Craig Emerson spins immigration lies

Former Labor Party MP, Craig Emerson, is the latest shill demanding an increase in Australia’s immigration intake to propel the economy out of its COVID-19 slump. Let’s examine his key arguments:

Before the COVID-19 crisis, two-thirds of Australia’s economic growth in recent years had come from population growth. And two-thirds of population growth had come from a strong immigration intake…

This is true. However, it is also a rather meaningless statement.

After Australia’s net overseas migration (NOM) accelerated from 2006:

Per capita GDP growth collapsed:

As has real per capita household disposable income growth:

Surely public policy should be aimed at maximising individual living standards, not achieving an aggregate level of growth?

Back to Emerson:

There is no compelling evidence that permanent immigration reduces wages. On the contrary, by contributing to Australia’s skills base, it probably increases wage rates overall.

Wrong. The Department of Home Affairs’ Continuous Survey of Migrants shows that permanent migrants have significantly worse labour market outcomes than the general population:


  • The median annual full-time earnings of permanent migrants was $16,500 (22%) below the general population in 2017;
  • The median annual earnings of permanent migrants was $5,900 (10.2%) below the general population in 2017; and
  • The unemployment rate of permanent 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:

These are shocking results. The skilled stream accounts for 60% of Australia’s permanent migration program. They are purported to be highly qualified and brought into Australia to overcome so-called ‘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.

The ABS’ Characteristics of Recent Migrants, November 2019 survey, released last week, also showed that migrants suffer much higher unemployment than the Australian born population:

In particular, 9.2% of recent permanent migrants were unemployed in November 2019, double that of the Australian born population (4.7%).

So much for Craig Emerson’s bogus claim that permanent migrants are lifting wages. The evidence against this claim is standing in plain sight. One would have thought that a “labour” guy would bother to look them up.

Back to Emerson:

Another benefit of permanent immigration is that by bringing younger people to Australia, it freshens up the profile of an otherwise ageing population…

This is false over the long-run. Importing more migrants to solve population ageing is the equivalent of ‘can-kick economics’, because today’s migrants will also grow old, thus creating further ageing problems in 40 year’s time. Some will also bring in older family members.

Conveniently, Emerson has ignored the increasing labour force participation by older Australians:

Since the mid-2000s, the labour force participation rate of over-65s has more than doubled. There is obviously further scope for increases in participation given older Australians are remaining healthier for longer, as well as the legislated lift in Australia’s pension eligibility age to 67 by 2023.

Second, the ABS’ own demographic projections show that immigration is next to useless in ‘younging’ Australia’s population. That is, if we apply a more realistic definition for the working aged population of 19 to 70 (given more kids are staying in school and older Australians are working longer), then running annual net overseas migration (NOM) of 200,000 to 280,000 delivers only 3% more working-aged Australians by 2101 than zero NOM:

This tiny ‘benefit’ will only be transitory and comes at the expense of adding 150% to 200% more people to Australia’s population versus zero NOM:

Such a massive increase in population will obviously take a massive toll on Australia’s natural environment and general liveability.

Back to Emerson:

Labor MP Julian Hill has proposed that addressing the backlog of 100,000 in applications for partner visas could be an effective way to quickly increase the permanent immigration intake.

Take a look at the first table above. Unemployment among migrating spouses is typically three times higher than the general population, whereas incomes are far lower. In pure economic terms, this proposal makes little sense.

Back to Emerson:

We need an economic reform program designed to lift national productivity and an immigration program that contributes to national prosperity, and not to wage suppression. That requires placing greater weight on permanent immigration, fed by cohorts of temporary visa holders, and less reliance on the ebb and flow of temporary migrants who the government never really intends to offer permanent residence to.

It’s hard to see how importing huge numbers of low wage migrants during a period of mass unemployment, and further crush-loading infrastructure, will contribute positively to individual prosperity, productivity or wage growth.

Craig Emerson has ignored entirely the costs of his beloved mass immigration ‘Big Australia’ policy.

The 17.5 million extra people projected by the ABS to arrive in Australia over the next 48 years – driven entirely by net overseas migration (both directly as they arrive by plane and indirectly as migrants have children) – will all require huge sums of public spending on economic and social infrastructure, such as schools, hospitals, roads, public transport, aged care, etc.

These costs can obviously be avoided by not running a mass immigration program in the first place.

Sure a bigger population enriches some people like property developers disproportionately, but it comes with great, largely hidden public costs, such as congestion of public infrastructure and facilities paid for by existing residents. That is, the benefits of immigration are often privatised and the costs are often socialised.

Indeed, the mass immigration program has lost public support because it has been so badly managed over the past 15 years.

Rather than following Craig Emerson’s bogus plan, all skilled migrants (both temporary and permanent) should be required to be employer-sponsored (given their far better employment outcomes – see above charts) and paid at least at the 75th percentile of earnings (preferably higher):

This would ensure that the visa system is used sparingly by businesses to employ only highly skilled migrants with specialised skills, not abused by businesses as a tool for undercutting local workers and eliminating the need for training.

Of course, applying these rules would dramatically reduce migrant flows, which shills like Craig Emerson would vigorously oppose.

Leith van Onselen
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  1. 300,000 during the great recession! And the ALP wonders why it keeps losing elections.

    Scummo to cut immigration in the great lockdown and ALP to rant against the cut and lose the 2021 election?

    • happy valleyMEMBER

      Yes. Universally, pollies couldn’t give a fig about the fabric of Straya?

      • DominicMEMBER

        Nah, he was just repeating what he’d been emailed from a contact at one of the property lobbies.

        This one’s a peach:
        “On the contrary, by contributing to Australia’s skills base, it probably increases wage rates overall.”

        You’d need to be fairly dense to swallow that.

  2. I am GrootMEMBER

    Worse than shills. Frequently bald-faced liars. Utter garbage as expected from the AFR.

    I feel your pain LVO in that you support every assertion with facts and figures, while the population boosters are never required to, let alone capable of doing likewise.

    Talk about bashing your head against a brick wall.

  3. MB should do a column chart showing a state breakdown in NOM over time. No doubt showing that not only did NOM triple, but it also increasingly was concentrated in NSW and VIC instead of evenly spread out over Australia. Something that is often overlooked. Or has it always been super concentrated in the two big cities?

    Immigration would be less of issue if every part of the country got a proportionate amount… But noone wants to / has the opportunities to live outside SydMel

    • DominicMEMBER

      Mmmm … not really. I think SE QLD has seen the highest rate of population growth for some time now – mainly those from Interstate fleeing the cultural overload, but OS influx is pretty large too.

  4. nice to see politicians talking about things they don’t understand …

    our economic slump is not due reduced domestic demand, it’s primarily driven by legal prohibition of economic activities and slump in tourism and related cascaded consequences of that

    I would love to see how would 1 million more people in Australia mostly poor people without a job, make any difference to tourism, entertainment, arts, … and other sectors
    Due to unemployment they would barely make any difference to property market beside crowding into the existing tenanted dwellings.

    • To come here as a economic migrants facing long unemployment people need to bring tens of thousands of dollars or be supported by family members here by that much money
      or with that much they could stay and be better off at home

      • DominicMEMBER

        To be fair, this point has been made a thousand times (mainly aimed at Peachy).

        Hordes of “wealthy Chinese” is a myth.

      • Or come here and do unskilled work for cash and not pay tax on it and live in large households with multiple sources of social welfare as income

        • Yep, or come here and ask for handouts from the government and screen “racism” if you don’t get it.

    • Jumping jack flash

      “how would 1 million more people in Australia mostly poor people without a job, make any difference to tourism, entertainment, arts, … and other sectors ”

      They dont. They are here to be slaves.

      Wage theft and “trickle up” economics enabling more debt from improving employers’ debt eligibility.

      In the New Economy everything is about being eligible for the required amounts of debt to obtain essential things.

      Don’t be too quick to believe everything the mainstream media tells you.

    • Mining BoganMEMBER

      Those nice Kiwis are starting Chinamen flights next week too. After all the hard work money wins out in the end to everyone’s detriment.

      • DominicMEMBER

        The thing that gets me is the fuss over the recent outbreak (from 2 travellers from the UK). If the citizens are furious over that, just wait till the China flights return – back to square 1.

        • Almost everyone I’ve spoken to (admittedly not many) appears to be happy for Straya to keep the border closed but open up domestically. Everyone seems happy to have no new foreign students and tourists. Somme people have even mentioned its time to look after Aussies first as we haven’t done that for a long time. It’s an interesting development

          • I am GrootMEMBER

            It’s an outstanding development. Now if we could just get our elected ‘representatives’ to actually represent….

  5. Jumping jack flash

    Fantastic take-down of a clear agenda push.

    It isnt something to be proud about when 2/3 of 2/3 of growth comes from “immigration”. However that is meant to cause growth is beyond me, probably has a lot to do with debt and wage theft.

    Why cant 2/3 of our growth come from growing our export manufacturing?


    Labor is always pushing partner visas and parent visas. There is clearly a strong lobby group attached to the ALP with this agenda. Wonder if any branch stacking is involved? Mobilization of ethnic groups in ALP power struggles is very real. Watch the 60 mins show. (We are one, we are many…useful idiots). Ethnic groups and branch stacking from treasonous and corrupt Labor is facilitating lobby groups control of Australian border policy. Thank god Labor arnt going to win anything for a long time. Libs at least have internal battles about mass migration, they always look uncomfortable when it comes up, because they know the truth. They just dont want to be blamed for the property crash that follows.

    • GlendaFMEMBER

      The property crash and being racist!!! Tht’ts all the nails in their political career coffins!

    • Aren’t they meant to have funds?
      If they don’t have funds or not attending classes or not in a paid course – aren’t they in breach of their visa conditions and have to be self exit or be deported.
      Isn’t that their COe (condition of entry)?

      In the article link it mentions “1.1 million TR in Australia”
      We have 2.56 million TR & NZ SCV onshore.
      Put aside the 660,000 NZ Scv (of which over 40% or 260,000 are third world unskilled lowlife trafficked in via the NZ SCV racket)

      That leaves 1.9 million as TR third world migrant lowlife, recruited and trafficked in in a splendid array of visa pretexts, living and working illegally.

      Then remove the protection visa holders (290,000) skilled visa holders (72,000) & some dependents, plus the foreign student partners (58,000) & post graduate (65,000) etc with full work rights.

      That leaves 1.3 million TR third world migrant lowlife on visa pretexts with limited or no work rights.
      Big picture:
      Collectively the 2.1 million migrant TR & non Nz born SCV steal over 1.5 million Australian jobs.
      Maybe more.
      Creating an Australian unemployment or work opportunity loss in those 1.5 million Australian jobs stolen of at least $31 billion economic impact.

      And tens of billions more of economic and social impact to all other Australians in wages loss, housing contention, congestion, destruction of our education, environmental impact, cost of living impact.

      Plus the non assimilation, productivity, gdp per Capita loss and all the other impacts noted by Macrobusiness.

      Australia is an outlet for third world slum or rural unskilled useless misfits, to be trafficked in by foreign criminal syndicates, to live and work illegally here,
      at the expense of all Australian citizens.

  7. Call in Dr Demography, stat!

    “That is, if we apply a more realistic definition for the working aged population of 19 to 70 (given more kids are staying in school and older Australians are working longer), then running annual net overseas migration (NOM) of 200,000 to 280,000 delivers only 3% more working-aged Australians by 2101 than zero NOM.” Is that right? Based on the chart I think it’s a 3% change in the dependency ratio, which I guess is different?

  8. Let’s also not forget that there is a significant entrenched cohort of migrants that claim unemployment, but do very well out of the criminal/black cash economy.