Australia’s visa system has undercut workers

Last year, Labor’s immigration spokesperson Kristina Keneally controversially called for Australia to cut immigration to “put Australian workers first”:

“The post-COVID-19 question we must ask now is this: when we restart our migration program, do we want migrants to return to Australia in the same numbers and in the same composition as before the crisis? Our answer should be no”…

Keneally’s lucid comment was immediately met with condemnation from Labor’s ‘open borders’ brigade, alongside the usual ‘growth lobbyists’ that profit from high immigration, who accused her of “dog whistling”.

These same population boosters also refuted the claim that Australia’s mass immigration program disadvantages local workers.

Today I want to bring readers’ attention to the latest Continuous Survey of Australia’s Migrants, which was released recently by the Department of Home Affairs. This survey shows that recent migrants suffer from higher unemployment and are paid less than the general population, suggesting that Australia’s immigration program is indeed undercutting Australian workers.

The next table summaries the results, with the key data highlighted in the red boxes:

Key things to note are:

  1. Median annual full-time earnings of migrants was $13,900 (18%) below the general population in 2018;
  2. Median annual earnings of migrants was $3,300 (6%) below the general population in 2018; and
  3. The unemployment rate of surveyed migrants (13.1%) was nearly triple the general population (5.0%) in 2018.

As expected, labour market outcomes were better for the skilled migrant stream. But even here, the median full-time earnings of skilled migrants ($73,000) was lower than the general population ($76,000) in 2018:

Skilled migrants also experienced significantly higher unemployment (6.2%) than the general population (5.0%) in 2018:

These are concerning results given the general population includes both skilled and unskilled workers. Therefore, skilled migrants should earn significantly higher wages and experience lower unemployment than the general population, especially given they are brought into Australia to solve so-called “skills shortages”.

The fact that they actually earn less and suffer higher unemployment than their local counterparts suggests Australia’s “skilled” visa system is being used by employers to undercut local workers.

The obvious solution to restore integrity to Australia’s visa system is to require all skilled migrants (i.e. both temporary and permanent) to be paid above the 75th percentile of earnings, which would require a median salary of around $86,000 or above (indexed to wage growth):

Such reforms would ensure that Australia’s skilled visa system is used sparingly by employers and the government to import only the ‘best of the best’, not as a general tool to undercut local Australian workers.

Unconventional Economist


  1. Keneally’s uncomfortable moment of honesty offered Labor a rough shot of appealing to the unwashed 17m voters. They feel so much better, now they’ve reverted to pointless victory-laps among the net-zero set of of the inner suburbs.

  2. This analysis makes Albo’s saggy old vag1na sad.

    He just wants to heal the world… imported serf at a time.

    • Very fine. so elevated, Fishing, worthy of Keats or Rimbaud. Are you allowed to say what you think in your family?

  3. At the time… Apparently she wasn’t Aussie enough according to some media , but totes cool to have Abdul rizi bloke push for open borders.

  4. LOL. If you import the best of the best, what will the ineffectual populace of Australia do? We have a population as dumb as dogshvt waiting for the next govt hand out or their house prices to climb.

  5. Arthur Schopenhauer

    Former Victorian Premier John Brumby was on the local ABC this week whoring lobbying for the necessity of foreign students. He is the Chancellor of Latrobe University.

    He had the gall to compare the current obscene foreign student intake to the Colombo Plan.

    What a traitor. Another one for The List.

    • I was listening to that. Pukeworthy indeed. I sent a text message to Trioli’s program asking for a counterpoint to be presented and suggested they interview LVO. Of course the text was ignored.

      • That LVO bloke has advocated cutting immigration, which is pure racialism. ABC doesn’t interview racialists!

      • And the taxpayer pays for such treachery.

        Defund the ABC. It’s too far gone to change and there’s no need for it in the 21st Century.