Bernard Salt – the self proclaimed “unabashed supporter of a bigger Australia” – has produced reams of articles pushing rapid population growth and warning that to not follow this path would lead to an economic and fiscal catastrophe.
Yesterday, Salt told the Australian International Education Conference that Australian must restore mass immigration to safeguard living standards:
Australia’s skills crunch is on the cusp of crisis as historically low levels of migration, including the collapse of the international student market, collides with the retirement of Baby Boomers, according to one of Australia’s leading demographers…
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[Salt said] that demand for highly skilled labour requiring university qualifications had escalated dramatically during the pandemic…
The shift to highly skilled labour coincided with what he called the “baby bust” – the movement of Baby Boomers into retirement and death – and collapse in the international student market…
Australians’ penchant for comfortable lifestyles was contingent on returning to high levels of migration, which included international students as an important part of the strategy.
“We need to be investing in universities to deliver the skills to deliver the prosperity to create the kind of lifestyle that we want for our nation,” Mr Salt said. “That’s the logic train we need to follow.
“The baby bust was always going to happen and that provides the rationale for focusing on international students and migration.”
That, ladies and gentlemen, is called ‘preaching to the choir’ and telling an audience full of edu-migration representatives exactly what they want to hear.
It’s also complete bullshit.
How can Australia be suffering from a chronic shortage of university graduates when it has pushed through more domestic graduates over the past decade than ever before?
According academics at The Conversation, the huge growth in graduates has created a situation whereby almost one-in-four Australians now has a university degree, a significant portion of whom are unemployed or underemployed:
Australia has also greatly increased the number of people graduating with higher education qualifications, as the chart below shows…
Another success story is the large increase in working Australians who hold a university degree. From 1993 to 2013 the proportion increased from 12.4% to 27.9%. It continues to increase to this day.
In May 2019, 12,921,100 people were employed in the Australian labour market. Of those, 4,317,500 (33.4%) held a university degree…
But graduate jobs are harder to find…
However, the unintended and concerning statistics that resulted from policy reforms relate to the increases in unemployed people with a university degree.
For example, in May 2019 the number of unemployed was 694,900 but the number of unemployed with a university degree was 129,900, or 18.7%. In February 2020, just before the pandemic hit Australia, there were 761,100 unemployed. Of those 22.45% held a degree. By November 2020, the percentage of unemployed with a degree had risen to 23.29%, or almost one in four.
Furthermore, if there was such shortage of workers, then why has wage growth been historically low?
In any market, a shortage of a good or service results in price increases to ration the available supply.
Therefore, how can Australia be experiencing chronic skills shortages when wage growth is running at historical lows and so many university graduates are unemployed? Clearly, Salt’s shortage claim does not stand up to scrutiny.
Salt’s claim that “Australians’ penchant for comfortable lifestyles was contingent on returning to high levels of migration” is also laughable. High levels of immigration means that Australia’s cities will swell in size, making it much harder to buy/rent a decent sized home within a reasonable commute to jobs and amenities, will increase congestion costs, and lower the incumbent population’s standard of living. The extra competition with migrants for jobs will also lower wages (other things equal).
Remember that before the pandemic hit, the ABS projected that Australia’s cities would roughly double in size on the back of mass immigration:
How would this type of population growth improve living standards? It wouldn’t.
Finally, Nordic countries – Sweden, Denmark, Finland and Norway – are renowned as being among the wealthiest, happiest, best functioning nations in the world. They also have the highest living standards. And they got there without mass immigration-driven population growth:
Australia should seek to emulate these Nordic nations – one of which is also a commodity economy – by focusing on improving productivity and living standards instead of perpetual, low quality, quantity-based immigration-driven growth.