu as an “Australian” deal…

Australia’s modern points-based immigration system is a hit with British focus groups partly because so many participants have relatives who moved there, says Jill Rutter of British Future, a think-tank specialising in migration. “Wanted Down Under”, a popular daytime television show, features would-be emigrants exploring the Australian labour market. A recent tourism ad featuring Kylie Minogue was described as “a little bit of escapism” for Brexit-weary Brits.

Wow, it’s amazing how wonderful things can look in the hazy distance. Here’s the truth of it.

Let’s first consider the Australia’s permanent migrant system, which is currently set at 160,000 non-humanitarian places and around 16,000 humanitarian places; although neither of these targets will be hit given COVID-19:

Within this 176,000 strong permanent target are 109,000 places under the ‘skilled stream’, which is where the superficial claim that Australia’s immigration program is skills-based comes from.

Digging deeper into these figures reveals a permanent migrant program that is, in fact, mostly unskilled.

First, as noted in the Productivity Commission’s 2016 Migrant Intake into Australia report, half of the skilled stream comprises the family members of the primary skilled migrants:

…within the skill stream, about half of the visas granted were for ‘secondary applicants’ — partners (who may or may not be skilled) and dependent children… Therefore, while the skill stream has increased relative to the family stream, family immigrants from the skill and family stream still make up about 70 per cent of the Migration Programme (figure 2.8)…

Primary applicants tend to have a better fiscal outcome than secondary applicants — the current system does not consider the age or skills of secondary applicants as part of the criteria for granting permanent skill visas…

Second, the median pay of Australia’s permanent migrants is actually well below the population average, whereas unemployment is higher, according to the Department of Home Affairs’ Continuous Survey of Migrants:

As shown above:

  • The median annual full-time earnings of migrants was $16,500 (22%) below the general population in 2017;
  • The median annual earnings of migrants was $5,900 (10.2%) below the general population in 2017; and
  • The unemployment rate of surveyed migrants (12.6%) was more than double the general population (5.5%) in 2017.

Even if we focus on the skilled stream only, both median earnings and unemployment is far worse than the general population:

According to the ABS’ Characteristics of Recent Migrants, November 2019 survey, migrant unemployment is also far higher than the Australian born population:

As shown above, 6.6% of recent migrants were unemployed as at November 2019, versus only 4.7% of Australian born persons.

The story is no better for Temporary Skills Shortage (TSS) visas. The Temporary Skilled Migration Income Threshold (TSMIT) has been frozen at the ludicrously low level of $53,900 since 2013-14. This is $3,300 (6%) below the median income of all Australians ($57,200), which includes unskilled workers, according to the ABS:

Thus, the TSMIT has also incentivised employers to hire cheap migrants instead of local workers, as well as abrogated the need to provide training.

These are shocking results. Skilled migrants are purported to be highly qualified and brought into Australia to overcome ‘skills shortages’.

These ‘skilled’ migrants should, therefore, be paid well above the general population, which comprises both skilled and unskilled workers, as well as have very low unemployment.

The fact that ‘skilled’ migrants are paid less, and suffer higher unemployment, is a damning indictment of Australia’s purported ‘skilled’ immigration system, and is bonafide proof that it is undercutting local workers.

Australia is not running a skilled migration system, but a defacto low-skilled system that is depressing wages, crush-loading cities, and eroding overall amenity for existing residents.

Australia’s immigration system needs fundamental reform, not lauding and emulation from uninformed overseas observers like the Johnson Government.

Before COVID-19 hit, the UK economy was enjoying a long period of strong wage growth, brought about in part by lower immigration arising from Brexit:

Copying Australia’s faux ‘skilled’ immigration system, and importing large numbers of low-paid foreign workers to compete against locals, would only erode UK workers’ bargaining power and suppress wages.

Leith van Onselen


  1. Narapoia451MEMBER

    “Copying Australia’s faux ‘skilled’ immigration system, and importing large numbers of low-paid foreign workers to compete against locals, would only erode UK workers’ bargaining power and suppress wages.”

    I’m pretty sure that’s exactly what he wants. There was dangerous amounts of wage inflation for the business owning class he represents in the post brexit shambles. That needs to be reversed post haste old chap.

  2. I think many Brits may already know and hate this, because it seems NZ/OZ have very high immigration form the UK as more Brits become unhappy and look for greener pasture.

  3. Since their last editor left The Economist for Bloomberg, and was replaced by a PC candidate, The Economist has become an error-riddled MSM noise source.

  4. Can anyone tell me what is actually happening re immigration right now month to month – are we taking anyone new into Vic? Borders are closed and look like for some time. I heard many of the international students have gone home.

    So over the last 2 or 3 months is it net leaving ?? In Melb city etc looks pretty empty…..?

    • Not sure about VIC but it feels like SE QLD is being deluged right now (despite ‘closed’ borders). House sales are strong here and traffic is outrageous.

      • buttzilla 2.5D chess

        yup, rents rising in GC, but strangely lots of detached popping up for unrealistic amounts. the damp is rising. I told my mum to sell her place in Burleigh when it doubles.

    • adelaide_economistMEMBER

      Most of the public data from what I can see isn’t updated enough to be sure. Temp visa data seems current only to end March 2020 so wouldn’t really be capturing full covid. The only category that shows a decent drop is ‘visitor’ ie tourists which makes sense as they would have been first to leave.

      As for those ‘yet to come’, the student visa data for lodged and granted visas is newer (to 31 may 2020) and shows some very curious things. There’s a huge drop off though overall when comparing this May with previous Mays.

    • call me Artie (the member previously known as Arthur)MEMBER

      Hi Mr bcnich.As you may already know, I enjoy your forthright and big-picture comments immensely

      I’m a bit disappointed that you ask this question. I suppose I think of you as the type who would undertake their own research to find such information. Even if someone came up with a quick reply, you wouldn’t accept it without confirming it yourself, I hope?

      Anyway, please continue the good work, this is just a small nit-pick

    • Foreign “students” are getting sacked in this recession.

      he came over to Dubai in December 2019 to take up a new job

      The retail company that employed him for Dh5,500 stopped paying salaries from the end of March.

      Mahender Mali, a stranded student, has been tweeting to Indian authorities seeking help to fly back to Chennai.


  5. holds Australia up as a model of prosperity outside the European Union.

    instead of Japan.

    Priti Patel has some good policies:

    8 June 2020

    Priti Patel rejects calls to ditch migrant welfare curbs

    Migrants given No Recourse To Public Funds (NRPF) status are unable to access most state benefits, including Universal Credit, employment support allowance, housing benefit, and help with council tax payments.

    The rule, which was toughened up under the Coalition government, also denies access to means-tested free school meals for the children of those with the status.

  6. Been shown over and over, Birrell among many, that the “skilled” bit is a fraud. Trump at one stage fell for it too.

    Only a Five Eyes nation would believe the total BS that Australia spreads about itself. Miracle economy, multicultural nirvana, strong borders, vibrant cities, yadda yadda. Let’s celebrate the Women’s World Cup instead.

  7. Jumping jack flash

    After a bit of debt growth are we, guv’na?

    Everyone needs a bit of debt growth these days. Its probably been long enough now since the UK housing crash to jump right back on the property train! Toot toot! Full steam ahead cap’n! Stoke the fire with 3rd world immigrant slaves!

    • The Tories have been stoking the immigration ‘ponzi’ at the behest of their corporate masters for a decade.

      Like here, the useful idiots and fake left liberals of the British ‘Labour’ Party are fully paid up passengers.

      Post Brexit, they’re going to need a much cheaper source of low paid slaves than those from the former Soviet accession states who entered the EU when Tony Blair was PM. About five million have piled In since 2004 and this unprecedented influx resulted in most working class Brits voting for Brexit.

  8. So let’s tease this out about what would happen in the UK if they followed the Australian migrant intake model.

    In Australia (pop 25 million) – we have with 4.5 million non Australians foreign Nationals on PR (1.9 million) or TR / SCV visa (2.6 million) who total 4.5 million or 18% of the total onshore population.

    As MB outlines, a deluge of third world lower socioeconomic migrants entering Australia as foreign nationals on an array of visa pretexts.
    All the facts & stats are there.

    92% or 4.1 million of these non Australian citizen foreign nationals live in either Sydney (2.3 million) or Melbourne (1.8 million) comprising 45% and 36% of those cities population.

    In vast non assimilated migrant slums in both cities.

    Filled with non Australian migrants with low or no skills, recruited from the gutters and slums of the Asian, Indian & middle eastern third world.

    Migrants often illiterate in their own language, lower socioeconomic, and many trafficked in for vice & crime, along with false documents, fake health checks.

    A large percentage who have in engaged in some form of blatant visa fraud to participate in the foreign run onshore migrant criminal economy in Australia.

    As example the blatant job theft – the 2.6 million TR/SCV alone have stolen some 2 million Australian jobs, creating an Australian unemployment cost of some
    $35 billion alone.

    And lowering wages and gdp per Capita for all Australians, costing tens of billions extra.

    We see over 600,000 modest ex Australia dwellings now acquired by the foreign criminal syndicates laundering in over $80 billion of dirty money to convert our low end modest housing into migrant only in cash in hand bunk slum share.

    (Where do people think 4.5 million non Australian lower socioeconomic migrants live & how?)

    Resulting in 116,000 Australian permanent homeless and another 340,000 seeking affordable housing.

    Add on congestion, the filth, the squalor, and the destruction of our Education system as it prostituted itself as a migrant guestworker visa alibi.

    And the resulting overload of public services, infrastructure & environment.

    And now these migrant slums (eg Melbourne) being the incubation hub and transmission vector for the Corona Virus.

    A migrant intake that has been a long standing economic and social burden and is now a bio security risk.


    Now if the UK (pop 66 million or 2.6 times Australia pop of 25 million) was to follow the ‘Australian immigration system’ then the following would occur:

    The UK would have 12 million third world unskilled non UK foreign nationals onshore. (18% of the UK population)
    Currently the UK only has 6.2 million or 9% foreign nationals – so it would double.

    (In 2019 there were approximately 6.2 million people with non-British nationality living in the UK) Ref : UK commons Parliamentary library)

    They would be Chinese, Indian, Bangladeshi, middle eastern, south Asian and African.

    They would be lower socioeconomic and unskilled.

    They would be highly concentrated in London and other major cites.

    They would destroy public infrastructure, housing, education and other services.

    They would be the epicentre of money laundering, vice, and other criminal activity.

    They would result in another 5 million UK citizens being made unemployed as the migrants steal their jobs in working illegally and also their housing.

    In essence the current UK issues with their migrant intake would ‘double’

    Yes Australia is now twice as bad as the UK.

    That’s the fact of it.

    And for the UK to follow Australian in opening the doors to a third world migrant intake..
    and if the UK people were made aware of the reality and massive failure of the Australian border control and visa system…

    That is not what the British people or UK citizen voters would want to emulate at all.

    • Everything you say is what the current UK government want. Immigration from developing countries was already increasing pre virus in line with EU immigrants leaving. You wont read that in the predominantly right wing rags that pass

      for newspapers in the UK ie the crap that the brexit voting “useful idiots” read. It was in the FT and some other outlets. The ignorant fools wont know what hit them as most of them voted with a degree of racism.

      • Yeah – but do you think if the UK citizens really knew the totally corrupted economic, social and now bio security disaster that Australian immigration has been,,

        That they would vote or support any Uk government in that ?

        Australia is an OECD case study in exactly what NOT to do and what NOT to allow in.

        This all goes to the fact that the mainstream and social media : both here and overseas,. appears unable or is manipulated to not communicate the reality of the total failure of our Australian border controls and migrant intake.

        • You just have to read the low level Murdoch press in Aus or the UK (which has half a dozen papers of similar ilk) to understand the ‘look over there’ manipulation of the public. Aus did it with the ‘turn back the boats’ while letting 1/3 million per year(plus others of unknown pedigree) in through the front door and nobody noticing or caring so long as their house price went up, UK does it in a multitude of ways but not so obvious. The UK under president Dominic Cummings has run an extreme propaganda program for the last 4 years re brexit which was based on 99% lies. Also Cummings is far more media savvy than the IPA/LNP for eg and spent Millions in black ££ of unknown pedigree (suspect is Russia) to run mega facebook campaigns (almost all lies) targeted to the user or the region of the country to get support. Without all this the brits would not have voted brexit nor this iteration of a Tory party. Only now are a few people waking up to what they have done. What both countries have done is tuned a small problem into a massive problem without the dimwits realising whats being done to them.

    • Brett JamesMEMBER

      “92% or 4.1 million of these non Australian citizen foreign nationals live in either Sydney (2.3 million) or Melbourne (1.8 million) comprising 45% and 36% of those cities population.”

      45% of Sydney’s population is migrant?! That stat is eye opening. Especially in light of the fact they want to increase it. When will it stop? When 100% of all Australian cities are migrant? The whole argument is to better the economy for Australian business and citizens, but if they keep going, there will be no citizens left to improve the economy for. Just crazy.

      • They only hear about the sanitised version spouted by Boris Johnston. The right wing rags (ie 75% of the UK readership) are praising it as being the new immigration nirvana where we will all live happily ever after. People wont know what hit them when another million Indians and Africans turn up to replace the EU immigrants that have left, employers want and will get cheap labour.

  9. – “Boris Johnson, (….) holds Australia up as a model of prosperity outside the European Union.” ???? What is “Blo*Job” smoking ?? I hope it something legal. We are deeper in debt than the UK and our economy is “weakening”. And “Blo*Job” thinks we are a model of “prosperity” ???

    • He is very good at sugar coating the truth, well in fact he knows how to tell lies very well. The 50% who think hes is gods gift to the UK will only have to find out the hard way.

      • – Sounds like one Donald J. Trump. I see some similarities between “Blo*Job” and any right wing dictator. Blame all the woes on those evil “Foreigners” and don’t mention all the domestic problems. E.g the british population is ageing and the UK has a higher debt-to-GDP ratio than the US.

        • billygoatMEMBER

          Wee Will Winky 2
          ‘Cos ageing boomer population’ need young non Whyte men and women to wipe their bums in an aged care unit so flood the country & dilute and saturate existing populate to a golden hue?? Come on. Is that the best you’ve got:))

  10. “Copying Australia’s faux ‘skilled’ immigration system, and importing large numbers of low-paid foreign workers to compete against locals, would only erode UK workers’ bargaining power and suppress wages.”

    This. But then again, isn’t this the real intent?

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